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My Son Hates Sports. Why, God, Why?

My best father-son memories happened at baseball games. So why does my kid refuse to care?

Child sitting down on a baseball field

It’s a perfect summer night, and I’m at Wrigley Field in Chicago, one of my favorite places on earth. 

Bottom of the first, Nico Hoerner comes up to bat for the Cubs. He hits a homer on the very first pitch, straight into the left field bleachers. The crowd is on its feet, and I nearly spill my beer from cheering.

I turn to Charlie, my 12-year-old son, who’s sitting next to me in the stands. “Did you see that?” I ask, still laughing with glee.

He didn’t. He was preoccupied horking down a $10 hot dog. And with his meal finished, he’s ready to leave.

“Are you kidding me?” I ask, disbelievingly. “The game literally just started.” 

Charlie exhales miserably and slumps in his seat, as enthusiastic as a middle-aged man waiting for a colonoscopy. “It’s so booooring,” he moans.

My son hates baseball. Well, maybe “hate” is a strong word. He tolerates it for the snacks. But the sport itself, he could take or leave. And it’s devastating to me.

I grew up with baseball. My dad and I went to games at Wrigley almost every weekend, and watched every other game on TV. It was our father-son ritual and I loved it, even when the Cubs were losing—which was constantly. 

I remember one game in the late ’70s, when the Cubs lost 21-3 to the Cardinals. We were in the bleachers, and the game was laughably bad. On a scale of formidable competitors, the Cubs were somewhere between the Washington Generals and Paris in 1940. 

But my dad didn’t care. He just sipped on his warm beer, shrugged his shoulders and said, “We’ll get ’em next time.” His love for the sport had nothing to do with winning or losing. It was enough just to be there, laughing with his son, sun on his face, enjoying the slow-paced, predictable rhythms of a baseball game.

In 2016, I got tickets for Game 2 of the World Series, which would (spoiler alert) become the first time the Cubs won a pennant in over a century. I brought Charlie. It was (for me, at least) a life-changing game. When Kyle Schwarber, who’d been out for most of the season with a blown-out left knee, hit an RBI single in the third inning, I screamed myself hoarse. But Charlie missed it all. He was fast asleep in his chair.

I know I’m being unreasonable. Our kids don’t have to like the same things we do. But I don’t mourn the loss of baseball. I mourn the connection. My dad died two decades ago, and my warmest memories of him all involve Wrigley Field. I don’t tear up watching Field of Dreams because I want to talk to athlete ghosts in a cornfield. Every guy who cries at that movie is crying about his dad.

I needed help. And being a journalist, I did what I normally do: I reached out to somebody smarter than me. In this case, Jim Taylor, a sports psychologist and author of Positive Pushing: How to Raise a Successful and Happy Child.

“He may just need more time as a spectator to see that this is about father-son bonding,” Taylor assured me. “Or he may just not be into watching sports.” Et tu, Brute? I wasn’t into baseball the first few times my dad dragged me to a game. Why should I give up on my own son?

“Meet him where he is now,” Taylor tells me. “What does your son love to do? If you can identify that, then perhaps you can find a way to be a part of what he loves and you two can have the same experience as you and your father did, just in a different setting.”

I’m not enthused by this idea. And I have no idea what it’d even look like. It’s not like Charlie is giving me any clues. At 12, I don’t even get intel about what happens in a school day beyond “It was fine.”

But then we’re driving through the city and Charlie bursts out screaming.

“Joywave!” he shouts. “Oh my God!”

We just passed the Metro, a local rock club, and Charlie saw the name of his “favorite band of all time” on the marquee.

“Can we go?” he pleads. “Please, please!”

“Of course,” I nod, like I have any idea what the hell he’s talking about.

I get tickets (which are considerably cheaper than World Series tickets, BTW). The show is, well … It’s a show! The band dresses like math nerds doing auto mechanic cosplay. The Metro is a sea of teenagers, and I’m the sole guy there over 50. But I’m OK with that. I just sit in the back, sipping on warm beer, watching my boy have the time of his life.

At some point, I guess one of the Joywave guys does an especially wild guitar solo or something. The crowd erupts in cheers and Charlie turns to me.

“Did you see that?” he asks, still laughing with glee.

I smile back and ruffle his hair, like my dad used to do. It’s another perfect summer night, even without the baseball.

Follow Article Topics: Family-&-Fatherhood