Archive for the 'Pops in Pop Culture' Category


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 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

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Kids – Not as Fragile as we Think

So I was watching Aliens the other day (live tweeting it too – next time it’ll be on the Dad Moon Rising feed as it confused my football followers) and there is a scene where Ellen Ripley is talking with Newt, the young girl Ripley and the Space Marines (sounds like a band) found hiding in the wreckage of the colony they are here to rescue.

I was struck by the conversation between the two during a scene where Ripley is trying to soothe Newt so the girl can get some sleep (how many of us have been there).

So here are the quotes and the thoughts around them. It’s a bit scattered but hopefully you’ll get my point(s).

Newt: My mommy always said there were no monsters. No real ones. But there are.

Ripley: Yes, there are, aren’t there?

Newt: Why do they tell little kids that?

Ripley: Most of the time it’s true.

We all lie to our kids. All of us in some way, shape or form.

We choose what we tell our kids and what we hide from them. Take a sad event from the news on any day – I’d name some but really just click on CNN or pick up your local paper – and sometimes we tell our kids about them and sometimes we don’t.

We lie to our kids because we want to protect them. We want them to remain children for a little while longer and not have to deal with the world we see on the news or on the streets or in the papers for just a little longer.

There are topics and realities we aren’t ready to present to our kids – some of them not even the horrors of violence or war or <insert your issue here>, but things that are just not true.

Hell, some of us lie about Santa Claus.


I think ultimately, we want to believe that monsters don’t exist, magic does and that the world doesn’t suck as much as it tends to.

But for every monster which exists, there’s someone whose job it is to help us. For every piece of magic that doesn’t exist in the literal sense (Harry Dresden where are you?), there’s the sight of your kid opening Christmas presents. For every moment which makes your heart ache, there is one which brings you joy.

Our job is the shield our children for a while. Then it becomes our job to point out that yeah, life sucks sometimes – but it’s also fucking awesome. It’s filled with mistakes, sure, and sadness but it’s also filled with great stuff and experiences.

It’s a tough line because, while our kids are children and aren’t ready to deal with everything in the world, they know what’s what.

Ripley (re: daughter): She’s Gone.

Newt: You mean dead.

Have you had that conversation yet? Death is one of those things we hate to talk to the kids about, but – and you may vehemently disagree – I think that’s more about our own coping then theirs. I think much of the time we don’t want to have to console our kids because it’s hard to deal with death ourselves.

So we say things like “she’s gone” just like Ripley does in Aliens. And Newt, being a wiser kid than Ripley gives her credit for considering what she’s been through, calls her on the bullshit.

I’m not saying that your three year old needs to know about death or war or child abductions. But I’m willing to bet that he or she isn’t as fragile as you think.

Sure there might be fear and tears but that’s fine – that’s really why we’re there, to help them deal with that.

Ripley: I bet Casey doesn’t have scary dreams. Let’s take a look.

Ripley looks into the doll’s head.

Ripley: Nope, nothing bad in there.

Shows Newt the empty head of the doll.

Ripley: See? maybe you can just try to be like her, hm?

Newt: Ripley. She doesn’t have bad dreams because she’s just a piece of plastic.

When we try to pull the wool over our kid’s eyes too often, they know. Especially when they ask us a straight question. They deserve a straight answer, even if it’s just “now’s not the time to talk about it.”

It’s hard for me to talk to the boys about being safe walking or biking. That they have to be careful of people who might hurt them. That not all people are good, that some will judge them by their looks or likes. That some will flat out hate them for reasons they cannot fathom and maybe never will. To, in the face of all that remain a kind and thoughtful person.

It was damned hard when I had to talk to them about my grandfather dying last year, or their great grandmother before that.

But what happened when I was honest with them was healing – both for me and them.

I’m not always ready for the truth myself. I’m not ready to let go of Santa Claus for Omega Child. I’m not ready to give up on the Tooth Fairy, though the bitch is breaking my piggy bank.

Some of the best conversations I’ve had around the dinner table lately are about subjects that on the surface I’d rather not talk to the kids about.

But they knew about them to begin with and were completely capable of having an intelligent conversation about it.

It’s different for each kid and it’ll be different for your kid.

But maybe they aren’t quite as fragile as we think.

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Pops in Pop Culture: Ned Stark from Game of Thrones

Well, we’ve got a new “thing” here at Dad Moon Rising.

Part of what I do for a living is watch football and “break down film” which is to say I watch the game, then watch it again to figure out who did what and then again to figure out what else happened.


We all know the reflection of fatherhood in pop culture – be it books, movies, television or radio shows (do they do those still?) – is more than a bit bent. We’re not the bumbling stereotypes which make for great comedy and most of us aren’t the distant, almost absent men we see in more dramatic tales.

Still, there are even pop culture dads out there who defy the traditional stereotype as well.

So I’m going to take a look at dads from around pop culture and break down what works, what doesn’t, where they go right and where they go wrong.

Be warned – most of these will probably be a bit nerdy because…um have you met me or read the blog? So no “Two and a Half Men” breakdown here folks. Probably ever. Unless I am held at gunpoint in which case, for the love of Christ send help you lazy bastards.

So anyway, let’s start out with a dad who is a cut above the rest – or is he? – Lord Eddard Stark from George RR Martin’s excellent book series and HBO show, Game of Thrones.

Oh, before we get started, the usual applies:

Seriously, catch up.

Seriously, catch up.

Who: Lord Eddard “Ned” Stark

What: Lord of Winterfell, Former Warden of the North and Hand of the King

Father to: Robb, Sansa, Arya, Bran, Rickon and the bastard Jon Snow

I like Ned. Really there is a ton to like about the character both on the show and in book. Martin did an excellent job making us like him so that when the end of the first book comes and Ned gets his head lopped off we’re shattered. (I TOLD you there were spoilers)

Martin does this a lot.

The entirety of Game of Thrones is about kicking you out of your comfort zone as a reader or viewer, taking your normal expectations and turning them against you.

Because George RR Martin (to be referred to from here on out as the less wordy GRRM) is a rat bastard who feasts on your tears.

Or he’s just really good. It depends on who he’s killed and how much you liked them.

Ned is the classic hero for a sword and sorcery book, which is what GOT appears to be before it shatters your illusions. He’s an honorable man, loyal and ruled by a desire to “do the right thing” which, on the surface seems like a great idea. He passes this down to his kids (mostly his sons because women aren’t exactly empowered in this tale, especially to start) telling them that doing the honorable thing is always the right thing.

Of course, by the time he gets to King’s Landing, we know this is not only wrong, but disastrously so. Ned’s honor is untenable and dangerously naive in the “real world” and it costs him his life, his family their lands and pretty much destroys the Starks completely as they make poor decisions based on some flawed Ned Logic.

Take Robb, for example, also known as the King of the North.

He trusts Theon Greyjoy because they’re like brothers and Ned taught him to trust those he holds dear to him. But Greyjoy, from the beginning, is looking for a way out. He’s not a brother, he’s a captive. Theon knows it and the first chance he gets, he turns on Robb.

This leads to the destruction of Winterfell and the apparent death of his brothers, Rickon and Bran which in turn further sends his mother Catelyn into a panic. She releases Jamie Lannister – an act whose repercussions are felt not long after.

Lord Rickard Karstark is furious at the Starks for freeing Lannister (even if it was something Robb had no idea was going on) and murders two Lannister boys captured in battle in retaliation. Robb then executes Lord Karstark as punishment. There were numerous ways to get out of that, but none of them truly “honorable” and Robb wouldn’t hear of them.

You wouldn’t hurt this dire wolf, would you?

So at a time when he was desperately in need of swords, he casts thousands of men aside for the sake of honor.

The one time he doesn’t heed his father’s words is when he takes a wife, despite promising to marry a Frey. Of course, when all is said and done, Robb knows it was stupid and once he casts the Karstarks away, he needs the Freys badly.

However, because he holds his honor tightly he believes Walder Frey does as well. He can’t conceive of anyone not holding to the sacred laws of hospitality, even a weasel like Walder Frey.

And so we get the Red Wedding.

Rickon is a bit too young for him to understand his father’s words (and frankly the single most useless character in the books) while Bran sees the devastation around him and pretty much chucks all the Stark wisdom out the window.

Sansa is completely unprepared for anything at all, as Ned has allowed her to dwell in a fantasy world. I understand wanting your child to remain a child and I understand that not bothering your daughter with the dirty real world is the ways things are in terms of both the type of book this is and the medieval time period it takes place in.

It’s true

In fact, Ned indulges both Sansa an Arya – it just happens that it saves Arya’s life.

Allowing her to learn to fight to get it out of her system saves her life multiple times and not just directly – had she not escaped King’s Landing, one can imagine King Joffery would have killed her as much as he hated her.

It probably would have been better, though, to ease Sansa into the realities of life sooner though, given her age an where they were going once Ned decided to become the Hand of the King.

Jon Snow is another child who, ultimately, pays a steep price for following his father’s teachings. Snow actually is able to work within the bounds (or maybe restraints?) of the idea of unwavering loyalty and honor. Despite not having a place in “polite” society because he is an illegitimate child, Snow thrives for a time with the Night’s Watch because of those teachings.

Ultimately though, he lets his guard down and trusts to friendship and honor one too many times and it (apparenly) costs him his life.

I actually don’t believe he is dead – something I hopefully discover I am right about if GRRM gets around to finishing the series. That’s another column though.

Ned Stark is a really, really nice guy who is far too blind to the reality of the world around him and so has not prepared his family for the real world outside of Winterfell.

Would I like him as my Dad?

I like a lot of Ned’s philosophy – I have a bit of a “loyalty” problem myself at times.

But I’d prefer a man who teaches me all of the things Ned teaches to his children and then follows it up with “but here is how the real world works.”

In my mind, it’s my job as a dad to impart values and wisdom to my kids, but also show them the reality of life around them. Sometimes you can cling to your way of doing things, but sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to bend with the wind.

You also always have to remember that while your values are nice and all, not everyone shares them.

While not teaching that lesson (or learning it myself) probably won’t get anyone’s head chopped off, there are real life results which can be devastating nonetheless.

So while I like Ned and would totally want him next to me in battle, I don’t think his parenting skills are up to par.

On the other hand, he did give his daughter permission to learn to fight with a sword, so he’s not all bad.

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