Family / Parenting

Unsportsmanlike Conduct

202991760_f3810e40f1I am the manager of my younger son’s soccer team. (Quit that sniggering, you.) I am the manager and not the coach because, well, it’s like this. The role of coach entails instructing the kids in strategy and game play, making on-the-field calls, demonstrating and supervising drills and practice sessions, and numerous other soccerly activities. As manager, my primary task is to ensure that the team gets a nutritious and attractively-presented snack after each game.

Actually, I have been a coach in the past, for my older son’s t-ball team. But the team was comprised entirely of four-year-olds, and my duties mostly consisted of preventing them from climbing to their deaths on the chain link backstop and pouring the dirt at second base on each other’s heads. As soon as they appeared to need any sort of athletic assistance whatsoever, I bailed.

As a gay child, my favorite sport was Bewitched, starring the late Elizabeth Montgomery. My second favorite was Cocoa Puffs. The closest I came to performing athletic activities was attending tap dance classes conducted by Miss Bunny Snyder of Philadelphia, PA. (Despite all appearances to the contrary, that was not a drag name.)

I’m going to go out on a sociological limb and espouse something of a stereotype here, but conventional wisdom has it that, by and large, homosexual men tend to have a somewhat sketchy relationship with sports. Yes, I know all about the Gay Games and Michael Sam and Jason Collins. But let’s be realistic. We also have Greg Louganis and Johnny Weir.2774329984_1c73bbcb4d

You see, when gay men do watch sporting activities, we are seeing a totally different event from the ones most heterosexual men see. We (or at least I) tend to focus not on spectacular down-court 3-point baskets, but on the fit of those sweaty clingy sleeveless jerseys. It’s not so much about the pitcher’s 87-mile-an-hour change-up as it is about the perspiration wiping and crotch-grabbing that precedes it. And when we analyze the fetching David Cone’s stats, it ain’t his ERA we’re thinking about. For us, “tight end,” “wide receiver,” “bench warmer” and “sack” have stimulatingly different meanings.

So I’m sort of divided when my sons profess a profound lack of interest in sports. (The 4-year-old T-ball player is now a 13-year-old computer potato who wears a tee shirt that reads “indoor person.” And my 11-year-old’s penchant for sports begins and ends with a nominal dabbling in soccer.) On the one hand (Tevye, played by Zero Mostel, Fiddler on the Roof, 1964, ran for 3,242 performances. See, I really am gay…), I would like to see my sons be hearty, outdoorsy, popular, jock-y little boys. But on the other hand, I totally relate. (When I was a child, the only way my mother could get me to play outside was to bodily propel me out the door, lock it behind me, and declaim, “Don’t come back in until it’s dinnertime or you’re bleeding, whichever comes first.”)

And so when my gorgeous and manly husband John suggests we encourage our sons to take more of an interest in playing sports by going out back to toss, or kick, or shoot, or whatever it is we’re supposed to be doing with our balls, I offer the most logical, responsible, and parental response: “You do it.”

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3 Comments

  1. This column is always a see yourself (or close enough) feel-good side of life. It is charming, well-written and poignant. Keep ”em coming! I enjoy them in Facebook.

  2. I can ‘hear’ you when reading this, Robert! As a straight female, I think football and basketball games are too aggressive and foster negative behavior in society as a whole. But that isn’t related to LGBT. Children grow up to be who they are. We parents can only hope they can reach their full potential. Period. Just love them– that’s all they need.

  3. As a card-carrying lesbo of several decades’ standing, I’m supposed to be on the sporty side. And yet I totally empathize with you. It’s not the throwing, kicking etc. itself I object to. I just don’t see the point of it all. Am I a gay man, deep down? Nah. I like girls too much. Love you & yours.

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