This is always the first question asked by my 3 1/2 year old boy when a game comes on. Like all of us, he wants to know who’s playing. But I think what he really wants to know is what animals are playing. “It’s the Jaguars vs. the Lions.” “Oooh, I like the Lions.”
After finding out the animal’s names, it’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen next. There’s a chance he could watch for five minutes and cheer indiscriminately. There’s a better chance in the next few seconds he’ll ask me to do something entirely different with him. And because I really don’t give a crap about the Jaguars or the Lions, I’ll probably oblige.
Watching pretty much anything with little kids is next to impossible unless it’s a cartoon. But let’s face it, Winnie the Pooh is no Aaron Rogers. (I suppose Pooh is a lot more B.J. Raji.) Anyway, we have to get our sports fix somehow. So we sneak away from the tea party or Legoland and flip on the game in the other room. For a few minutes of fugacious bliss, we soak in the sports like sweat on Gary Williams’ suit coat. Inevitably, we are interrupted by some juvenile locomotive blaring nursery rhymes and its motorist flinging Nerf balls at our heads. At that point, the game is as good as over, and we are so thrilled to have broken away to catch three truck commercials and a pair of missed free throws.
But in my few short years as a father, I believe I’ve discovered a few tricks of the watch-sports-with-kids trade.
Mommy sports nuts, you can try these too:
Golf- Forget watching the final round of a tournament. It’s way too slow for a little lad. Too much Jim Nance whispering about the azaleas and not enough Big Bertha swinging and Tiger club flinging. Instead, watch the first round. Everyone is still playing which means almost every shot is some guy trying to get it in the hole. A kid gets that. I’ve witnessed my boy watch a good 20 minutes of golf, excitedly anticipating every hole-bound ball and screaming like Happy Gilmore when it goes in. No final rounds though. Unceasing coverage of Brandt Snedeker tossing grass blades into the air does not move the meter for a three-year-old.
Horse Racing– You know what makes horse racing great on TV? The buildup. We get to hear the betting lines, the analysis, and all the captivating stories, from the jockey seeking redemption following a failed stint as a garden gnome to the two-year-old filly who likes to ease her nerves with a fifth of Kentucky bourbon before the race. Well, you can forget all that with a kid. Once it’s race time you have no idea who any horse is, what their odds are, and are questioning the whole point of turning the thing on in the first place. Then the bell sounds and you remember. Two minutes of the whole family screaming at the TV and not a damn clue what’s going on. There is mud and horses and tiny men whacking them with sticks and who is not entertained by that? The race ends, we catch our breaths, and Mr. Snuffleupagus is on before you can shout “HE WINS IT BY A NOSE!”
Soccer– Unlike horse racing, you don’t have a choice but to watch the buildup. That’s most of the game. The typical match has a total of about 60 really exciting seconds, and it’s not likely your kid is looking up for any of them. You have to convince them that the other stuff is really good, so you speak a variety of soccerisms until it’s drilled into their head. “Clever ball!” “Beautiful pass!” “A speculative effort!” “Sublime finish!” It helps to do it in a British accent, otherwise you just sound like an idiot. If your kid can one day decipher what a clever ball is and appreciate it, you’ve won. But good luck, because unless those clever balls are putting points on the board, there are going to be some grumblings from the wee-people.
Hockey– “Daddy, I want to watch something else.”
“You just have to follow the puck.”
“Where’s the puck?”
“I have a no idea.”