You may be the type that forgoes a hot dog at the baseball game to fit in your suit the next day at the beach but in some cases a hot dog might not be the worst thing to put in your mouth if it keeps you from spewing out some discourteous words at your Little Leaguer's baseball game.
Early this morning my 7-year-old came into my room asking if it was appropriate to sing about big fat butts.
"Hmmm." My head went down as my focus stayed on his face. "Appropriateness aside buddy, do you really want the vision of a big-fat-butt stuck in your head while hum'in a tune? Catchy tune maybe, but it's not cool to sing about a butt... say if you sing this butt song at the grocery store and some guy with a large rear hears you, he may think you're serenading him."
He laughed. "Ok," he chuckled, still half smiling. "I will sing a Carrie Underwood song instead."
The conversation of appropriate versus not appropriate things continued as we tied our shoes to get ready for camp. One specific question involving parents rebuking over a few calls made in his brother's baseball game the evening prior, forced me to realize these types of conversations are a gem in teaching opportunities. Unlike some little brothers who aspire to follow in the footsteps of their older brothers', my youngest son is not interested in playing competitive baseball and seemingly pays attention to other things that take place at the Little League baseball games.
"Do you think Derek Jeter's parents yell at the umps?" I tested.
"No-ho- ho," shaking his head with one finger in the air. "I bet they eat hot dogs at the game."
The excitement, trials and tribulations of Little League baseball are all but little. The scheduling of practices, the heat and the intensity of game can lead to quite grandiose amounts of stress for an adult mind, let alone for that of an 8-9 year old. But what can also vary in size, is the positive amount of learning taking place surrounding the golden and green diamond. Although many adults are well aware of the necessity of teaching good sportsmanship, for some reason in the heat of the game things unravel, guards are let down and many spectators become unpoised leaving the little fellas on the bench to witness a candid freak-out episode from some crazy competitive parents. Parents and coaches' behavior can become quite primal when in the heat of the game. Bad call. GET MAD. HUFF. PUFF. All this, resulting in the birth of an angered ump, a whole bunch of increased stress hormones and the poorest audition of sportsmanship for your child to witness, starring a cast with quite influential roles.
Has this been a scenario you have been privy too?
I found myself later, simply laughing about my son's response and the vision of the Jeters eating hot dogs at the Yankees game. Although, I cannot guarantee Derek Jeter's parents even enjoy a hot dog at their son's game (for all I know they could be vegetarians), I would place my bet on the fact they do absorb every moment of their son's talent, watching his ability to wrap himself in his cocoon of discipline, radiant passion and subtle but powerful leadership. And many of us involved in Little League or adolescent sports of the sort, could be doing the same as we sit in the stands. If we take the time now to teach our children sportsmanship, as Derek Jeter's parents so carefully did when he was a youngster, my seven year old would not have a question about the appropriateness of screaming at an ump.
So with true empathy I write this story; because I have lived and felt the angst when a child or team gets a bad call, poor score or misjudged effort. And as challenging as it may be, during the very moment when your emotions are at an all-time high and you want to scream out "BIG FAT BUTT" to the ump or meet director or ref -- despite that jolt of anger or ping of dejection, you strip yourself of the immediate gratification of rebelling. And instead, you take a second as Frank Partnoy explains and "wait." Then, after a long good pause and a switch of thought to something -- as my son would say "as beautiful as Carrie Underwood" -- such as the simple and pure thought of your child, their efforts and his or her chance to grow and learn the ups and downs in sport -- do you assess what transpired.
PARENTS AND COACHES ALIKE: It is more important for our youth to see adults embody sportsmanship, leadership, self and team respect when compared to justice of a play. Plays will come and go for better or worse, but the character of our youth athletes and how we teach them to react to a play is what becomes permanent. Even though an inquiry about play is typically not illegal in a game, it is more readily accepted and digested after time has past instead of questioned within mere seconds of the occurrence.
Hot dogs or not, whatever stadium treat the Jeters enjoy, most likely it is better tasting because they knowingly have accomplished the job of teaching their son to quietly go about his business, work hard and to speak his mind at the right time, to the right person and for the right purpose. And speaking for many parents, having a child as poised as Derek Jeter is on the field every game, definitely overrides looking your best in a bathing suit.