In case you didn’t notice (and odds are you didn’t), I’ve been on a little bit of a hiatus for awhile. My reason for being away wasn’t some sort of contract dispute or holdout situation. I wasn’t hospitalized, and I wasn’t backpacking through Europe (or more dangerously, Philadelphia).
The reason for my time away was the birth of my first son.
The days leading up to the birth were filled with preparation for his arrival and, of course, pampering his mother. Needless to say, both tasks were extremely time-consuming — but more a pleasant than one would expect. On November 30th, 2010 my son was born into what most would consider to be “a sports family”.
Though most of his roots stem from the Great Lakes part of the country, his ancestral diversity in regard to sports teams is large. He has a dad who is a Cubs fan, a mom who considers herself a White Sox fan (although I feel she’s simply more of a “Cub hater”), a grandfather who is a casual Yankees fan, and a deep bloodline that has been linked to the Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, and even the Montreal Expos. And that’s just baseball.
As for football, both his parents are die-hard Bears fans. Easy enough, right? Not exactly.
One set of grandparents travel the town in an SUV decked-out with flags, stickers, license-plate frames and other bits of decor that pledge their undying allegiance to the Miami Dolphins, while another set of grandparents has the state of their Sunday mood determined by the performance of Eli Manning and company. My son’s great-grandparents on one side of the family had a virtual shrine to Bart Starr, while another set of great-grandparents were known for telling stories about how Walter Payton would rush for 200 yards on Sunday afternoon and rescue babies from burning buildings on Sunday night. Heck, he even has a step-Aunt (if there’s technically such a thing) who has tendencies to root for Tom Brady. Finding a football team is an exhaustive process to say the least.
Luckily, the entire family tends to favor the Bulls and Blackhawks in the other two sports, although there are some old legends of Lew Alcindor floating around somewhere in Wisconsin. Regardless, MJ and the Golden Jet reign supreme.
So, what does the father of a newborn baby boy do? Since his birth, nearly every member of the boy’s family has thrown in their two cents about why he should form allegiance with THEIR side. Many of them make valid points. True, the Yankees are the class of baseball, and the Giants have had far more recent success than the Bears. The Packers are perhaps the most storied NFL franchise, and surely have had much more recent success than their rival Bears. The Dolphins have won more Super Bowls than the Bears, and have also compiled the NFL’s only perfect season.
Needless to say, there has been much to ponder. Do I guide this young boy into the oft-painful world of Chicago sports, or do I push him towards a more successful region? Do I begin passing down stories of Walter Payton, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Ditka, and the SteveBartman incident, or do I start researching new material to pass down about Derek Jeter, Don Mattingly, Lawrence Taylor and the legend of Super Bowl XXV — or even the tale of how Dan Marino shred the Chicago Bears nearly 25 years ago to the date of my son’s birth? What does a guy do?
As a father, I’ve found the most primal instinct is to protect my son. Instinct drives me to keep my son from the humiliation often associated with being a Bears or Cubs fan. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been able to bask in the joy of being a fan of those two teams, while I need a calculator to determine how many tears I’ve shed for them.
It’s not an easy decision……. … but then again, it really is.
Ladies and Gentleman, my son: George PAYTON Darkow