Thursday, June 4, 2009

My Kid is Better Than Your Kid

Sometimes, a kid is just a kid.

Sports Illustrated is going for broke with its latest cover, proclaiming 16-year old Bryce Harper the greatest baseball player of all time. Practically anyway. They are talking about him hitting 570-foot home runs, throwing 96-mile per hour fastballs, and being fast enough to score on a wild pitch from second base. All those feats are impressive, but, Bryce is 16 freaking years old!

This of course brings up a discussion that as dads we avoid like the plague. Sure, we all have stories of runaway parents at our Little League games. Like the dad who threatened to slash the umpire's tires after calling his kid out at the plate. Or the dad who spent the entire third, fourth, fifth, and sixth inning of a game cussing, muttering and berating his kid for a called taking strike three with the bases loaded in the second. Or the dad who pushed his own son's coach because the poor guy took the dad's son out of the game.

All those stories are true, and from my one summer umpiring 9- and 10-year old baseball. No, I didn't get my tires slashed. But I did get cussed at more that summer than during Basic Training in the military. At least at Basic I knew the Drill Instructor was cussing me for my benefit. All the dads that summer, and every dad who has crossed the line during his kid's game, did was embarrass himself and his family. It is a kids league, guys, with kids playing. No money is at stake, and the trophy is made of plastic. Should there be a winner and a league champ? Absolutely, because that teaches kids that there is a reward for success. But should the way we act also teach our kids something? You're darn right.

Which brings us back to Bryce Harper. SI is doing what too many dads do. J.D. McCoy's dad did it on this past season of "Friday Night Lights." Because we dads couldn't make it as pro sports stars, we try to force our sons and daughters to do it for us. And we forget that our first job is to raise our children in love. That means letting them decide how much they want to pursue sports, or music, or theater, or basket weaving if that's what they want to do. It also means not putting undue pressure on them to succeed.

SI should be ashamed for putting this much on a 16-year old's shoulders. Will he be the next Babe Ruth? I have no clue. How's about we give him time to figure that one out for himself?

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