Archive for the 'Kids' Category

05
Aug
14

Ladies and Gents: Your New Disney Princess

I had another post I was working on, but this came into my Facebook feed so it gets precedence because, well:

 

Can’t wait to see her in the Disney Parade of Princesses or whatever they call that gridlock several times a day on Main Street.

 

Back with more substantive things later.

06
Jun
14

Macho Macho Man

via Nantucket-Bucket.com

So we’re wrapping up our inaugural lacrosse season here in New Jersey and while there have been some frustrations with communications, I’d say it’s gone well.

Alpha Tween has been playing excellently as a goalie—the most thankless job on the field it seems—and his coach has been very excited saying “He’s making saves on pure athleticism! Wait until he has technique!”

Which is a nice compliment, although it made me chuckle. It’s like saying “hey you’re really good with no idea what you’re doing!” It happens to be true as well, but it’s funny.

The Professor has been enjoying himself as well, and I’ve really seen a lot of hard work from him to improve.

Last night was the last official games for both and in the cases of both games, it got a bit physical and chippy towards the end. People likely don’t realize it, but lacrosse can be a tough, violent game at any level. And the more tired people get, the more frustrated and the more they use their sticks to hit and not control the ball.

At one point late during The Professor’s game, one of the kids got hurt—I can’t quite recall the circumstance—and was laying on the grass as coaches tended to him and made sure he was OK.

My wife—football mom that she is—yelled for the kids to “take a knee” as that’s what we do in Pop Warner when someone is hurt. You kneel down out of respect for the guy hurt and you clap when he gets up. This has been taught to Alpha since he started in football back in New York, and when my wife coached soccer last fall, she drilled it into the kids on her team as well.

It’s just good manners. I’ve never given it a second thought—all the other teams in our Pop Warner league do it and as a coach, I just figured everyone else did it.

Apparently not.

What I didn’t hear, but my wife did, was the gentleman to our left who muttered, “Why is it always a woman who shouts that?”

image via USAFootball.com

Now, maybe he was wondering “why don’t more men do that?” or maybe he was wondering “why women are so soft?”—I can’t say. When my wife relayed it later it definitely sounded as if she felt it was the latter.

I had echoed her shouts the first time, so it seems like an odd comment.

When the next kid went down a quarter or so later, she didn’t say anything.

I noticed no kid knelt down and no parent or coach said anything to motivate that.

I didn’t say anything, though I almost did—but it’s hard to be the lone voice. My wife didn’t say anything, which I found odd at the time, but now makes sense.

She didn’t want to be “that woman.”

I’m saddened for a couple of reasons. That she felt she couldn’t show compassion for a kid who was hurt (on our own team the

second time). That she felt like her consideration was marginalized because of her gender. That clearly the whole “kneeling down thing” isn’t widespread among all teams and sports in our town. That some guy (who for other reasons struck me as nobody I want to have a beer with anyway) felt the need to comment on how “it’s always a woman.”

There’s a lot to unpack here.

First, comforting a hurt kid is a human thing, not a woman’s thing. If you’re a dad and you think otherwise, I’m going to go ahead and suggest you rethink what being a dad means.

That doesn’t mean you coddle or throw your child in a bubble. It means you show compassion. Yeah, yeah, men aren’t supposed to do that, I get it, but you and I both know that’s crap. It’s one thing to roll your eyes when you or someone’s kid is whining for a new toy, it’s quite another when someone is hurt.

image via PrincipalsPage.com

This also gets into the whole macho aspect of sports. This is where I used to type “machismo of football” but it’s all sports, especially on boy’s/men’s sports. All athletes are taught to play through pain—it’s part of the game and there is something to be said for learning to fight through it. To fight through adversity and determine whether what you are facing (be it a sprained ankle or difficult math assignment or being overlooked at work for a promotion) and how serious it is.

And more importantly whether it should stop you, and how to keep it from doing so.

But one thing the organization I coach football for is big on is teaching the difference between being hurt and being injured—and being OK with admitting when you’re injured and can’t go on.

I hate when parents—and this goes for both genders, because I’ve seen it from men and women—tell boys to “be a man.” I mean, listen, there are times to tell your kids “oh grow up” and times to point out that what they have is a bruise not a broken leg and shouldn’t stop them from doing what they’re doing.  But when a kid is laying on the turf, not moving—and maybe I’m nuts—that’s probably not the time.

It irks me when parents comment like this dad did. It irks me that he saw good sportsmanship as a “woman’s thing” instead of good sportsmanship. It angers me that my wife felt like she couldn’t encourage that sportsmanship because she was being judged. And it frustrates me that I didn’t pick up on it and I was just as silent.

The idea that we shouldn’t be compassionate on the field or concerned when a player on any team gets hurt and is down on the field is garbage and I don’t care what gender you are. We’re supposed to be teaching sportsmanship as much as anything else and clearly, that’s not on everyone’s agenda.

image via PackersHistory.net

And here’s the thing—compassion for an injured player isn’t a woman’s thing. It’s a human thing. You want your son to “be a man?” You teach him that even when it’s your opponent on the ground, you treat it as if he’s on your team, you treat him with respect and you hope he gets up. You kneel, or stand silent or whatever it is your team does and you clap when he gets up. You play with passion and aggression, but fairness as well.

These things are not mutually exclusive. I cover the NFL and while some of these guys truly don’t like each other, the majority of the players in the NFL are friendly with each other even right after a game. And what do you see them do when someone is badly hurt?

They kneel. They pray. They worry about someone on the other team as well as on their own.

That’s being a man in my book.

14
May
14

I am NOT ready for a Solo Professor

image via thetoddanderinfavoritefive.com

So this week, the Professor started biking to school in the morning.

Alone.

I’m not ready for this.

My wonderful wife will point out that you need to let go some time—and she’s right—but I wasn’t quite ready to do this yet.

When Alpha Tween was Prof’s age, he was walking to the Boys and Girls Club for aftercare in New York City  (Yes, Queens is New York City) and I was definitely nervous. But both my wife and I were working and couldn’t pick him up so it was a necessity.

He had a cell phone and was to call or text when he left school and when he arrived at the after-school program and he kind of remembered to do it, sometimes, maybe.

We got used to it though, and we saw a tremendous change in confidence and independence which, in the long run, I think will be invaluable for him as he goes through life.

So it’s a good thing that The Professor is doing this. I think that soon we’ll let him bike home on his own as well.

But it’s so hard to let him go. I love our town and I feel like he (and Alpha) are as safe roaming the streets here as anywhere else—maybe more. But all I see right now are bad drivers and all I do is worry about my kid as he bikes to school. Every morning I spend time worrying that I’ll get a phone call or something and that he’s been hurt or worse.

The thing is, he’s so proud and happy right now. He feels independence in a way that he never has before and he feels “grown up” and responsible. And all that is so important, so vital to his confidence and makes him so damned happy.

So I’m trying to get over myself and mentally prepare for the next step—getting him keys and a phone and anxiously waiting for him to come home.

I’m not ready for it—but I’d better get ready and soon.

 

06
May
14

The Epitome of Team

image via wikipedia

This Spring the boys have begun to play lacrosse. When we lived in California, this wasn’t a sport anyone knew much about and when we lived in Astoria, NY, we never came across anyone playing—though had we wanted to look perhaps we might have found a team.

For those of you unfamiliar with lacrosse, it’s a sport whose growth is on the rise—one of few in youth sports according to the Wall Street Journal.

It’s been an interesting process. The Professor and Alpha Tween are both first timers, and both have enjoyed it, though AT has had a rougher time adjusting. While he’s a solid athlete, he’s not the type of kid who instantly grabs all the nuances of a new sport and given he’s going through regular growth spurts, his hand-eye coordination is sometimes not so coordinated.

Still he’s doing well. His team is split into two squads—“A” and “B”—depending on overall ability. Most of the first time players (and there are a bunch) are on the “B” team though there is some cross-pollination between the two squads. I find that brilliant because the newer kids get a much more thorough and hands on learning experience. If it was all one mass of kids, the better kids would get more of the practice time and coach’s attention. This way, the kids who need basic instruction get it, while the kids learning the finer points and nuances get that.

Recently, the coaches asked if any of the kids wanted to move to goalie. The team, as a whole, only has one goaltender but as incredible as he is—and he’s phenomenal—it’s a rough gig to do for two squads, especially when one isn’t very good defensively yet because they’re just learning to play.

So they needed a second goalie, partly because the “B” team should have their own guy, partly because our main goalie needs some breaks and partly because we need a backup in case—God forbid—our main goalie got hurt.

Enter Alpha Tween. He had been playing “attack” which is a forward position but since the team wasn’t very good, much of his time was spent standing around. He’s played goaltender in soccer, so he has the basics down. And since he wasn’t doing anything on offense, he figured—not wrongly—that he was guaranteed action while in goal.

Goaltending in lacrosse can be a thankless, tough job. Shots can come from anywhere, you wear less equipment than other players, so you have more exposed skin for bruising and it’s a very small ball.

Alpha Tween got thrown into a game a couple of weeks ago and did very well. His teammates all congratulated him and jumped on him in celebration, as you’d expect.

It was a nice moment—but not as nice as last night’s.

Last night, AT was merely a backup. He wasn’t expected to see any time in the game, even though there was a mix-up and the other team didn’t bring all their “A” guys.

However in the fourth quarter, he replaced the main goalie. Unfortunately for him, the “A” team defense was pulled as well. So the other team—which had seen very few scoring opportunities before the fourth—got to take some great shots on my boy.

He let in three goals and was clearly frustrated by the end.

And then something happened which just reinforced my perception that we made the right decision in moving the family here. We’ve been terribly lucky (for the most part) since coming to the East coast, in that pretty much all the sports teams we’ve been involved in have been filled with awesome people.

Gymnastics aside, we’ve been super-happy with it.

So after AT got shelled, letting in three goals and allowing the opposition to close the gap, I wasn’t sure what the reaction from

via Boston.com

his team would be. They’ve loved him, but the reaction to a poor performance versus a good one can be very different.

The first team offense ran onto the field and jumped on AT in celebration.

I was so pleased to see that. I know that, at his age, Alpha needs confidence boosts. I know he was frustrated—maybe even angry—with his performance. And I know he was still annoyed, but instead of being sullen (which we’re used to these days), he was happy.

Don’t get me wrong—it’s not like he was all “HEY I LET IN THREE GOALS WHEEEEE” or anything.

But instead of dragging his feet and being pissed off, he was smiling, talking about what he needed to do better and being confident that he could.

Being a team means a lot of things, but what gets lost more often than not is the reality that being a true team is about more than just being in the same space with people, wearing the same jersey colors or playing next to each other.

It’s about supporting each other even when things aren’t great. It’s about picking up someone when they are a little down because they didn’t do as well as they wanted to.

And yeah the team won, so it’s easier to be supportive. Still, it wouldn’t have been a shock if nobody did anything. If they just celebrated the win and didn’t reach out to AT. It’s not like you’d think twice about it.

But they went out of their way to celebrate his efforts.

That’s the sort of thing which really is what being on a team about.

04
Apr
14

Why have one dog when you can have two?

So I had another piece ready to run today, but then we acquired a new family member.

Meet Theoden Hoover, Lord of the Westside.

AKA “Teddy Westside” to his close friends.

And there is so much nerd in that name it’s stunning.

Teddy Westside is currently settling down after somewhat long night where he woke up at 3am and decided things were really freaking strange now and he decided to rectify that by playing. So we ended up crating him and finally got back to sleep.

Why, you ask was Lord Westside not crated to begin with?

Well, because he was, but then he started crying and I am an enormous sucker for whining dogs. So I laid down on our futon in the office with him next to me and then, well, 3am came pretty quickly.

Dog: 007, licensed to poop

Dog: 007, licensed to poop

Until now I’ve referred to our first dog as Dog on this site. But now we have two dogs and it seems like a pain to refer to Dog and Other Dog. So I’m calling them by their proper names—you’ve met Teddy now, and you will remember our original Dog aka Lady Minerva Higgenbothen aka Minnie to everyone but my wife.

What about these names, right? Well, we were watching too much Downton Abbey when we got Minnie and while the boys and I had great ideas for name, we were overruled.  But we’ve come to love her very unusual name in part because she is 100% not a lady in any way.

Hence the mask and super-hero look in the picture above.

Teddy was named Teddy already. He is a rescue dog who had been surrendered a few months ago. From what we are told, Teddy was kept in a small apartment and (probably) never let outside. He has spent the last couple of months with Aime, his very awesome foster owner learning what outside was and catching up on doggie things like leashes and Kong toys.

Meeting Teddy was love at first sight, and he was great with both Minnie and the kids. So by the time we left the foster apartment, Teddy was already part of the family.

But one we felt needed a last name—and indeed a fancier name because Teddy had to be short for something, right?

We tried on a few things, somewhat inspired by Jenny Lawson, the one and only Bloggess (who you should be reading if you already don’t) who has named her cats things like Hunter S. Thomcat and Ferris Mewler. However we couldn’t come up with a good dog-related play on words involving Teddy or Theodore or Edward, se we just went a whole different direction—full speed, nerd ahead as it were.

It’s Theoden for this fellow:

image via wikipedia

Hoover because he vacuums anything up at any time and eats it.

And Lord of the Westside because Theoden was Lord of the Westfold and also because of this guy here:

image via – wait for it – glamour.com

If Teddy had been a cat, Ted Mewsby would have totally worked. And we’re not getting into the final episode of How I Met Your Mother because 1) we haven’t watched most of the season and 2) it seems to have sucked by a magnitude of eleventy-billion.

Anyway kids, that’s the story of How I Met Your Dog Teddy.

Currently Minnie and Teddy Westside are sleeping but have been battling it out to see who is in charge. Turns out Minnis is a real bitch.

I mean, she was anyway in the literal sense but she’s being a real asshole to Teddy now so it works both ways.

That’ll change though and we are super-excited to have Teddy with us in the Dad Moon Rising household.

01
Apr
14

The Professor Thinks He’s Funny

art by Alpha Tween who, I am shocked, knows who Mr T is.

art by Alpha Tween who, I am shocked, knows who Mr T is.

So by and large, I ignore April Fools Day and it ignores me. My family isn’t big on practical jokes because we’re goofy 24/7/365.

We don’t need a special day to celebrate it, you know?

This morning I went downstairs to wake the kids up, as I normally do. Lately, I have been finding The Professor under his comforter on the floor, because he’s apparently too good for beds. Seriously, this kid might as well use his bed for kindling, for all the use he’s getting out of it right now. So I was by no means surprised to find him under a lump of covers and a comforter on the floor again this morning.

Keep in mind, my eyes started at the bed, saw just two pillows laying against the wall (he props himself up to sleep) and then saw the comforter. It’s not like I didn’t look at the bed.

So I reached down and started to pull back the covers when—BLAMMO—the pillows on the bed burst apart, and a small child flew out of nowhere yelling APRIL FOOLS.

It turns out he woke up early (without an alarm clock, which is amazing all by itself), decided on multiple places he could hide, finally settled on one and got set up. He then waited for me to come downstairs and sprung his trap. My wife is probably pretty lucky she wasn’t the one who woke him up—she’d have had a heart attack.

I’ll give the kid credit—it was a good prank. Jokes on him though, because I know he can get his ass up and out of bed with no help from me.

 

29
Jan
14

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Alpha Tween?

So it’s been a while, yeah? Last week was a travel week for work, so as happens around here, we lapsed into silence. I’m almost over jet lag, so hopefully I’ll have my act in gear sometime soon. I always want to post more, I just never seem to get around to it.

This week hasn’t started off that well around Casa De Dad Moon Rising. Well, I take that back. I’m happy to be home amongst my loving family (who are super awesome for letting me do things like travel to Alabama for a college All Star game and then jet to Vegas for a ‘retreat’ with another company) and everyone is healthy and glad I am back.

However, for Alpha Tween, this week is not going well. He’s 12 and apparently being 12 his brain has ceased functioning on a regular basis. He’s losing things at school, stuff he swears he recalls putting into his folders or backpack or somewhere else, but never ends up home.

And it’s starting to be important stuff, like his schedule of electives for next semester. If he doesn’t get that in (and it may already be too late) he’ll get whatever classes they give him, not the ones he wants. He’s also lost his day planner (which begs the question, is he even using it?) and two hats.

He’s really upset. I mean, my wife and I are upset, frustrated and angry because there has been tremendous time and effort spent (mostly by my lovely wife) giving this kid tools which should help him stay organized. But he’s really, really broken right now.

Alpha is, of course, in trouble for all this because it’s been a constant problem and all the support we’ve been giving him isn’t helping. Plus, he constantly looks us in the eye and tells us “A” when the answer is “B” or worse, we tell him to do something and he nods and “yups” us about it, then totally doesn’t do what he’s supposed to.

The thing is, I get that a 12 year old’s brain isn’t fully developed and doesn’t work at close to 100%. I get it and, frankly, I’m not sure MY brain works at 100% most days. Maybe not even 50%.

But there comes a point where excusing it or explaining it away doesn’t help. He needs to face consequences and maybe we have been bailing him out too much.

The problem for me is, I don’t know how to solve this. I have no idea how to help him, partly because my own memory is occasionally poor for certain things and partly because I just don’t know what is wrong.

And he’d really, really upset. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him as down as he was this morning. He’s frustrated, angry and pretty depressed. He isn’t happy with himself but doesn’t understand why things are happening the way they are and seems to feel he is powerless to fix this.

I’m not sure what we can do to help him. We’ve given him tons of tools, he just isn’t utilizing them.

Maybe letting him fail at a few things as a consequence is the way to get him to learn. We all need to learn how to overcome obstacles and failure. Maybe by screwing up he can learn to motivate himself to improve.

Maybe it’s time for him to fail a little.

It’s sure as hell not easy to watch though.

 

20
Jan
14

Alpha Tween’s Poetry Corner

Howdy folks!

I’m writing this to you from Mobile, Alabama, where I am covering the 2014 Senior Bowl for my day job.

Recently, Alpha Tween has been writing poetry in school and he asked if I would share some of it with you. So, this week I’ll be posting some of his work here at Dad Moon Rising. It’s pretty good stuff, and it’s interesting to watch his “writing voice” start to form itself.

This poem both I and my wife found particularly moving, as it shows just how aware he is of the world he lives in and how what happens in it impacts his life.

Enjoy.

In spirit

I am Trayvon Martin

I am Sandy Hook

I am 9/11

And the Holocaust

And all the people in impoverished countries

Though nameless they may be in my poem

Are not nameless in my heart

I am the people who died for no reason

Other than that someone else had a thought

From racism

To pure insanity

I am just that someone couldn’t get by

I am one of the people who remember

When others have moved on

I am one of the people who see

What others overlook

I am in spirit.

15
Jan
14

TV Review—Friday Night Tykes Episode 1: “Weakness Leaving the Body”

via Hollywood Reporter

“You have the opportunity today to rip their freakin’ head off and let them bleed. If I cut ’em with a knife, they’re gonna bleed, red, just like you.”

“If you believe in yourself, you can do whatever it is you want to do in life.”
— Charles Chavarria, Head Coach, Jr. Broncos

There are a ton of quotable moments in Esquire TV’s new documentary series “Friday Night Tykes,” but those two—said by the same coach at almost the same time—perfect encapsulate the thorny and complicated series.

Which, in turn, perfectly encapsulates the complicated nature of youth sports in America in general, and football in particular.

Before we get too much further here, a few things you should know about the show and the world surrounding it.

In Texas, football is king. Roll your eyes if you want, but it’s true—you need only read Buzz Bissinger’s excellent book Friday Night Lights (which you can bet the title of this series meant to evoke) to know that it’s not hyperbole to say it.

Even before I started coaching youth football last season, I’d heard stories about the intensity with which the game is played at a young age in Texas. To be fair, I have heard stories from throughout the south which echo the same fanatical intensity you hear about in Texas.

So when you watch this show, you have to know going in that this is going to be ratcheted up a few notches beyond what 90 percent of anyone attached to youth football—player, coach or parent—has experienced.

Beyond that, remember that this is a “reality series” more than a documentary. Which is to say, editing for drama is a must.

Which also means we are not seeing well-rounded people—actual people—so much as characters. Because a multifaceted person doesn’t always make for compelling television.

Finally, this organization—the Texas Youth Football Association—does not appear to be a Pop Warner football league, though it may be associated with USA Football, which is the governing body of youth football in America.

They are not associated with the NFL’s youth football safety program, Heads Up Football, according to the website For the Win.

You can tell it’s not a Pop Warner team because not everyone plays—in Pop Warner, everyone has a set amount of plays they are required to participate in, based on the size of your roster.

My son has played youth football both on Pop Warner and non-Pop Warner teams, and both were good experiences, though it is hard to watch from the sidelines when your team is losing and you know you aren’t getting in.

The problem this show—and because of the show, youth football—faces is that most people won’t know any of the above. So this show—for good and ill—is now the face of youth football in America.

And yet, the uncomfortable reality is the picture isn’t all that far off.

In every league, in every city, you have the super-intense coach, the more “positive” coach, and the “lifer” coach. You have the parents who have their son playing because they miss it as much as because their kids want to play, the parents who are clearly uncomfortable but not wanting to make waves and the parents who don’t know enough to know when their kid needs to step away.

Watching the initial trailer, I was put off for a myriad of reasons—not the least of which is that making a documentary or reality show about 8 and 9 year old kids makes me uncomfortable—but as the first episode progressed I recognized that there was far more nuance than I expected.

That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to shake your head at.

image via Awful Announcing.com and Esquire TV

Jr. Broncos coach Chavarria may love to try and give a rousing speech like Vince Lombardi, but he’s far from able to do it.

While he comes off as a blowhard, as you watch the show you can see what he’s trying to do—he just doesn’t have the words or technique to pull it off. Nor does he seem to have the understanding that the way you might fire up or drive a high school kid isn’t likely to work well with grade schoolers.

The most over-the-top coach we see in the initial episode, Chavarria is the one who has a kid puking mid-practice and then praising him for “playing through it.” He’s the one telling his defensive player to jump a whistle and hit the center early to “set the tone” and the coach who is saying he doesn’t care if the other team gets hurt or injured.

Every series needs its villain and Chavarria serves as Tykes’ bad guy.

It’s hard to blame it all on editing either. You can’t listen to him for five minutes and not come away feeling at least a bit off about him and some of his techniques.

But—and here is a hard truth—if you hang around August football practices, you’ll see a slightly less intense version of some of what Chavarria does. Kids run in the heat, kids get banged around and kids sometimes get yelled at. Chavarria may take it to an extreme, but the work is hard and the expectations often high (though it can be said that for 8 and 9 year olds, these expectations are too high).

image via USA Today

The most disturbing moment of the episode is that aforementioned vomiting.

Colby Connell, a 9 year old returning player, gets sick running laps and ends up throwing up pretty violently. Chavarria praises Connell in a voice-over that ‘the kid didn’t quit’ but you’re left with the feeling that maybe the parents and coaches should have made his take a seat for the day.

And here is the difficulty the series will face—while we see a coach pull Connell aside, we don’t see any examination or steps being taken to make sure he is fit to continue playing. And yet, as a youth coach, I find it hard to believe that there weren’t precautions taken. There must have been some time taken to make sure that he wasn’t about to collapse with heat stroke or heat exhaustion.

You don’t see it though, so you’re left wondering whether the Jr. Broncos coaching staff didn’t care or if the editors and producers felt that spending time showing the staff making sure Connell was OK robbed the moment of drama.

And that, more than anything else, was my issue with the show. All too often I was left wondering how much was left on the cutting room floor. I’m pretty sure, for example, that the coaches spent time on proper tackling technique—if just so their own players aren’t hurt. You’d never know it though, as barely a minute is spent total on any sort of coaching beyond admonishing the kids to hit harder, faster and more brutally.

Having been on the practice field, I can tell you that any practice has moments during which a team or coach looks bad or harsh. The team I coached, we spent countless hours drilling the kids on proper technique but if you just filmed our tackling drills, I would imagine we’d look a lot like these coaches. If you filmed only portions of our practices, you might see us yelling at some of the kids (that we were dealing with 12 year olds is besides the point) but not see the positive reinforcement we constantly gave them.

You might see the kids who came early trying to lose weight so they could play sweating and moaning and stumbling, but you wouldn’t see the extra time, effort, support and praise we gave them.

I know all these things and even I had a very hard time trying to keep perspective on what was happening during this show. I can imagine that parents or people who are not or never have been involved in football will look at it and be horrified. And while some of that is certainly justified, some of it is also unfair as we know we aren’t getting a balanced view of anyone.

You’re left with the impression that most of these coaches are insane but the feeling that something is missing.

The show does have a counter-balance to Chavarria and the other coaches in Brian Brashears, the head coach of the Predators.

image via EsquireTV

image via EsquireTV

Brashears, while certainly tough and demanding in his own way, is far more of what people might feel is the “ideal coach” for youth football. While winning is important, he clearly wants his kids to have fun (he even says so—a rarity by any adult during this show) and seems to come across as there for the kids, not because he wants to be Bill Parcells.

During the final ten minutes or so of the show, the Jr. Broncos and the Predators square off and there is definitely a bit of a “good vs. evil” vibe to the setup. Chavarria is angry, grouchy and has a player take a penalty early to “set the tone” (which may seem like poor sportsmanship but is not an uncommon tactic). Brashears encourages his kids, tells them to have fun and comes across as supportive, relatively calm and cool.

In true Hollywood fashion, the white hats beat the black hats but even that feels a bit empty and staged.

Overall, the show is far more intriguing and nuanced than I expected it to be. I came into it assuming I would be disgusted and horrified for 43 minutes—and to an extent that was the case. However, while there are moments that make you cringe, there are also moments which were good food for thought and debate. There are concerned parents, struggling with how far to let their kids get pushed. There are kids who make you wonder how long they’ll be able to—or want to—put forth the massive effort required. There are coaches who go too far and some who seem even keeled.

While I mistrust a lot of what I see and feel that a lot of the events will be made out to be far worse than they are, I am interested to see if the show can strike a balance between the inherent drama of yelling adults and colliding kids with the positive aspects I have seen in my son’s three years playing. How kids can learn leadership, how they can learn to work as a team, how they can overcome adversity.

While Chavarria might seem nuts—and he does—he isn’t wrong when he says that you can learn how to overcome anything if you believe in yourself. You can learn that on a football field and I have seen many kids do so.

Whether we see that in this show is something I am interested in finding out.

My recommendation is to watch, but to take it all with a grain of salt. As I have said before, football isn’t for everybody and every team is very different. Don’t paint every one of them with the same brush as these teams.

Even watching this show, we really don’t know what’s real and what is manufactured.

You can catch the first episode at Esquire.com.

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31
Dec
13

The Great Jingle Bell Caper

I know this is late, but it’s been a busy few weeks and I’m (as we all know) inherently lazy.

My fondest Christmas memories are of the night before Christmas when my brother and I were tucked into our beds, excited and trying not to fall asleep, only to hear jingle bells outside.

We’d both run into each other in the hall and run to a window. We’d never see anything and our mom or dad would show up and point out that if Santa Claus was close enough to hear, we’d better get to sleep.

Of course at some point I stopped believing in Santa and discovered that the ringing had been coming from bells my father had set up outside our window, with a string running to the back of the house and into their bedroom window.

So my other fondest memories are of the years I assisted my parents in staging this all for my younger brother’s benefit.

Not shockingly, when I became a dad, I wanted to continue this tradition.

I recall my wife not being sold but to me, it was something that would bring a little magic to their young lives—and perhaps a little to my own as well.

We travel a lot during Christmas, so my opportunity to do this has been sporadic. Sometimes the kids would pass out on the way home from somewhere and the last thing I’d want to do was wake them up. Sometimes we weren’t in a place where jingle bells weren’t feasible to ring.

I didn’t really get started until we moved away from California and to New York.

One year I ran a string across the roof of our apartment in Queens, dangling jingle bells down next to our kid’s window. The string ran back to the kitchen in our apartment where I could reach out a window and pull it.

It worked a little bit, but I ended up having to go up the fire escape, onto the roof and ring it by hand.

In the dead of night. In ice and wind.

Which ended up working so much better because the kids heard footsteps on the roof which made them insane.

This year was the year Alpha Tween stopped believing. I don’t remember when it happened and was not a shock—his faith had been tested two years prior when he found candy alarmingly similar to what was in his stocking in the kitchen cupboard.

We pointed out that certainly we could buy the same candy as it was in all the stores and—because he still wanted to believe I’d guess—he let it go.

But at 12, most kids are done and so was he.

He was excited by the prospect of helping me continue the tradition with his younger brother though, so when I went to tuck in the Professor, Alpha had already hid two sets of jingle bells out on the covered front porch of our apartment.

So as I lay down with our youngest, down below Alpha was leaning out of a window with bells in his hands and gently ringing them.

The Professor flew out of bed and looked out the window to their room. He spied a red light in the sky—what I can only imagine was a plane—and while he mentioned it might be a plane he also thought it might be Rudolph.

Shortly after, Alpha came upstairs to get changed for bed and I went downstairs and duplicated his efforts.

When I passed Alpha on the stairs to the boy’s bedroom, he smiled and nodded and I knew they had heard.

This could be the last year for The Professor to believe. As a younger sibling, it seems the magic doesn’t last as long.

No matter how long though, these are the memories I will always cherish—and I hope they will as well.

There’s precious little magic in the world, save for what we make.

Perhaps we just need to make more of it.

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What I’m Into:

Reading: Dead Beat by Jim Butcher Listening to: The Heist, Macklemore Watching: Damages