Thursday, July 30, 2009

Best Catch Ever?

(h/t: Babble)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tweet of the Day: Pat Fitzgerald

From Northwestern football coach Pat Fitzgerald (twitter handle: @coachfitz51)
What a great couple days with our media partners, bowl reps, fellow coaches, student athletes, and FANS! Time to be a DAD!

Lessons From Lance Armstrong

So Lance Armstrong finished 3rd in the 2009 Tour de France. And the 7-time champ is OK with that. In fact, he said it's probably good for his kids to see him finish 3rd.

It's not a bad philosophy overall: Winning ain't everything. It's a goal, but (a) the effort is more important, and (b) sometimes someone else is better.

The same applies to rooting for a team: If your expectation is "title or bust," most fans will be very disappointed. I'm not saying that's wrong, btw. I see it from two perspectives:

One of the things that drew me to Florida was the ridiculously high expectations -- anything less than a national title in football this season would disappoint me beyond belief.

As a Northwestern fan in the early-90s, however, all I wanted was to be competitive in games -- not get blown out. Any win was a good win, and a .500 season -- a bowl game! -- was the dream.

That's part of what made the miracle 1995 season so great -- not only was there a bowl game, but the freaking Rose Bowl -- but I think most NU fans are content with "bowl season."

If you're a Mariners fan, 3rd place might feel pretty good this year, all things considered. If you're a Yankees or Red Sox fan, it is utter disaster.

Expectations are everything. Something to keep in mind when you're teaching your kids about fandom.

-- Dan

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Good Read: Bill Simmons On His Dad

Very nice ESPN the Magazine coda for Bill Simmons. He ends his Magazine column-writing career with an ode to his dad. Varsity Dads could feel pretty good about the job they have done, if they end up raising a son like Bill.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Would You Schedule Your Kid's Birth Around Your Favorite Team's Game?

Per the Ross Fisher post below:

I will admit to being slightly relieved that the birth of my 2nd kid last October went a few days late; we cleared the projected due date: Right in the middle of the Florida-LSU game.

As ridiculous as that sounds, when we first found out my wife was pregnant and we got the due date, we both heard "October 11" and -- well, I'm not going to say the FIRST reaction... but a fast-following reaction was, "Ooh: Let's check the Florida football schedule."

We then saw it was the day of the Florida-LSU game. OK, so on the plus side, there's a chance that she might have been in labor during the game: What could be a better way to take your mind off things?

On the other hand, what if she gave birth DURING the game? Shamelessly, I'd suggest that's why you have a DVR.

What can I say: It was our second go-round, so I think we were a lot more relaxed about things, so we could entertain notions that are ludicrous on their face -- like whether the birth of your child "conflicts" with a huge football game involving your favorite team.

Anyone else have a situation like this?

-- Dan

Ross Fisher: Honourary Varsity Dad

Golfer Ross Fisher's wife hasn't given birth yet (as of early Monday morning), but let's induct him among Varsity Dads a little early.

It's the least we can do, given Fisher's dilemma: If his wife went into labor during the British Open, he was prepared to walk away mid-round to be there for the birth of his child.

It was made all the more dramatic, given that he was at one point leading the Open. In the end, he might have been better off being called away.

That scenario would have offered him golf immortality. As it stands, he tanked Sunday -- mentally preoccupied, ya think? -- and finished 13th.

Question: Would you have left a major sports event you were leading to be there for the birth of your first child? On the one hand, I can't imagine NOT being there. On the other, it's the pinnacle of your professional life.

-- Dan

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to Spend an Anniversary: West 4th St.

Eight years ago, I went on my first date with my future wife -- it started with a long walk through NYC's West Village, including a stop by the West 4th Street basketball courts (the famous "Cage" -- HER IDEA!). I think her willingness to stop there with me to hang out and watch hoops was one of the reasons I instantly fell for her.

Tonight, we celebrated the 8-year anniversary (Tuesday, really, but this was the closest weekend night) by recreating some of that walk (including dinner at the place where we ate) AND we included a drop-by at West 4th's Cage -- this time, though, we had our two kids.

It was Jonah's first trip ever. I held him at the chain-link fence, but I'm quite sure not much registered. It was Gabe's second or third trip ever -- the first this summer, and his ability to understand what was going on was vastly more complex than a year ago.

Yes, he was more interested in the colorful display of souvenir T-shirts available hanging on the Cage fence than he was in the sloppy, up-and-down basketball on the court (the game we were watching ended something like 112-103). But the spark of enthusiasm is there.

Fun way to spend an anniversary. I wouldn't recommend bringing your kids along for your WEDDING anniversary, but for a First Date anniversary, it worked out OK.

-- Dan

(Oh, I know that I'm not raising my kid to be a pro athlete -- or even a college athlete -- but is it too much to ask that he gets at least one hoops run at West 4th St. in his lifetime?)

Friday, July 17, 2009

Myron Rolle: Ultimate Role (Rolle) Model

When my sons grow up, I want them to aspire to be like Myron Rolle.

Milestone Parenting Moment: Wii With Kid

Last night, I introduced Gabe to video games for the first time. We played Mario Kart on the Wii. He was fairly stunned that this kind of thing exists, but obviously delighted.

I expect that within a year, he will be much better at the Wii than I am (though I'm not very good).

Parents of older kids: What is their video-game consumption like? Anyone get routed by their kids in Madden or FIFA or any of the other sports games?

-- Dan

Thursday, July 16, 2009

NFL Supplemental Draft Mania -- Or Not

I have a lot of aspirations for my two boys as it relates to their sports fandom.

Deep passion for at least one team? Check.
Top-level appreciation for all sports? Check.
There are plenty of others.

One that does not make the list is "NFL Supplemental Draft Expert."

-- Dan

Tweet of the Morning: Dan Levy

Dan Levy (@onthedlpodcast) is the brains behind "On the DL," the leading indie sports podcast. This was his tweet earlier today, and everyone can relate:
Simple joys in life - when you have to send an email to your wife with the subject line Poop! b/c your kid finally went.
Follow Dan @onthedlpodcast and find his site here.

-- Dan

Top Ten "Bad Boy" Names

Per Babble, the Top 10 Bad Boy names are...


Any notable athletes share these names?

Ivan (Rodriguez)
Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar)
Luke (Scott)
Malcolm (Jenkins)
Preston (Wilson?)
Tyrell (Sutton?)
Walter (Payton)

Any others you can think of? So there you have it (or, not really): What you name your kid DOES matter.

-- Dan

Which Athlete Do You Want Your Kid To Admire, Emulate Or Otherwise Respect?

I'm not going to answer this here -- it's more of a start to a larger, ongoing discussion about athletes as role models. And, if they are role models, which athletes you want your kid to admire?

For example: Boston fans, do you want your kid to admire Tom Brady? I guess it would depend on how you feel about getting your girlfriend pregnant, then kind of fleeing the scene. (Although Brady does apparently spend many quality days per year with his kid.)

Do you want your kid to admire Tiger? Ahh: Now THERE is a good father, driven at work but utterly devoted to his kids (probably more now than before he took a year off to rehab, when he really became a Mr. Mom -- there's a Tiger documentary in there, somewhere).

Personally, I would go with Tim Tebow. Yes, I'm biased. (Especially as of yesterday.) But what's not to like about a guy who is not only a great athlete, but a great person?

Do my kids need to learn the specific lessons of evangelical Christianity? Oh, probably not. But if I ever met Tebow, I'm quite sure he would respect my kids' non-Christianity and simply instruct them in some solid moral high-ground: Golden Rule, etc.

I think one of the things that makes Tebow so fascinating is that in an era and a culture of stars -- sports or otherwise -- who never EVER live up to their image (or our aspirations for them), Tebow does.

So: Which athletes do want YOUR kids to admire, and why?

-- Dan

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Great Lesson from the President

Did you see President Obama throw out the first pitch at last night's All-Star Game?

He trotted out to the mound wearing his team's jacket -- White Sox. Now, if there's anything that can make otherwise mild-mannered Cardinals fans get riled up, it's Chicago.

But Obama stayed true to his fandom, showing his allegiances on the game's biggest stage. (He got the pitch in there, too -- if helped a bit by Albert Pujols' catching skills.)

What a lesson for his daughters about being proud of your team allegiance. (I have heard Michelle Obama is a Cubs fan -- wouldn't THAT be awkward.)

-- Dan

Re-Tweet of the Morning: Clay Travis

Some of our favorite Varsity Dads (and Moms) take to Twitter to update their followers on the latest parenting goings-on, sometimes sports-related, sometimes not:

Today's Tweet of the Morning:
Up since 4 in the morning. Thanks Fox. Sesame Street on three hours sleep is strangely alluring.
-- Clay Travis, author of the forthcoming "On Rocky Top" and AOL FanHouse contributor.

Send in your own nominees for Tweet of the Morning to the email on the upper-right or just re-tweet them @varsitydad.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Tweet of the Morning: Headlining Editor-in-Chief Rob King is one of the best at combining his love of sports (and job in sports) with his parenting, through his Twitter feed. Here's his tweet from just a few minutes ago:
Seeing small kids in the airport makes me feel both wistful and guilt-ridden. In headline terms, "Dad sad, glad. Bad?"
(See or write a VarsityDad-worthy line on Twitter? Email varsitydad-[at]-[gmail] or retweet to @varsitydad.)

-- Dan

Monday, July 13, 2009

My Favorite Baseball Ad, Via State Farm

Well, now THIS could be the official advertising sponsorship video of Varsity Dad:

Trying Versus Succeeding: A Comparison

Jason from Dadcentric has a terrific post about his 5-year-old going for his Orange Belt test (which feels appropriate, given Friday's post about having your kid take martial arts).

The money quote:
And so I found myself torn: I wanted him to pass, I wanted those instructors to see that he's only five and he tried his best and give him that belt. He's five; there will be plenty of opportunities for him to have his heart broken.

And at the same time, I wanted him to fail. I wanted him to know that he needs to work for things, to understand that very little in life is given to you, to know that the hardest earned victory is the sweetest. All those cliches that your high school gym teachers taught you, I wanted him to learn.
How does it end? No spoilers here, but there's some talk about Yoda. The whole story is worth a read.

-- Dan

Magary File: That Will Teach You...

3-year-old wants to leave movie after an hour? Well, Drew, what did you expect to happen when you took her to a movie at that age? Gotta stick with the half-hour-or-less TV episodes and/or short-form DVD stuff. As for the crying at Pixar plotting? Their execs must love to hear stories like that. (Seriously.)

Today's Varsity Dad Event: Home Run Derby

What: MLB Home Run Derby
When: 8 p.m. ET
Where: ESPN or

Why it makes for great parent-kid sports-TV watching: The simplicity. The entire premise is to jack homers, the most telegenic of any single action in sports.

What an amazing opportunity to bond over the awe-inspiring arc of a well-hit home-run ball.

(And perhaps to note that ol' Dad was more of a plucky singles slapper in college intramural softball and that "Chicks dig the long-ball" is a product of the Steroid Era.)

For older kids, this year's Derby offers the chance to watch the greatest hitter of this generation -- Albert Pujols. You will want to be able to look back and say, "Remember when we watched him in the 2009 Home Run Derby in St. Louis?"

(Beyond that, there is sweet-swinging Joe Mauer and six others to discuss.)

For younger kids, what could be more fun than to keep track of the home runs hit by counting?

I think my favorite tradition of the Home Run Derby is very much in line with the Varsity Dad mindset: The players with kids bring them along, onto the field, where they sit among the gawking All-Stars and get to cheer on their dads.

Who wouldn't want to have their kid next to them while they put on a show doing what they do best?

One of the best sports events of the year for families to watch together.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Soccer Class for 3-Year-Olds and UFC 100

My 3-year-old took soccer classes this spring. My first reaction: "And so it begins..."

I refuse to be part of the ridiculous obsessive side of youth-sports culture that turns kids (and parents) into mini-Marinoviches.

As you know, this blog is about raising a great sports fan, not raising an all-star athlete. I think part of growing to love sports is developed by playing sports. But for fun.

I want my kid to play organized sports so he can (a) have fun, (b) learn about teamwork and cooperation, (c) be exposed to controlled competition and (d) value physical exercise.

Three years old FELT early to have him in soccer classes, but what's the harm in running around a gym kicking a ball? (It's also the easiest sport to try -- it's too early for, say, hoops.)

He actually enjoyed it. It was just fun little drills that turned the ball into a "pumpkin" or cones into "hats" or the goal into "hungry hippos."

I'm willing to admit it: I slipped up once in a while. I wanted him to have fun... but I wanted him to do well -- to learn skills and get better.

On more than one occasion, I was helicopter parenting. (Not proud of it!) It wasn't out of "You better get that soccer scholarship to UVA, little bastard!"

My thought was that if he got better, he would enjoy it more. And, of course, I was projecting -- just like every other ridiculous "soccer parent" (proxy for "sport parent") out there.

In the end, he had a TON of fun -- he talked about the upcoming class constantly and seemed determined (on his own) to master the skills, eager to please the coaches.

And even though I can talk all I want about having no interest in raising my kid to be a sports star, I learned my first lesson -- and a valuable one -- about putting that into practice.

Now, how does that loop into UFC 100, this weekend's big event in sports -- and arguably the biggest event in the history of MMA?

The other sport you hear about young kids -- say, 3-year-olds -- doing is martial arts. Love it: Balance, coordination, confidence, discipline.

What I'm curious about is how soon these dojos are offering "MMA for Toddlers" -- they already offer MMA for adults (and even some young adults/teens).

The market is there. And you know the parents are following.

Again, I'm not hoping my son will become the next UFC champ. With his (my) genetics, that is an impossibility anyway, if only because I live most of my dorky life in some stage of anxiety, not the least of which for getting my face bashed in.

But is there something wrong with him learning to be badass enough that other kids won't mess with him? (Downside: He and his friends start some sort of YouTubian "backyard brawlin'" league.)

If nothing else, he will have the appreciation for MMA as a spectator sport that I don't have, probably because it wasn't an organized sport when I was growing up, learning my fan habits.

-- Dan

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Hypospadias: Drew Magary Examines

Having a new baby boy has turned Deadspin's Drew Magary into a medical analyst. Let's see here... "Hypospadias," eh? Yeesh.

(For the record, I'll post anything that Drew writes even remotely related to parenthood. Check out his defunct -- but still available -- blog "FKS" at the bottom of the Blogroll on the right.)

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Lessons From a Late Mom to a New Dad

Great column by Bloomberg's Scott Soshnick, who celebrated the birth of his first child on the same day his mom passed away.

As he recounts his mom's attitude about kids playing sports, Soshnick lays out some a core value of youth sports that this blog believes in strongly, that the only real "score" to watch is:

Did you have fun?

Condolences on your loss, Scott. But welcome to parenthood. With a role model like his mom, Scott is a welcome member of Varsity Dad-dom.

-- Dan

GeekDads vs. Varsity Dads

Beyond the common ground of being fanboys of various persuasions, the life of a GeekDad isn't so different from a Varsity Dad.

-- Dan

The Man Wall vs. Anything Else

I can think of about a thousand different things to spend $15,000 on that would offer a lot more enjoyment than The Man Wall.

If you've got kids and are a sports fan, stick with the one decent HDTV -- ours is 37" and I watch sports for a living -- that you can get for anywhere between $500 and $2000, then spend the rest of that $15,000 on, oh, socking it away for your kids' college payments.

And if that's too abstract and you really do want to spend that money on something "fun," try tickets to games or -- better yet -- some fun sports equipment that you can use with your kids.

(As always, I'm not suggesting that you aspire to turn your kid into some kind of robo-athlete. But if you want to get them to love sports as a fan, get them to play sports as a kid.)

-- D.S.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Best MLB Ballparks for Taking Your Kids

What are the best MLB ballparks for taking your kids? (Let's qualify that by IDing whether your kid is 3, like mine, or older -- like 8 or 9 -- or older still, like 13. I would assume that beyond 7 or 8, you can take any kid to any MLB park.)

Sporting News just released a ranking of all MLB parks -- unsurprisingly, Fenway came in 1st. Surprisingly, Pittsburgh's PNC Park came in 2nd. Wrigley was 3rd.

What I really want to know is: What MLB ballpark is the most kid-friendly? Gentlest parking (or public transportation)? Best food? Easiest restroom lines? Affordable seats and/or concessions and/or merchandise? Most exciting mid-inning entertainment, to keep the kid occupied?

I am going to return to this question as nominations roll in, across any of those categories. Doesn't have to be one end-all-be-all ballpark to take the kids to. Presumably, every park has its kid-friendly (and kid-unfriendly) components.

Everyone plays this game: How many MLB parks have you personally been to? I am pretty low, at least of current parks: Camden Yards, Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, Miller Park (Milwaukee), ATT Park (SF). But I have been to Camden (within a drive of where I grew up) and Wrigley (used to live in Wrigleyville) a ton of times.

(And I am hurt by the recent closing of Shea Stadium and Yankee Stadium -- went to both often, but haven't been to either of the new parks yet. Throw old Comiskey Park, RFK Stadium in DC, the Seattle Kingdome and old Memorial Stadium in there, too. Still: All in all, pretty flimsy list.)

-- Dan

Best (Sports) Books For Kids?

Nick Kristof had a fun weekend op-ed listing his favorite children's books. (It generated something like 2,300 comments - unsurprisingly. Kristof is going to think there's a better business in becoming a parent blogger than blogging about international-rights issues.)

While not about sports -- and this is a blog connecting sports to parenting -- it lends itself to a great conversation-starter: What are the best children's books ever about sports?

My kids are still too small for traditional kids' books -- with chapters, well-developed narratives, etc. The closest I can come to that is Tedd Arnold's "Hooray For Fly Guy," which has chapters (3), a narrative (small) and is about youth football (mostly).

So for those of you with older kids, do you have any great sports books to recommend? (Novels, in particular -- I remember being in elementary school and inhaling Matt Christopher books. (I haven't thought about that author in, look at him now.)

Anyway, would love to get your recommendations in the Comments -- and it's great for my own Top 10 list in a future post.

-- Dan

Monday, July 06, 2009

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Last Day to Fill Out MLB All-Star Ballots

When you are filling out an All-Star ballot with your kid, and he wants to put "Jimmy Rollins" because you are die-hard Phillies fans, but you know in your baseball-loving (and fantasy-owning) soul that Hanley Ramirez is clearly the best shortstop in the NL, do you:

(a) Indulge your kid and vote Rollins.

(b) Use it as a teaching moment.


-- D.S.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

The Great Baby-Name Debate, Continued

When discussing baby names, there are two particularly important rules as they relate to sports:

(1) You should not name your kid after your favorite team/player/etc. (Any relationship -- say, the anagram of "Jonah" being "J. Noah" -- should be complete coincidence.)

(2) There are a lot of names that can be -- and should be -- immediately discounted because they evoke a strong negative reaction from the fan in you.

For example, for a lot of reasons, I was not going to name either of my boys "Peyton." But among them is this: LIKE I WOULD NAME MY KID AFTER PEYTON MANNING?!?!

Here's a great take on that from the blog Legend of Cecilio Guante from a guy without kids, but heading into that stage -- take it from me: it is MUCH more of an issue than you can even imagine.

Which is kind of awesome, but simultaneously kind of ridiculous. (But not THAT ridiculous.)

-- Dan

Tweet of the Morning: Matching Romo

From Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg's Twitter dispatch (@dcsportsbog) this morning from Tiger's golf tournament in D.C.:

8:24 a.m. ET: Oh look. A father-daughter in matching Romo jerseys. How sweet.

8:26 a.m. ET:
And the daughter's name is Dallas. Shoot me.

-- Dan

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