I am, and will be, until the day I die, a Knicks fan, a Giants fan, and a Yankees fan—27 rings, bro! (Heavy Staten Island accent.) I grew up in a household where our lives and schedules involved, and sometimes revolved around, watching these teams.
And when my kids were small, that’s how it was—every Sunday, Daddy would sit on the couch with the fam and eat $5 pizza.
But then my kids started growing up and they began playing sports. That’s when I knew I’d have to set some ground rules—for myself.
Rule #1: They Pick What to Play
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As a Dominican, I am obligated by the constitution to get all my kids to play baseball. But so far, it looks like that’s probably not going to happen.
My oldest son is nine years old. He likes to read. He plays soccer and anything else other kids are playing, but like me, he loves watching sports more than he loves playing them.
My middle son, seven, and youngest son, five, are different. They see me get animated watching sports and they want to play sports. Then I get swept up in their excitement.
If they want to practice dribbling, I’m setting up cones and doing the first demo. If we need to buy a ball specifically made for my five-year-old, I’m ordering it with two-day shipping. My daughter isn’t old enough to play sports yet, but when she’s ready, if she’s ready, so am I.
I tell my kids that I’m cool with whatever they want to be in life and I will support whatever they do, except if they want to be a YouTuber.
Rule #2: I Don’t Yell (Out Loud)
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I mean, I yell all the time. On Twitter. At the TV. But as noted poet Meek Mill once said, “There’s levels to this shit.” I feel that pressure, though. So instead, as Dominicans do, I try to talk with my hands.
For example, instead of yelling, “YO!!! CALL FOR THE FUCKIN’ PICK THAT KID HAS BLOWN FOUR LAYUPS IN A ROW STOP PASSING!!! MAKE HIS BIG GOOFY ASS SET THE PICK!!! THAT’S AN EASY BUCKET!!!!! THEY CAN’T GUARD YOU, FAM!!!!!,” I motion all these things with my hands.
Because the only thing worse than my kid getting cooked by a kid with a fauxhawk while his overbearing dad sits next to me screaming, “YEAUGH!! GIVE IT TO ’IM, BLAKE!!” is me getting into a fight with that dad.
Rule #3: I Keep Morale Up
Kids don’t understand “moral” victories or covering spreads, and losing is very demoralizing. Sometimes playing and watching sports is entertaining, and sometimes someone gets violently juked/dunked/homered on.
Parents talk all the time about how winning isn’t important. What they don’t talk about is how important losing is. Losing may make you want to quit, but every loss has some teachable moment.
And if I can’t find one, thank God for YouTube’s inspirational treasure trove of INCREDIBLE NY SPORTS MOMENTS, or that video I have of Mero III hitting a runner in the lane over an 11-year-old that looks cool as shit.
Rule #4: They Can Quit
If my kids want to stop playing a sport they chose to play, and I haven’t embarrassed them with my crazy hand gestures, and best-of clips aren’t cutting it, they can stop.
It’s on me to let go, too—because I love them.
I’m not saying that because it’s “the right thing to say.” I also love my wife very much. Same goes for my mom; my dad; my brother, Tito; and my sister, Ingrid.
But there’s one major difference between my kids and the rest of my family: I will most likely never be in a gym, standing on bleachers, waving maniacally for my mom to get back on defense after hitting a reverse layup. As a dad, I have a responsibility to place the fanaticism I have for my children over the fanaticism I have for sports.
Plus, I would never do that to my mom, because my mom is a playmaker with a high motor.
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