Welcome to Friday Food For Thought, the weekend conversation starter. Each week, this article presents a topic for debate. Whether in the comments section, on the golf course, or around the weekend game table, the goal is to provide enough background that either side could be a winner. In order to facilitate the discourse, a suggested beverage pairing is also included. So speak up, mix it up, and drink up.
We have now officially entered the last month of the offseason. As the summer vacation starts to draw to a close, the eyes of children everywhere are turning to the dreaded return to school. This is no different in my house where the moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth is already starting to get cranked up despite a month of summer left. Of course, most of the gnashing of teeth is by my wife who has to put up with the little hellions on a daily basis.
Children, however, bring a very interesting point of view to fandom. Ask any young child to pick a NCAA tournament bracket and they will go with their favorite color, favorite mascot animal, or the team that is easiest to pronounce. Somewhere along the line, kids build allegiances to sports teams.
As parents, there are really two options for inculcating children into the culture of college sports. Much like class actions, the choice is to let them opt-in or opt-out.
One point is important at the outset: it is never too early to teach kids how inept State is or how evil Duke is. Now, on with the debate.
There are a lot of things in life that kids should not have the ability to choose. It is a function of limited life experience, limited years of education, and limited maturity. If left totally to their own devices, any child under the age of ten would eventually end up in a dangerous or perilous situation.
Choosing what sports teams to root for is not such a perilous choice that parental protection is needed.
Growing up, I was given the benefit of the opt in sports environment. There are several key characteristics to this philosophy. First, the children are always welcome to watch the games. They aren’t sent to another room (unless it is a particularly tense or late situation). They aren’t hidden from the competitive nature of ACC athletics. They are fully exposed to the joy, pain, strategy, and stress that sports fans feel.
Second, there is no secret that the parents are Tar Heels fans, but also no requirement that the kids join in. The same is true for professional teams.
Finally, there is no timeline for a decision. Kids get to decide on their own when they want to fans, what sports they enjoy, and what teams they will root for.
Allowing this type of self-determination empowers children and allows them to take pride and ownership in the teams they choose. A fan’s experience is more powerful when it is organically obtained.
What looks cuter than a newborn in a Carolina hat? What about the toddler that cheers and ultimately falls asleep at their first game? Did these children choose to be supporters of their teams? No. Are they better off for the experience? Of course.
Looking back, the experiences of watching memorable games with family and friends is often a powerful and positive influence on a child’s development. Those memories are often some of the fondest. They are formed before the realization of perspective is formed.
This is not to say that as they mature, kids must be wedded to their childhood teams. The ability to make choices and opt-out of a family favorite is a part of growing up, but all strong houses are built on a strong foundation. The default should be the teams that the parents and guardians choose. It is more important to learn to love sports than to learn to freelance with team selection.
Learn the principles first, and the right decision will always come later. That is the Carolina Way.
In need of encouragement to debate – My wife loves to finish these long summer days with a relaxing glass from the Black Box. The Cabernet Sauvignon is smooth and tasty. It is very affordable and best of all, it keeps quite well.
Can debate without assistance – It has been a while since we celebrated the milk shake. A wonderful summertime treat for the young and young at heart.