Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I'm (Not Really) Sorry For Your Loss

My eight-year-old is a New England Patriots fan. I’m not sure how it happened, but it did. He likes other teams, the Bears included, but for some reason the Patriots are the team he likes most. This nearly became a polarizing issue between he and I this past weekend when I wanted the Jets to win.

I have nothing against any of the extremely scenic states that are included in the region of New England. In fact, one of the best vacations I have ever taken involved eating lobster on the coast of the Atlantic and driving through both the Green and White Mountains. They have great seafood, Ivy League colleges and covered bridges. I rooted for the Red Sox in the 2004 MLB postseason, watch Family Guy and have enjoyed the vast majority of Matt Damon’s movies. I plan to Live Free or Die. Hell, when the Patriots won their first Super Bowl against the Rams, I was happy for them.

But that’s sort of the point here. I rooted for them because they were a new team, a team that hadn’t won yet. I like seeing the underdogs win from time to time. I think teams should win one championship then step out of the light and let someone else have a turn. Unless of course it’s my team, then I want the streak to carry on indefinitely like the Bulls in the 90s (which should have been a minimum 8-peat).

My eldest son was quite distressed Sunday night when his Patriots were down in the third quarter. I, on the other hand was delighted. The fortunes of the still-up-and-coming Jets made me smile. While I like most things New England related, I have to admit, I sort of loathe Bill Belichick and I planned on making his loss my win.

As my son sat on the couch with a deeply concerned look on his face, I found myself trying to mask my pleasure that the Jets were handing it to the Patriots. When he lamented that there was no way the Patriots could come back I reassured him that there was a lot of time left in the game and if any team could come back, it was the Patriots. I even offered to watch the game for him and call him back to the TV should the score change when his stress got the best of him and he felt he couldn’t watch any longer (oh, the sacrifices we, as parents, make).

When the game was over, I broke the news of the loss to him gently, the way I imagine I will have to some day when our family dog passes (though he probably won’t care as much then). It was very difficult for me to contain positive emotion having just watched the Bears advance to the NFC Championship in the early game. But, I didn’t want to rub anything in, and I didn’t want my son to be upset with me for rooting for the other team. And in a way, as the fourth quarter started, I even thought it might not be so bad if the Patriots did come back and win it, because at least it would make him happy.

Why was handling this tenderly so important?

I’ll tell you why. I don’t want to encourage conflict and rebellion at this stage in my son’s life. The last thing I want him to feel these days is an anger and resentment toward me. I think it’s important that he feels supported and encouraged by his father in everything he does right now. That’s how a child should feel day to day. If he feels that I championed a cause counter to his own, he may feel the urge to do something out of spite or revenge and I don’t want that for him. Especially not right now when I’m going to need as many people as possible rooting for the Bears against the Packers next Sunday. Giving him even the slightest reason to root for Green Bay would be the worst thing a father could possibly do.

That’s why I held in my emotion. That’s why I acted as if I, too, was upset with the Patriots’ loss. I didn’t want my son to feel as if he was alone and I sure as hell didn’t want him rooting for the most evil team in the world of Sports on the 23rd.

When he donned my Bears winter hat to walk to his buddy’s house the following day and again this morning to school I knew I had made the right decision.

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