“We still love the Ducks, even if they lose every time.” – Santi Robert Neal 10.11.15
My goal is a reasonable one; to raise a kid who likes sports. More specifically, I want a kid who can coherently and comprehensively explain position-less basketball. Maybe throw in a casual mention of the Golden State Warriors’ points per possession with Draymond Green as the primary ball handler. And yes, FREE DARKO did all the ground work for this argument. But this kid has screen time limits that don’t allow him to read* basketball blogs that were shuttered in 2011. (*Also, he can’t read.)
At this point Santi is doing pretty well. He can name a player on all 30 NBA teams, he recognizes the logo of all the teams in MLB, Barclays Premier League (including Hull City), the NFL and some of the MLS. He checks the Phillies score every day. There is something Sisyphean about daily checkups on the 10th best team in the National League. And, most importantly, he recognizes that Marcus Mariota is the sporting Alpha and Omega.
Santi asks for haircuts based on athletes. His last 3 are Radamel Falcao, JJ Reddick, and Sergio Aguero. At a recent haircut, when a Google image search for “JJ Reddick Haircut” yielded a picture of another NBA player, Santi informed the barber, “That is Gordon Hayward. He plays for the Jazz.”
This was probably Santi’s destiny. At our baby shower, my dear friend John said that he hoped if this child inherited anything from me, that it would be my preternatural joy for sport. When I was 12, I wrote my own college football preview. All I remember writing was that Florida State was #1 and had a potent offense led by Amp Lee. Odds are I just liked Amp Lee’s name.
Santi’s preference for watching sports on TV has been my biggest win. It’s a bit of the chicken or the egg debate, but he has little to no interest in Dora or her exploring or anything else on Disney Junior, although we have had a recent uptick in Octonauts. Is Santi obsessed with watching sports because it’s all we ever watch? Or does he actually like it and we are just lucky? Since a very young age, he has understood that getting to watch Tom Brady play football is a finite resource like oil or a good comic book movie. I am not sure how much credit I can take for his lack of interest in Dora, other than to say it has served me quite well.
My process for raising what now seems like an irresponsibly sports knowledgeable child has been pretty straightforward. Be obsessed with sports. Make it the only thing on TV. Never stop cheering when he “dunks” a basketball. At this point, most of my kid’s dunks look like something present day Larry Bird would do in his suit and loafers. But guess what? It is working.
Oregon football opens its season this weekend. We have attended every season opener since Santi was born – Arkansas State, Nicholls State, South Dakota, Eastern Washington, and, this year, UC Davis. Attending Oregon games has become part of our family tradition. We tailgate, we wear brand new Ducks gear, and we support our team. After watching the Ducks lose in soul crushing fashion to Washington State and their swashbuckling Coach last year, I was pretty upset. I carried Santi out of Oregon’s Autzen Stadium. On the walk to our car, Santi leaned his tiny head back and said: “We still love the Ducks, even if they lose every time.” Find somebody to hang a MISSION ACCOMPLISHED banner on the front of my house.