'Matter of Laugh or Death,' the award-winning humor column
By Bill Dunn
Interesting observations on this thing we call life
(appearing each week in the Republican-American newspaper, Waterbury, CT)
YOUTH SPORTS TAKE TOLL ON PARENTS
Once upon a time, America was the land of the free and the home of the brave. But that is not true anymore. We are no longer free, and we are no longer brave.
Today, millions of Americans are slaves and cowards—slaves to youth sports, and too cowardly to say to a six-year-old girl, “No, Brittany, I’m not driving you to your 17th soccer practice this week. You’re just going to have to skip a day and stay home, OK?”
Kids start youth sports at such a young age nowadays. I drove by a soccer game last week and I swear the kids were still in diapers. I think the goalie’s mom ran out and breast-fed him whenever the ball was at the other end of the field.
Youth sports are now the leading cause of poor health in the United States, far surpassing the effects of tobacco, alcohol, and fatty foods. I’m talking about the parents, of course. Youth sports actually can be healthy for the kids participating, since every minute spent at those 17 practices each week is a minute not spent playing video games and inhaling jumbo-sized bags of cheese doodles.
But for the parents of little Brittany and Brian, Jennifer and Jason, youth sports have become an all-consuming, relentless, exhausting nightmare.
I work with a guy who is approximately 35 years old. When I first met him a few years back, he was energetic and funny and full of life. Then his two young sons began playing youth hockey. Now my co-worker is often mistaken for someone’s grandfather, his hair gray, dark circles under his eyes, and a sad faraway look in his eyes as he shuffles slowly around the office.
My co-worker now has no life. When he’s not at the office, he’s involved with youth sports. He had to give up sleeping entirely. During the winter months I could hear him mumble, “If I can just make it through the hockey season, then I’ll be able to go to bed. If I can hang on until mid-April I’ll finally be able to sleep.”
But then to his horror he discovered the very last day of the youth hockey season turned out to be the very first day of the youth baseball season. Now I hear him mumble in the office, “If I can just make it until the year 2015, when my youngest son graduates high school, then I’ll be able to go to bed.”
Please don’t tell my co-worker, but we have a secret office pool right now, and the smart money is betting that we will be going to his funeral long before he gets a chance to go to sleep.
Some youth sports parents are lucky. They get to sleep for an hour or two each night. The reason my co-worker cannot sleep at all is because he is not only a youth sports parent, he is also a youth sports volunteer coach. Like all youth sports parents, he is required by law to be in attendance for every practice, game, and tournament; and to put in more hours behind the wheel than a New York City cabbie shuttling the kids back and forth. But as a volunteer coach, he has the added duties of planning the schedule of games and practices, organizing pizza parties, taking inventory of the uniforms and equipment, and responding to the threatening phone calls from outraged parents who can’t understand why their little Davey is not getting more playing time.
I think we’d all be a lot better off if parents cut back on the organized youth sports and sent their kids out in the back yard to play impromptu games with the neighborhood kids. But I don’t think that’s going to happen. I just heard that a new, even younger, league is starting up: the Fetus Soccer League. This way the kids will have a little experience under their belts when they join the Diaper Soccer League at age 1.
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