Friday, September 9, 2011

Raising A Sports Fan: The Right Way

The NFL season started off with a bang last night.  The Packers and Saints gave a great shootout performance and even managed to make me look like a genius.  My sleeper pick (who I wrote about last week) put up 20 points in this week's fantasy match up.  I am so excited for the Ravens vs. Steelers game on Sunday that I thought I would share with you the steps that I am taking to raise a child that is a sports fan.  So, here we go The Real Matt Daddy's Guide to Raising a Sports Fanatic.

1. Start Young
Not enough can be said about the power of your influence over a child at a young age.  You are their source for EVERYTHING.  Food, shelter, clothing, speech, and actions - you teach it all!  You don't have to go overboard either (see #2).  What your aim should be is to create special moments that turn into fond memories for that child.  I remember being very young and sitting with my dad during a football game.  Baltimore didn't have a team back then, thanks to the 2:00AM exit of the Colts, so my dad always followed Joe Montana (yes, even to the Chiefs) and we cheered for anyone who was beating the Redskins or Cowboys.  What I remember is the time spent together.  I can't tell you the score of a single game.  I can't tell you any specific in-game moment that I vividly remember.  What I remember is being on the couch or on the floor, while my dad was in his chair, and just watching him love something and letting me see him enjoy it.  So that is what I aim for, creating memories.  Last season, we put my daughter in her Ravens onesie on game day and she would sit with me while I watched the game.  I would help her cheer when something good happeed, and we would enjoy time spent together.  This year will be a lot more fun.  She is older and able to speak, so I can really create those special moments when Joe Flacco goes deep or Ray Lewis is destroying someone in the backfield.

2. Start Small
Just because I'm a Ravens fan, I don't have to paint my daughter's room purple and black and dress her in officially licensed NFL gear all the time.  I don't know about you, but I ended up rejecting the things my parents were most into until I was old enough to appreciate them for myself.  For example, my parents listened to country music all the time when I was growing up.  Worst of all, my dad would listen to bluegrass on Saturday and Sunday mornings when he cooked breakfast, and he would try to sing the high tenor parts.  I hated country music!  And I hated bluegrass even more!  As a teenager, you couldn't pay me to listen to a country radio station.  As I got older, I began to appreciate bluegrass and older country music for the musical talent required to play them.  And if by some ironic twist of fate, I ended up being a manager at Tractor Supply Company where they play country music all day.  The point here is that I approached this music on my own terms, not my parents' terms.  This goes for sports as well.  If I try to force my daughter to be a Ravens fan, I can be certain that when she goes to school here in Pennsylvania, and all of her friends are Steelers and Eagles fans, I might be out of luck because she wants to be cool and fit in.  But if I play it cool, and don't over do it, I've got a good chance of seeing her stick with my team.

3. Get the Gear
Okay, baby sports gear is just about the cutest thing I've ever seen.  A few months ago, when I was changing a diaper, I happened to be wearing my ravens hat.  My daughter looked at the logo and said, "Bird."  I said, "Yes, it's a raven. Say 'Go Ravens!'"  She didn't get it at first, but she is starting to, although it comes out more like "Gay Rabies!" Close enough.  I mentioned the Ravens onesie above, but this year, we're going a little bit bigger.  My mother-in-law finds incredible stuff at Goodwill and thrift stores.  This year's Ravens gear is a cheerleader outfit, which will be totally adorable when my daughter does her Stewart-esque "LookwhatIcando" jumps, and a Ravens track suit.

4. Make Memories
This is what it's all about! I remember watching sports because of the time invested, not because the sports were great.  I'm from Baltimore!  The Orioles haven't won the World Series since the year I was born, and don't get me started on the fact that they haven't had a winning season since 1997.  Yes, the Ravens won a Superbowl while I was in high school, but Trent Dilfer was the quarterback.  It wasn't a "sexy" win.  I remember having Superbowl bashes every year, even though our team was never in it.  And do I remember this play?  Yes, but what I remember more is how some family members were jumping up and down when it happened.  The point is that I value the TIME I spent watching sports.  It was shared time, the most valuable thing you can give your children.

5. Teach
A parent can always use sports to teach their child something about life.  If you win, do it classy.  If you lose, keep your head up.  Their's no "i" in team.  If the ref blows a call, life's not always fair.  Sports can give us hundreds of opportunities to share life lessons with our children.  Doing this only creates a greater bond that will make your child a sports fan forever.

I now want to make my comments section like the David Stein radio show Celebration of Life Through Sports.  Take a minute to share your favorite childhood memory that happened around sports.  Or share a favorite sport tradition you had growing up.  Maybe you are starting new traditions with your own children.  Feel free to share those as well!


  1. Well said ... I'm teaching my daughter and son to be Mets fans. They both have been to games ... neither of them had a letter in the word METS painted on their chests. Papa on the other hand.

  2. Thanks Lady Bren! Sorry about David Gerrard. At least MJD is still around.

    Niel, as long as they're not Yankee fans you can paint them however you want. Good job not going overboard. The memories you are making will probably be some of their favorites.



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