Explaining Sports to the Kid

When I was a kid growing up in LA, I didn’t know anything about death & taxes being the only givens. For me, the givens were Russell-to-Lopes-to-Garvey for a double play, or Kareem’s sky hook. (I was a kid – I didn’t control where I lived! Forgive me!) Watching my favorite teams was fun. I knew who would be wearing Dodger Blue every year. I could count on the Purple & Gold. Watching sports was fun. I could look up to the players. Times have certainly changed.

As I last week’s headlines about Michael Vick being signed by the Philadelphia Eagles, and, as I read another story about steroid abuse, I’m left with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I feel like Michael Vick has done his time. I sometimes feel like I don’t care about steroids in sports. If athletes want to destroy their bodies…so be it.

But on the other hand…what do I tell the kid?

K-Man is not quite four. The only juice he cares about is the kind that comes in a sippy-cup…not a syringe. As a result, I don’t have to explain this to him. And, I’m thankful, as I don’t know that I’d be able to do it. “These guys cheated themselves and the game by not playing fair. In order to do so, they took illegal drugs…” and I can imagine K-Man’s eyes glazing over at this point. At some point, however, he will be old enough to understand and I will have to explain why athletes do what they do.

Times have changed from “Say it ain’t so!” – a time when we were surprised that our athletic heroes might be doing something unsavory. Now, with our 24/7 news cycle and every move being caught with an iPhone camera, it’s more like, “Yes, we know!” We’re not even shocked anymore by the fact that athletes are using PEDs. We’re not even shocked when another charge is filed, or another soft sentence handed down.

Athletes were my heroes. I looked up to them. I wanted to be them. I grew up on a street with kids in every house and all of the boys wanted to be professional athletes when we got older. All of us. Now? I don’t know what to think. When K-Man entered the world, I had those visions of enjoying sports together. I still want that. It’s just going to be different, that’s all.

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