Sport Dad

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Emmett Pearlman, righthanded relief specialist.

Before I had kids, I thought being a sports dad would be easy. I’d seen a million examples of shitty sport parents, screaming at referees, berating coaches, demanding to know why Junior didn’t hit that shot down the lane. Hell, it’s the stuff a strong HBO Real Sports segment is made of. “Tonight, on Real Sports, screaming fathers and the kids they berate. But first …”

That would not be me.




And, truly, it’s not. I never scream at referees or coaches. I never get mad at my son for missing shots or making poor passes. But I do yell encouragement. “Come on! Come on! You can do it! You can …”

He hates it.

I mean, he really hates it. Emmett wants to play in relative silence. He doesn’t want my mid-game encouragement or appreciation. He wants me to sit silently, enjoy, offer quiet advice when the time is appropriate.

It ain’t easy.

I now understand the sports parent better than ever before. It’s not that you want to be doing for your kid. But you want your child to do as you would do—to play defense properly, to block out his man, to throw a ball from the perfect arm slot, to tackle toward the midsection, to wait until the third or fourth lap to make a final move. Of course, they’re little. They don’t understand. They need to learn for themselves, through trial and error and error and trial. My yelling—even positively—doesn’t help. It only embarrasses.

Which is the worst.