It’s the kids, stupid |

It’s the kids, stupid

Obviously you have no idea who you are. National media attention, behavioral analysts, and normal parents banding together haven’t been unable to shame and humiliate you out of existence because you are so oblivious. Like pimples on a soda jerk’s chin, you’re impossible to keep away. I’m sorry to say, Little League Dads (LLDs; aka Losers Living in Dreams) are alive and well. Despite the gender bias that the name implies, LLDs can be male or female. They conspicuously attend every game, play, recital, or spelling bee. They are found at most practices. In this form they exist for about 10 years. They begin pushing their offspring to ridiculous expectations around the age of 5 only to burn them out before they learn to drive. After that, LLDs transform into cocktail party bores. They are easy to spot, except in a mirror.To help identify LLDs, I have devised a quiz. Please be honest in answering the questions. Give yourself one point for each “yes” answer. (If you are already bitching, go straight to counseling; do not pass the soccer field.)1. Have you ever yelled from the stands at an official in a youth sporting event for making what you thought was a bad call? This is a great way to make sure that everyone knows that you have better eyesight from 100 feet away than the 12-year-old umpire has from six.2. Last year did you contribute more money to any single youth athletic program than you did to Aspen Education Foundation?You may have done this calculating that there is a 0.001 percent chance your child will make a living as a professional athlete while there is only a 99.999 percent chance he will ever have to use his brain.3. Have you ever secretly wished for an exceptionally talented child on the opposing team to make an error, or have a poor performance so that your child’s team would win the game?This way, if bad luck befalls your child’s opponents, you can take credit for putting on the hex. You’ll instantly make lots of new friends when they realize you have this skill. (Add another point if you couldn’t care less about the team and only wish for your child to look good by comparison.) 4. Have you ever shaken your head, sighed, or in any other way publicly showed disappointment when your child has made a mistake, or missed a chance to shine?This is one of the best ways to make certain that other parents know that you could have easily fielded that ground ball hit by that skinny 9-year-old, blocked that 25 mph arching slap shot, or memorized every line from the second-grade play. Never mind that you’re two weeks behind at work. 5. Have you ever told your child that the reason her team lost was due an officiating error?Good! You don’t ever want your child to have to accept responsibility for her own performance, or have to acknowledge a superior effort by someone else. 6. Do you ever get nervous before your child’s events, not realizing that there is nothing more on the line than there is in a backyard game of kick the can?What better way to teach your kids how to succeed in this world than to get stressed out over nothing. This is true even though you can’t name a single person who is unhappy because they are too mellow and have no trouble keeping things in proper perspective. Just because your kids’ genetic makeup already includes your high blood pressure, that is no reason not to build on it. They’ll have years of therapy ahead to help them become reasonable people again; tonight we have a game!7. Have you ever given a child a pointer in the middle of a game? Look like a know-it-all, upstage the real coach, and humiliate a child all in one brief moment without providing any constructive help – it doesn’t get any better than that! (Give yourself an extra point if you never played the sport you are giving advice on. Give yourself three extra points if you excelled at it.)8. Anywhere in your house, is there a picture of you participating in an athletic event or performance at the high school level or lower (This includes men’s league softball)? Bruce Springsteen’s song Glory Days actually sounds like satire if you’re not staring at an old picture of yourself when you’re listening to it. (Count this as neutral if your child dug the photo out of the junk in grandma’s attic. Add a point if you showed him where to look. Add two points if it’s framed. Add three points if you are displaying a trophy from the same era.)9. Do you ever make excuses for your child’s “sub-par” performance to other parents in attendance?Wow! Do we really lack the complete ability to envision stuff that might have embarrassed the absolute crap out of us as kids? Besides, real child-athletes play through sleepover fatigue, root beer float stomachaches, and blurry video game vision.10. Do you give money to sports programs in order to receive bumper stickers, hats, T-shirts, etc. that you display prominently at every opportunity to make you feel like you are a better athlete than you ever were?This is important since you no longer have that innate athletic discipline needed to stay in any sort of physical shape, and these knick-knacks are the only visual evidence of your former athletic prowess. Without these, people can only imagine what kind of athlete you really were.That’s it! Now let’s tally your score. If you scored more than one point, you just might be an LLD. You should re-evaluate what you are trying to get out of youth programs. Make sure it’s nothing. They are for the kids! If you are mad as hell right now, justifying your behavior and building a case for my supreme stupidity, you are a full-fledged LLD. (If you used a Hi-liter and margin notes, add another five points.) I suggest that you draft an angry e-mail message to me. Take your time. Skip your child’s next event to do it.Lord knows your kids love you, but they could use a break. If everyone who reads this forwards it to five LLDs, good things will happen to our children’s programs in the very near future. Send your comments to

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