Sports fandom starts at home

Nov 10 2012 - 5:00pm

Many of us inherit our basic sports fan preferences from our parents, and I'm no exception. When my parents married, I became a fan of the Jayhawks, Chiefs and Celtics. A choice of baseball teams was left to me until the Royals came along in 1969. I also liked professional wrestling - "Handsome" Harley Race! - and golf, because my dad watched those sports on television.

I've changed preferences since then, of course. I no longer follow professional wrestling, which isn't the same game as it was in the '60s and '70s. The Tigers supplanted the Royals, and I picked up a hockey team, the Red Wings, during my days working in Detroit. The Jayhawks, Chiefs and Celtics remain. (Why the Celtics, all the way out in Kansas? JoJo White.)

As the years pass, I find the roles of fandom reversing. Last month when I went home for two weeks to sit with my ailing father in the hospital, I found him rooting for the Nationals and Tigers. He'd watched a lot of Nats games during a stay with me this past summer and, like many people, found a lot to like on that team. Both parents are interested in Maryland basketball now that Mark Turgeon is the coach. My mom watched the Caps-Penguins Winter Classic game because I was covering it and found she liked hockey, much to her surprise.

I've had little to do with this. I do not root for our local teams because in this job, I can't. But I guess Washington is rubbing off on them after 19 years of hearing about it (although I can't get my dad to watch hockey, ever).

A lot of roles are reversed as our parents age, of course. Two weeks of wrangling with doctors, helping my dad in and out of bed, walking him up and down the halls, changing his bedding, doing his banking errands, coaxing him to eat and drink, bringing in the garden hose when a hard freeze was forecast - it was the beginning of the parent-child reversal, and it was hard. No one wants to parent their parents (particularly my parents).

I've seen the future, and I'm prepared for the daily television menu: "Matlock," "In the Heat of the Night," "Walker, Texas Ranger," "Jeopardy" (two episodes), the news (local, national, then local again), and then "Wheel of Fortune." It's a miracle I didn't end up in the next room after two weeks of that.

But we could at least agree on which football games we'd watch. (A physical therapist told me condescendingly one Saturday that the Texas-Oklahoma game was "the big one." Uh-huh.) We watched KU football games - not recommended for the already ailing ---- and we watched ESPN's 30 for 30 film "There's No Place Like Home," about James Naismith's rules of basketball being returned to their rightful home. We even watched K-State games. I never thought I'd see the day, but the Wildcats are so good we couldn't resist.

And one Sunday afternoon, we all watched the Redskins-Vikings game. My parents aren't Redskins fans - although that may come - but they follow their fortunes because they know I follow their fortunes, and because of Robert Griffin III, whom they saw play in college. Happily, that game was perhaps the high point of the Redskins season. I'm not sure my dad could have survived the Carolina game.

By the time I leave Washington, my parents likely will follow all of our teams. Then, perhaps, we can reverse roles again, and they can convert me.

 

 

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