August 28th, 2014
It's only about 8:30 PM, but my exhaustion levels are reading something closer to three AM. I'm sitting in an uncomfortable chair, shirtless, with bits of spit up still stuck to my chest. I haven't slept in a day, and my poor wife, conscious next to me, hasn't slept in far longer, at least, not without the aid of some powerful drugs. On my chest, protected by a shoddily folded, halfass swaddle, is my baby daughter, Penelope. She was born the day before, and and as family, we were enjoying one of our first family moments. The swaddle jobs would get better. I've only been a dad for a day. I'm still a rookie. I didn't realize just how much of one until now.
It's hard to imagine a more chaotic 36 hours than childbirth, and now that everything appears to have calmed down, we try to relax and find something normal. Or at least, as normal as anything will ever be anymore.
My wife rolls over to face me and sleepily asks "Wait, so who do we want to win again?", right as an Ole Miss linebacker summarily erases a Boise State offensive lineman to wreck havoc in the backfield.
Just because our lives have changed forever doesn't mean we aren't going to watch a college football game,
In retrospect, perhaps having a baby the day before college football season started wasn't the smartest move for a sportswriter, but hey, here we are. For better or for worse, Penny's first three months were going to be full of heavy doses of football. There were lots of late nights where she fell asleep on my chest as we watched drunk, late-night Pac-12 football together. She's probably been more exposed to Kirk Herbstreit's voice than that of some relatives at this point. And since she was in the room with me for the Navy and Penn State games...well, she was sadly exposed to some language that she shouldn't hear her dad use. Good thing she won't remember it. I hope.
My daughter is obviously too young to become a college football fan in any meaningful sense of the word, but we can already start to see bits of it clicking. She seems to enjoy looking at Boise State's turf, the colors of Hawaii's uniforms, and the sounds of the marching bands. If a game is on, she'll turn to try and look at it, even if she's feeding. She does seem to show a troubling attraction to the color blue, though. Perhaps that comes from her mother's BYU fandom. Otherwise, we have a big problem in our house.
You have a lot of really big conversations when you have a baby. You talk about your parenting strategies, your values, and what you want to try and impart to your kids. Is raising your child in your religious tradition a priority? In other family traditions? How do you maintain a connection to your ethnic and cultural heritage? What do you keep from your own childhood, and what do you discard?
My wife and I have had some legitimate, totally serious conversations about the ethics of trying to impart sports fanhood. My wife is from Evanston, and roots for the Cubs. I grew up rooting for the Cleveland Indians. Knowing this history, is it more ethical to teach our children that baseball is stupid and will only break hearts?
I haven't decided on trying to teach any other particular kind of fan affiliation, but I do know that teaching my children some sort of connection to their history is important. I'll teach them to cook Feijoada and Brigadeiros, like my Brazilian mother taught me. She'll at least be exposed to the great Chicago hot dogs and casserole-pizza of her mother's Chicago. And in this household, she'll learn to hate Michigan. Because even if she never becomes a college football fan, and no matter where we live, she's still part Buckeye, and that's all you need to build a natural aversion to Maize.
And really, that's what makes this rivalry, and this sport, so great. We may root for professional teams who play in our cities, but in this country, that isn't a near tribal affiliation. We don't share lecture halls, or dive bars, or dorm buildings with pro athletes. They aren't our neighbors. College sports isn't about cheering for laundry. It's an extension of cheering for a community. And the older I get, and the more I move around this country, the more important that becomes.
If you're still transient, you look for whatever anchor you can find. Ohio State is still one of those anchors, and we feel that a little every time I get behind the keyboard or the microphone. I want my children to be a part of that too, and the best way to share in that experience, of course, is to hate Michigan.
You don't need to even like football to hate Michigan. You just need to care about the 614 or the 740 area codes. You simply need to enjoy chocolate Buckeyes, or Cedar Point, or the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, or gray, 45 degree days in November. If you're underdressed for the cold and don't care, if you've enjoyed Whits or Jeni's or a Wendys cheeseburger, you're basically an Ohioian, which makes you a Buckeye, which means you hate Michigan.
It's never too early to teach your children the important things in life. I already read to my daughter, even though the extent of her interactivity ends at giggling, demanding food, and spitting up. We've already working on the importance of listening to your mother, especially when it's bedtime.
And on Saturday, we'll start with the basics of why the team in the Scarlet and Gray are the good guys, and should vanquish the yellow-clad visitors. You gotta start early on the truly important stuff.