The Intolerable Sports Parent

Today, like many Saturdays, was consumed by my kids and their sports.

I am among the millions of American parents whose children chose sports activity over something far cooler. Like a Saturday book club or a weekend Thespian Society. My kids are not in band. They are similarly not into something like D&D or other gaming types of clubs.

They are into fitness.

When I was their age, I spent my weekends reading Teen magazine, organizing my Caboodle, trying to tape my favorite songs off the radio without getting all the commercials, and crying into my pillow because my dad wouldn’t buy me a new pair of Rollerblades.

Not my kids, though. They can’t do cool stuff like lounge around all weekend eating Cheetos and watching reruns of Saved By the Bell.

Nope.

It’s only after you are knee deep in strings, racquets, and the mounting costs that come with it all, that you realize just how much single sports specialization becomes a way of life. The question every morning when we are getting ready for the day is: are we playing tennis today? Today, in 2019, the kids that pick one sport essentially devote all their free time to doing that sport. And if your kids get really into it, entire weekends, holidays, and vacations are reserved for – you guessed it – tournaments.

All complaining aside: I do love that my kids have found something that they have a passion for. There are a lot of kids (and I mean a lot) that sort of flounder around from thing to thing, until they eventually succumb to complacent boredom. Nothing good can come of a kid (especially an older one) that is bored. Tennis, for my kids, has not only curbed boredom; it’s kept them healthy, taught them about caring for their bodies, helped reduced school-related stress, and brought them into a social setting with other kids that have similar interests.

But by God if the parents don’t suck the fucking life out of it sometimes.

Honestly. These parents that put their kids in sports are the most intolerable of the bunch. And I recognize the irony in the sense that I – too – am a parent that has put my kids into sports.

But I definitely see myself apart from the pack.

1. I don’t coach my kid.

You can always tell you are dealing with the intolerable sports parent when you roll up to the tennis court and see that they are coaching their own kid. Even parents that played in college probably shouldn’t be coaching their kid (unless, of course, we are talking about a sport like baseball where the dad volunteers to be the coach for the team – an entirely different circumstance altogether).

I know parents that know absolutely nothing about tennis whatsoever and insist that they are their kid’s coach.

I know parents that bust out Youtube videos to show their kids a new stance for serving or hitting a backhand.

I know parents that will stand there and argue with their kid about what is right and wrong in the game. That will do this not only on the public court on a Saturday afternoon, but in front of a large group of other people at a tournament. The kid just lost, usually badly, and the dad is standing there lecturing about the racket head being closed instead of open.

We get it: a lot of professional tennis players have parents for coaches. But your kid isn’t Serena Williams, nor are you Serena and Venus’s dad.

2. I also don’t push my kid into positions they are ill-prepared ready for.

My kids play team tennis. Team tennis parents are the worst.

Granted, we have made friends with a lot of team tennis families over the years; but there are always those few that seem to have made it their mission in life to ruin the team experience for everyone.

Usually they are mothers, and typically they think they are auditioning for Dance Moms, at least when it comes to the high key drama and the nonstop shit talking.

Typically their names are something like Tammy, Tiffany, Brenda, Debra, Linda, Tobi, or Jenipher – spelled, emphatically, with a “ph.”

Speak to the manager haircuts are not required, but almost always a part of the get up.

This intolerable sports parent makes the situation unbearable for everyone else by trying to push her kid into a place the kid isn’t really ready for.

Why isn’t my kid playing #1 singles?

Why isn’t my kid playing singles AND doubles?

Why did we even come if my kid isn’t going to play the top position?

I’ll admit, there have been times that I have gotten annoyed when my kids are put at the bottom place week after week after week after week. But my annoyance usually isn’t because I expect them to play at the top, rather I am just tired that they are shit on by way of these overbearing, intolerable sports parents stepping on them to make their under qualified kid the star.

3. I don’t act crazy or loud at the matches.

It really doesn’t matter what sport your kid plays: there is no reason in the fucking universe why you should be acting crazy or loud in the stands.

One time, my oldest daughter was on a tennis team and there was a mother that would bang her fist on the table and scream at plays she didn’t like (either from her daughter or her daughter’s opponent – she was not discretionary at whom she screamed).

That same lady, one time, went totally ballistic because her kid was placed in doubles, and literally fell on the floor crying. Fell. On. The. Floor.

It was fodder for a bad reality TV show, at best; and to this day, I have not since seen anything so extreme.

We used to live in a townhome complex across from a soccer field, and every Saturday would wake up to the sounds of parents getting into outright brawls over something that had happened during the game. A yellow card or red card was pulled and parents would start screaming at each other, then two mildly obese men in Raiders t-shirts and Levi jeans would be rolling around, fists flying.

Once, at a tennis match, my younger daughter’s coach walked in late (having come from another match) and stepped right into a huge circle of parents and coaches that were screaming at each other about who was actually allowed to call balls out. At one point I heard someone yell “is this a racial thing,” to which another person said “no I’m Mexican but apparently my skin isn’t brown enough” and several people walked (no, ran) away.

Even the parents that cheer too loudly seem to be intolerable at a point. It’s one thing to clap or be happy for your kid; it’s another to stand up and scream like it’s the Super Bowl.

On one hand, I get it: sports, like everything else, costs a lot of money. Like more than a lot. For my two, oldest kids, our cost runs about $280 a week, and that does not include the strings, rackets, clothing, bags, grips, shoes, etc. that are replaced at least every other month, some every week.

So when you are putting out this fuckton of money, I can see how some parents could want some sort of a return for the money.

In truth, I think it’s really about the fact that some parents are living out their wildest fantasies through their children.

Because let’s face it: a lot of us didn’t grow up in a time where kids and their activities are so at the center of a parent’s universe. We were sent outside with our bikes and a stick; and, sure, some of us played a sport, but it wasn’t a daily thing like it is now. What we did daily was homework and Nintendo and hanging out with our friends.

And, if I’m being honest, our parents didn’t expect so much from us.

Or maybe I have a skewed memory of it all and my parents were intolerable sports parents when I was in t-ball or, later, tennis as well. I’m sure they existed in some way or another. Maybe there was a fight or two in the stands I was just completely oblivious to.

Or maybe me being so against living through my children and berating them after a bad match; or choosing to give my kid some space while they play, and keep quiet when I do watch, is the actual enemy. My lax approach to this whole thing really unsupportive; my insistence that my kids just enjoy themselves and have fun being just another example in a series of times I’ve missed the point. Maybe I’ve misunderstood the right and the wrong of this whole thing, and the only intolerable sports parent is me.


Well, we can file this under ‘Reasons to Hate the Lakers’

My favorite time of the year has officially begun: basketball season.

Having grown up with my father – a sports writer – I generally dislike most sports. It isn’t that I have a misunderstanding of sports, or that I prefer girly things to the sweaty, meaty masculinity of it all. It’s that I feel like I have been overexposed. My father has written numerous books, countless academic journals and encyclopedia entries, and has published more newspaper articles than even he can count. And the sports he has covered (and thus overexposed me to) have not been discriminating – growing up, I was forced to attend and be an active part of almost every sport you can imagine (with the exception of ping pong). I will never forget the Chicago winters when Friday after Friday I was bundled up to sit for hours in the locker room with my eyes covered; as well as the countless sunburns I got sitting in the aluminum bleachers. So to say that I have been “overexposed” is probably an understatement. Much to my own chagrin, I know more about the ins-and-outs of most sporting events played in the United States than I want to, which is why I generally dislike the majority of them.

Except – of course – basketball. Something about basketball stuck with me through the years. Possibly it is my love of the Chicago Bulls. Very likely it is all the things other than the ball that the game represents. Whatever it is, I love it and now that the lockout is over, the season is upon us.

If it sounds like I’m bragging or rambling – I’m not. Possibly I’m rambling, but really I feel the need to qualify. In my experience, sports have and always will be male-dominated; that includes in the commentary. (And for those of you planning on commenting off on a rail about some random female sports reporter showcased on ESPN: spare me. A few women – bombshells, I might add, for the mainstream male audience to salivate over – does not change the unambiguous fact that sports in America are relatively male dominated.) Even at home I feel like every man in the room pompously believes I don’t understand or know anything about what’s on the television – even when they know my experiences with my dad as a sports writer. Nothing makes me laugh more hysterically (inside, of course) when someone tries to explain to me something about sports as quite a few have referred to “in layman’s terms.” I don’t mean to be as pompous as them and act like I know everything; I mean it is hilarious that I get stereotyped as someone who would know nothing and need to be talked down to.

So we’ve established: I’m at least marginally qualified to talk about this. On to the Los Angeles Lakers, in layman’s terms.

One of the reasons why I love basketball so much is because of the potential it has to help guys get off the streets and out of gangs. You can always tell when a guy has gone from “rags to riches” in the NBA – not only because of the PR campaign telling you about it, but because of the amount he gives back. Nothing is more beautiful than seeing these big, lovable guys giving back to the communities from whence they came. Unlike a lot of other sports, basketball combines more qualities than are even imaginable. Where other sports require skill and passion, basketball is a combination of skill, finesse, agility, talent, personality, respect, philanthropy, and passion. And while the players make an obscene amount of money, and the franchises do need funds to run the teams – the almighty dollar really has little to do with the sport, itself.

So when I see teams like the Los Angeles Lakers – a franchise that is way too big and far too wealthy for its own good – I thoroughly expect to see a good deal of generosity, philanthropy, and (at the very least) fairness in their activities on as well as off court. And while many of them as individuals (e.g. Gasol, Fisher) are among the better people playing in the NBA right now, it is undeniable that the team and the franchise is not any of those things. When I moved to California, rather than seeing an awesome powerhouse of a team that combined skill with general goodness, I saw a bunch of numbskulls cheating on their wives, shouting homophobic slurs during the game, doing very little for the community, and all-around acting like big, overpaid babies.

So what’s new that we can we file under ‘Reasons to Hate the Lakers,’ you ask? Simple: the CP3 scandal.

If you were awake at all yesterday, you know that there was a bit of a scandal over the Lakers franchise deciding to trade Odom and Gasol to acquire Chris Paul (otherwise known as CP3). Of course this was discussed for a while and – while Paul has questionable knee problems – this still seems relatively good for the Lakers, primarily because it would put them in the position of potentially acquiring Dwight Howard as well. The question that was on the tip of my tongue, though, when I learned of this trade was simply: why would the Lakers trade two guys formerly considered ‘franchise superstars’ for one guy that is only so-so?

I’ll tell you why: money and unfairness.

A part of the post-lockout deal was that money paid in luxury taxes for player contracts would be diverted to smaller NBA teams to help even the playing field a little. It is no surprise that there are big teams and small teams and – much in the way our economy becomes more and more divided and seemingly unfair – money continues to create a larger gap between teams that may otherwise be excellent contenders against one another. So while I don’t doubt that the Phil-Kobe franchise wanted to cut costs a little to make some wiggle room for the likes of Dwight Howard to come in, it cannot be denied that an added benefit to the Lakers was to weasel their way out of that $21 million luxury tax that was being paid out on Odom and Gasol’s contracts. As it stands, Dwight was not a given, and even more compelling is that the tax on his and CP3’s contracts would still have amounted to far less than Gasol and Odom’s. Trade two superstars for a guy people call “questionable” to save some money and keep the place on the throne of the NBA? Sounds like a good deal to me! (For the Lakers, that is.)

Of course this is all very conspiracy theory, or at the very least a little overanalytical of the situation. Such ideas wouldn’t come into play, though, if it weren’t for all of the other colossal reasons the Lakers are what is wrong with professional sports to begin with. If they didn’t have a laundry list of negatives (from Kobe’s blatant homophobia, to dirty playing, to acting like poor sports when they encounter a team unequivocally better than them, to Kobe referring to Michael Jordan’s record as “that aint shit,” to the fans that riot for no reason…the list goes on), then people wouldn’t jump to assume just more of the same from the team that has over 11 million Facebook fans, and yet not one unscarred thing about them.

The best part in all of this is that the Laker fans only know how to defend the Lakers and this bogus blunder of an attempted-trade on one of three levels.

First, they try and defend the capitalist aspect (“…well, if the owner wants to cut costs, he should be able to!”), which brings to mind a simple reminder that while basketball is business-like, basketball is and never has been a business (which means it doesn’t get to play by business standards).

When that fails, they move on to innocuous and illogical attacks on anyone speaking against the team – like “Laker hater in the house” or “you so stupid!!” Sure guys…

And then, as a last resort, Laker fans respond when someone says something that is in opposition to and/or is very likely the truth about their team by saying absolutely nothing. I have never heard more silence from Laker fans than when I’ve said something that is without a doubt a pejorative truth about the downsides of the Los Angeles franchise. Keep quiet, ignore the truth; and we never have to admit flaws in our beloved purple and gold.

As a result, I fully expect this blog to go uncommented. But what do I know? I am just a layman, and a woman to boot. I don’t have any experience with basketball, or sports in general at all . . .