For most Americans, December 7 is a day which will live in infamy. For me, it is no different—the year was 1981. My dad came home from work one Friday and said “I’m finally taking you to your first NFL game on Monday.” “The Raiders? Versus the Steelers!?!” I said. “Yes,” came the answer.
My head exploded. As an 11 year old, a pro football game—Monday Night Football no less, on a schoolnight—was like a birthday, Christmas, and the last day of school all at once.
The first thing I saw when I ran up, grabbed the railing and looked down on the field was a 40 yard Bradshaw pass intercepted by Lester Hayes (I think he caught it with his elbow and a little stickum) After watching the Raiders win 30-27 in overtime, I began to bleed silver and black, and still do to this day.
I had already been an acolyte of the Raiders, and had a pennant from the ‘80 Super Bowl, but this was my Raid-mitzvah—the day I became a man.
As I sit here nearly 20 years later, and prepare to take my son to his first NFL game, I find myself asking many questions:
Do I gently make sure he’s a Raiders fan? Give him wistful glances everytime we pass my Raiders authentic jersey? Squeeze his hand when the highlights are on ESPN?
As a parent, we constantly evaluate our kids’ friends, their meals, their toys, clothes, and activities. Why do we do that? We want them to grow up with the best of everything. So, should I bring that same commitment to excellence to his choices of fandom? If so—here’s how it would look:
The Raiders have a good history, three super bowl victories (in five appearances), 13 Hall of famers, and a rabidly loyal fanbase. Few teams can claim as much.
Could I let him be a Steelers fan? Their last two Super Bowls were sketchy at best. He could end up in jail.
Could I let him be a Patriots fan? They’ve admitted cheating. Would he apply their ethics to his tests at school?
Could I let him be a Lions fan? Just kidding.
Could I handle him being a Seahawks fan? Maybe, but it appears to be a lifetime of pain. No one wants to see their child suffer. In the rain. All day. Every day.
The question comes down to—which team is worthy of my son’s love and dedication?
Whichever team it is, he’ll have to defend them, take abuse for them, and share in their victories. It’s a big choice—and the question is—do I leave it up to him?
My father left it up to me—largely because he wasn’t a big football fan, but wanted me to have the choice. How do I keep from influencing my kid toward fulfilling my dream of watching my team with my boy next to me.
Or is this one of those dang-blasted “do the right thing” things, where I let him make his own choice, fall down and skin his own knee, and see what color the blood is?