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Father and Son Strike Out At Team Sports

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I am a failed sports fan. I don't understand the strategies for trading baseball cards. I don't know how to keep box scores. I do not know the names and functions of the positions in football or basketball. I don't even tune in to the local pro sports teams unless a playoff role is in the offing. And yet, each April, I attempt enthusiasm for the Opening Day ritual of major league baseball, as much for the return of spring as for the return of the home team. And now that my son is Little-League age, I feel an obligation to at least act like a fan. After all, isn't it a parent's duty to induct a child into the game - because of what sports teach about the interplay of individual and team effort?

Last fall this sense of obligation led me to enroll my son, Spencer, in the Sunday-morning baseball clinic. "It's low key," said the organizer, a Little League coach. "We teach the rudiments - batting, fielding, throwing - and have a good time. The parents just come and watch." It sounded just about right.

Spencer was quite content with whiffle balls in the backyard. These were the rudiments and the advanced skills, as far as he was concerned. But to me, the clinic seemed like a good father-son activity. And it might intrigue him with the prospects of playing in Little League.

Well, at least I had decided he should be intrigued by this prospect. I pictured us rising together at 6:30 a.m., doing a little bonding over a diner breakfast, and scooting over to the clinic, where he would become enamored of the game, just like I hadn't at his age. But it was really the hot chocolate at the diner that clinched it for him. This was an omen.

I haven't been coached since I was on the White Sox in 6th grade, and I'm not, admittedly, very good at being a coach. So this seemed like a way of getting Spencer the coaching I thought he needed without me blowing it by being the over-invested father.

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