I can never remember a time in my life when professional sports captivated me. There were brief periods of watching tennis with my dad in the Jimmy Connors/Ivan Lendl/John McEnroe era, but even that bored me after a while. Why would I want to watch somebody else play a game instead of playing it myself? Sure I could appreciate the athletes’ effortless skills and abilities that I couldn’t hope to duplicate, but I never found joy in sitting through hours of televised sports. I was that guy at the Super Bowl party more interested in the food.
I played sports during my adolescence, some competitively and others just for fun. They always felt more like entertaining ways to get exercise, rather than lifting weights, jogging, or swimming laps. I logged hours on the tennis court that left me lean and tan every summer. I was always up for a game of softball or soccer after school, but when asked to watch football at somebody’s house, I would take a pass. There were books to read, movies to watch, stories to write.
Now that my son’s about the age I was when I started taking tennis lessons, he’s in danger of suffering from my disinterest in sports. We toss the football, and I pitch wiffle balls to him, but we never sit down to watch a game. I haven’t indoctrinated him with the desire to spend his weekend rooting for a team. And it shows, at least to his school friends. He comes home from school asking me questions about basketball and mentioning the names of athletes I might be the only American not to recognize. Am I doing him a disservice? Should I be suffering in silence to expose him to professional athletics, so he’ll have an easier time fitting in?
It might have made my life easier while I was growing up if I had been able to speak the language of sports. Even if I had been able to fake an enthusiasm that I couldn’t sincerely share with my peers, I might have felt more welcomed by them. “Catch the game, Aaron?” “No,” I’d say, “I didn’t have time.” At least I had the good sense not to mention I spent that time playing Dungeons & Dragons instead.
So what’s a dad to do? I recorded the Super Bowl for my son to watch, since we were out of town when it aired. Later he failed to mention it. When he returned to school, his friends talked about it without him. After that, he didn’t feel much like watching any of it except the commercials. If I hadn’t brought it up, he might have forgotten all about it. I’ve never heard him ask to watch sports on the weekends, and it never occurs to me to remind him.
We share interests in other things, geekier things, and I don’t go out of my way to change that. Will he regret missing out on televised sports when he’s older? Who knows? I don’t miss watching tennis, but I miss watching it with my dad. As long as my son and I are enjoying our time together, I don’t suppose it matters if we’re having Nerf wars or watching someone hit a homer through the uprights.