Friday, July 9th, 2010
Update: Kids and football
It seems I’ve worried my parents by not blogging for a week. Here’s an update on my previous post, Using football to raise a world-wise child.
Our almost entirely TV-free home has been obliterated in the name of watching World Cup games with my 6-year-old daughter.
I bought a sparkly new 40″ TV and subscribed to cable, bundling it with phone and Internet service, and of course a digital video recorder. In short, I went whole-hog back into media. (Yeah, it’s not just for World Cup. Umm, it’s for the Tour de France too!)
My daughter watched her first two football games completely enraptured. Subsequent games involve my watching while she reads a book by my side, sort of half-watching the game. When I react to an amazing play on the field, she looks up to watch the instant replay.
I find it amusing, and also a tad scary, that nutjobs like Glenn Beck rail against international football as un-American. I stand by my original notion that football is a positive parenting tool.
She’s completely in love with the theme song in that video and has it memorized.
I didn’t expect much at (a newly minted) 6-years-old, but here are some of the things I’ve noted.
1) In talking about which teams will be playing, we discuss countries and look them up on our globe.
2) My daughter chooses a country to root for. Usually, she chooses a South American country or Spain because she’s learning Spanish. Japan and Germany have curried her favor as well because Mom and Dad know people from those countries. I suppose I’m pleased team colors never influenced her decision-making process.
3) Football provides a tremendous example of teamwork. Unlike toddler football where she had typically dominated the field by monopolizing the ball, she understands now that every player plays a distinct (and frequently relied upon) role in maintaining the team’s possession of the ball.
4) She enjoys watching the fancy footwork and headshots. (Check the amazing headshot at 3:29 in the video above.) I don’t care for American complaints that football is boring because very few goals are scored. I see a parallel in kids who can’t enjoy any game or sporting activity unless he or she wins. The fun is found in the process, not the outcome. We enjoy watching the whole game, not just the scoring.
5) Unlike American sports, football has two non-stop commercial-free 45 minute periods. I can avoid her seeing adult beer commercials and other topics I’d rather not explain right now by turning the TV off during the 15 minute halftime. If I’m late in returning, I rewind to the start of the second period using the DVR.
6) Despite her book reading during the games, she has a tremendous level of enthusiasm for football and reacts accordingly when her favored team wins or loses.
Meanwhile, here are the downsides I’ve observed:
1) Between grabbing jerseys, tripping and slide-tackling, there is a lot of unsportsmanlike behavior in the games. I explain it away by noting that (sometimes) the players get in trouble for it. She’s not yet aware of the theatrics involved in some players feigning injury in order to grab a ref’s attention.
2) The dreaded vuvuzelas (horns blown by fans) drown out audience cheers. It’s like a truck continuously blowing its horn for 90 minutes. It’s muffled on TV, but I’d never attend a live game in a country that embraces horns.
3) Dare I say it? I’d like to see more fan faces on TV. With many cultures represented at the World Cup, seeing more of them would help convey the global nature of the sport to my daughter.
4) When watching her second game, my daughter asked where the women players were. I don’t have a good explanation for why sports are segregated by gender. I believe football could be a gender-neutral sport. Maybe the teams would still be heavily stacked with men, but there are women who can compete at the same level. Anyone who questions the strength of women has not witnessed a child being born over a 30 hour period. Besides, when a male player falls on the field and sheds crocodile tears, I’d love for a female player to shout at him, “What are you waiting for, bon bons and a hug? Get up!”
Or at least that’s what my wife envisions one saying. I envisioned something about the women telling him to grow a sack and stand up because his mother is watching.
The final game for the World Cup, between Spain and the Netherlands, will be held this Sunday. We’ll be watching the first half at a community center event being hosted by my daughter’s football league, and the second-half at home as my son naps. I want her to get a sense of the communal nature of the sport, a sense of the globally shared experience.