Monday, August 29, 2011

Football Dads

I went with a couple of friends to a high school football game on Friday night. We try to adopt a team every year and go to as many of their games as possible. This year, we’ve adopted a team that made it to the state finals last year, but graduated all of its offensive line. Should be an interesting season.

While we were there, I was doing some dad watching. It struck me that there are a few types of dads that go to high school football games:

Camera Dad: On the sidelines with his monopod and superzoom lens, Camera Dad snaps pictures of the action. Maybe he’s documenting it for a scrapbook. Maybe he freelances for the paper. Maybe he’s just into photography. No matter which combination of reasons he chooses for being Camera Dad, I respect him. I take tons of pictures of our son. We bought a new camera and have learned about photography because of him. As a hopeless nostalgic I love the idea of capturing moments in time. What does Camera Dad gain by snapping all those pictures? What does he give up?

Coach Dad: Coach Dad can be split into a few categories as well, such as Head Coach Dad, Assistant Coach Dad or Volunteer Coach Dad. My dad coached me in little league, but that’s it. And I liked it that way. He was always there to reflect with me after games and help me prepare before games. There was no need for pseudo-objectivity in his fandom. He was my #1 fan (along with my mom). I’m not sure what it would be like to have Head Coach Dad. I imagine it would take a strong relationship to make it through that time of life, and maybe that strengthening would be worth it. It could also be stressful. Having a Head Coach Dad could lead to high expectations. High expectations can be great, but they can also lead to big falls.

Screaming Dad: You know Screaming Dad. You’ve heard him at every game. “Are you kidding me, ref?! Where’s the flag?!” With his hands cupped into a megaphone and the people around him wishing they were somewhere else, he sees only one side to the game. From what I’ve known of this guy, the over-analysis – and sometimes the screaming – doesn’t stop when the final whistle blows.

Fence Dad: I like this guy. He’s watching the game intently. I usually find him somewhere between the 20 and 40 yard lines. Sometimes he follows the action from one end of the field to the other. Sometimes his spot on the fence doesn’t change all game long. He’s there for the game. He’s there to watch football. He enjoys it. In my experience, he wants to talk about the game later, but in an instantly nostalgic way.

Me: So who am I going to be? Luckily, I don’t have to choose. At least not for a while.
If I did, though, I think I’d go off script. I brought up an idea to my buddies the other night: “What do you think about being a chain gang?” Does it get much better? Forced to keep my mouth shut and focus on the game, with the best seat in the house.

In case you feel this post is unnecessarily specific to one sport, and you’re thinking, “Well, what if your son doesn’t play football? And what about your daughters??” Relax. It’s just some thoughts I had while I was at a football game. And if this post didn’t help you realize how much of a high school football fan I am, you may want to check out my YouTube channel. Yup. Those are the tapes from my senior season. I’ll be watching them with my son if you need me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Buzzy, not Buddy

I'd like to introduce you to a friend of ours:


That's Buzzy. He has a story -- don't we all? -- that took an innocent twist today.

Before our son was born, Becky entered a give-away contest and won. A few weeks later, a box came in the mail with a stuffed giraffe and some giraffe-print baby clothes. We had already decided to go with a giraffe theme for Henry's room, so you can imagine our excitement at the surprise prize being a giraffe.

As soon as it was safe for Henry to sleep with a stuffed animal, in went the giraffe. As soon as he could walk, the giraffe was rarely outside his reach. And when the first few words came tumbling out of his mouth, "Buzz-EE" was what we heard.

Buzzy has been with us as we flew to Phoenix. He took the train with us to Denver. He's been to Minneapolis and Washington, D.C.

He's been sneezed on, sat on, and loved on.

Buzzy's story isn't unique. We all have that someone like him.

Today, as Henry and I were getting ready for nap time, we went through one of my favorite rituals: the hunting of the Buzzman. I pick Henry up and sit him on my hip. Then, we walk all around the house calling out, "BuZZy! BUUzzy!" We always end up finding him "sleeping" on the floor in some room. I drop Henry down like the crane in the claw game you've all wasted quarters on trying to satisfy your kids (or yourselves.) Henry didn't know what to think the first time I did it, but now he smiles as soon as we start and calls out, too.

What was interesting was that today, when Henry called out, what I heard wasn't "Buzzy." It was "Buuuuddy."

I put the thought aside when we spotted him on the floor. We picked him, went to Henry's room and I rocked him to sleep.

I couldn't shake it, though. Was Buzzy really Buddy?

I got to thinking about first impressions and how lasting they can be.

With school starting up in the next few days or weeks for most of us, this point doesn't need to be sugar-coated:

Be careful not to lock in first impressions. 

I'll be meeting sixty-five 11- and 12-year-olds in the next week or so. Their first impressions of me and mine of them must be malleable. It's a long school year.

As for Buzzy -- or Buddy, whoever he is -- he's safe in my son's arms. Whether I had him pegged wrong from the start doesn't matter. Henry knew right where he needed to be.