All I’ve been paying attention to lately is American Football and computer science. Why this is I’m not sure. Mostly because I don’t have time to get exercised over things I can’t change, and I get much less upset about football than politics.
Football doesn’t matter, and I know it doesn’t matter. I watch it, and I care, because it creates a neutral topic to talk to my son about, and I believe that eventually I’ll need that topic. My dad has started watching football for exactly the same reason. This is probably a good thing.
Sports creates common enemies. My Dad and I disagree about politics. We disagree about child rearing, religion, and working late at night. But we can agree that Florida should be facing TCU and not Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl, and even if we disagree, neither of us care enough to get mad about the discussion. There are points to be made on every side, and no one actually cares if they’re right.
Politics is a different animal, as is religion, or even science. It actually matters a lot whether the Obama economic plan is a mitigated or unmitigated disaster. It matters whether the Copenhagen summit represents pure stupidity or merely incompetence, it matters whether the good folks at the University of East Anglia were actually flat out lying or merely snarky idiots.
Discussions on these matters get hot and desperate, as we are gripped by terrifying forces beyond our control. Football is also beyond my control, but it doesn’t grip me. Teams win, teams lose, teams try again next week or next year. We cheer, we boo, we experience momentary happiness and sadness.
There are deep physiological roots to the enjoyment of watching sports, of course. Our ever handy mirror neurons create a vicarious sense of playing when we observe others at play. So to watch virtuosity makes us feel, however briefly, like virtuosos ourselves. And this can be a powerful good feeling.
As a geek, I occasionally feel guilty about this. Most of these guys are probably jerks. They probably tortured geeks in high school. And now they sit on top of the world.
On the other hand, every one of them represents the failure of a thousand other jocks, jocks working dead end jobs and looking back on high school as the pinnacle of their life. So there’s a little sweet revenge there. And the Highlander doesn’t have that experience yet. He hasn’t been to secondary school. He’s just a kid, and he loves football.
But this theory of mine, that sport fandom will lead to a better relationship with my son later in life, is pretty untested. My brief literature search hasn’t led to much data.
My question to the readership: what plans are you laying for navigating the teenage years? What do you think of creating a “safe” subject to discuss when parent/child resentment/embarrassment closes down other topics?