by Jon Worley
My parents have a simple child-rearing philosophy: Put the kids to work as soon as they can stand up, and don't let the kids watch TV.
I'm sure their philosophy has a few wrinkles I didn't pick up, but those seem to be the basic rules. As soon as I could reach the sink, I was appointed chief dishwasher (a duty that still falls on my shoulders despite the fact that I haven't lived with my parents for 15 years). Every Sunday after church was work time. We lived in a series of fixer-uppers during my formative years, and there was always something to do. And if by some miracle the roof hadn't collapsed (requiring the use of an 8-year old with some shaky shingle skills), there was always yard work. Weeding, mowing, you name it. The only surefire way to get out of Sunday work was to insist that the Washington Redskins or Kansas City Chiefs were on television.
Apparently there was a lot of great television in the 1970s. I didn't see much of it. "Charlie's Angels," "The Love Boat," "Fantasy Island" and other such shows came on after my bedtime. I do recall watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" fairly frequently--but this dispensation was achieved only after furious lobbying by my dad. I can only guess as to his motives.
What did this relative lack of television do to me? Well, to this day I've never seen a single episode of "Friends." I did sit through an entire episode of "ER" once, but that was only because my hostess had a stash of good beer in the fridge. Call me deprived, but I've got better things to do.
Like watch sports. And I want my son Max to enjoy the good things in life just like I do. Does he really need to watch children's television programs that feature androgynous elves on acid, blue dogs or purple dinosaurs? Hell no!
Back in late February and almost all of March, my beloved Missouri Tigers men's basketball team decided to finally start earning their sports cars and expensive hair styles. Coach Q and the boys made it all the way to the NCAA West Regional finals before falling to Oklahoma by six points. All along the way, I would prop Max up on my lap and say things like "Rickey Paulding's jumper is so pretty it makes J.Lo look like Dennis Franz." I'm not sure he understood everything I said, but once, after Rickey swooped down from the vicinity of the scoreboard to slam home a monstrous alley-oop, he did squeal.
I couldn't have been more proud.
What's troubling, though, is the general stupor he falls into while watching TV. His bright eyes turn dull, and his glowing smile fades until his lips form a very small "O." I know now why people refer to TV as the world's greatest babysitter. Now that Ozzy Osbourne has his own show, I have to agree that he's a bad influence on kids. Bleeping terrible bleeping influence.
And yet, I'm stuck wanting to get my boy in front of the tube. This June, my local hockey team, the Carolina Hurricanes, is in the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, this team has managed to win more games in the NHL playoffs (12) than UNC's men's basketball team did all season (8). If you don't believe that the Canes are a big deal down here, just drive past all the used car dealers and read their signs. Almost to a one, they say "Great deals! We finance! God Bless America! Go Canes!"
I want to watch the finals against Detroit. I want Max to have the experience of watching his team (He's no faker New South transplant like his dad--and the team, for that matter--he was born here!) go for the world professional hockey championship.
But that's not all. This is also the month of the World Cup. Max has seen plenty of soccer games already in his three-and-a-half months of life, as his mom has played a couple games a week since the beginning of April. He's even been to three Carolina Courage games. He knows soccer.
The World Cup, however, is a slightly bigger deal than a city women's rec league. It's even bigger than professional club soccer at any level. The World Cup is the most important sporting event in the world. Every four years, the 32 best national soccer teams play a few games until some third-world country like France comes along and steals the thing away from the rich nations.
Soccer has caused more wars than any other sport. I'm not saying this is a good thing--it's not. But if you're going to judge the worldwide importance of a sport, well, wars spawned is a pretty decent yardstick. I love watching and playing soccer. My wife Barbara loves playing soccer (she merely likes watching). I want Max to enjoy this sport just as much as his parents. I want him to watch the World Cup.
Unfortunately, he's not yet four months old, which means he's at least two months away from grasping the tactical subtleties of the sport at the international level (speed kills and, um, speed kills). I'm afraid he's just a wee bit too young to really enjoy his first World Cup.
There's also the fact that all the games are televised live between midnight and eight in the morning. Not an ideal schedule for a baby, even one who hasn't completely settled on sleeping through the night. While I feel fine staying up until 1:30 a.m. to watch Argentina and Nigeria play (a smashing match, if you missed it), I don't think Max would do so willingly or happily.
I did sit with him during the last 10 minutes of the England-Sweden match, which was televised (tape-delayed) on Sunday afternoon. Max immediately picked up on the fact that English keeper David Seaman has the same hairstyle as his dad. In fact, whenever Seaman came on the screen, Max flashed his daddy smile. Then he looked up at me as if to say "Who the hell are you?"
My parents were right. Work the little brutes until they're too tired to stand. And no TV until they're 18.