Sports Fan Confession Number Two
Sports Fan Confession Number Two
In the first post in this series, I admitted that I have not always been the rabid Cardinal baseball fan that I am today. I switched allegiances 26 years ago and have remained a steadfast Cardinal fan through winning and losing seasons.
That was a baseball specific confession. As a big sports fan in general, I have favorites in every sport at most every level, and so do my boys. However, in an attempt to help us all keep our team loyalties in proper perspective, I have another confession to make.
It took a look in the mirror to see how out of whack my sports fan priorities were.
Here’s how it happened. I attended the University of Southern Mississippi during the Brett Favre era. Back in the day–before conference realignments and super-conferences changed the landscape of college athletics–the Golden Eagles were relevant in the Mississippi conversation football conversation.
After college I attended games when I could, usually one or two a year. Often, Older Brother was along for the ride. When he was five and attending his first game at The Rock at Southern Miss, Older Brother caught a miniature football during the pre-game Eagle walk. A photographer from the Hattiesburg American newspaper captured the moment. Since then, Older Brother has followed all of the Southern Miss teams and rooted for the football and baseball teams in person on a number of occasions.
…we arrived at a friend’s house for a church small group meeting. The group had not met in their home to that point, so Big Brother didn’t know what I did. He found out soon enough and approached me after the meeting as soon as we were out of earshot.
“Dad, did you know they were Ole Miss fans?!?”
Yes, I knew. But I didn’t realize what a big deal that was to him, as if were a deal breaker for our friendship with this family. The conversation that followed led to the third sports fan confession that I will make in tomorrow’s post. (And we did not allow our choices as sports fans to override our friendship, either, for the record. Ironically, I saw the dad of this family at the coffee shop today as I was writing this post. We talked for a couple of hours, forsaking pressing tasks to catch up on each other’s lives.)
A Parting of Ways
When Older Brother was about 13 years old, the theretofore unthinkable happened. I had grown up a New Orleans Saints fan but had abandoned them and their losing ways in favor of the Green Bay Packers when my college classmate was traded to them. I fell in love with this small-town franchise and remain a devoted fan even in the post-Favre era. Older Brother, on the other hand, saw no reason to follow my lead. With the strong influence of my friend Jae, he became a Saints fan. It was the first fissure in our sports loyalties.
Our other favorite team choices have remained common through the last few years. However, when the time drew near for his college choice, I instructed Older Brother that the decision should not be made as a sports fan. Other considerations like choice of major, for example, should warrant more weight in the process than the football team’s ranking from the previous year.
Though an opportunity to play baseball at the collegiate level would almost certainly override any previous considerations, Older Brother has moved thoughtfully through his college choices. Putting aside all the friction between his loyalties to Southern Miss and (perhaps some of) his animosity toward Ole Miss, he is leaning hard toward…Mississippi State. Go figure.
My job as a parent is to guide my kids toward making their own choices. Hopefully they will make wise choices, but they must be the ones to make them. I can look back now at my choices as a sports fan, some good and some bad. I’m not talking so much about my choice of teams but in how much weight I can give being a sports fan in general. That look in the mirror at our Ole Miss fans’ house on a night long ago was an eye-opener for me. I just hope that my own realization helps my boys–and perhaps even you as a reader of this post–to hold friendships higher than sports fan loyalties.
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About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.