Can I Be Passionate about Sports and Still Be a Good Father?

I love sports. Some of my fondest childhood memories involve watching games with my dad. My passion for sports comes naturally. In other ways, I am too obsessed with sports; particularly anything related to the Tennessee Titans. (Stop rolling your eyes. I get it.) The Titans have been bad for a long time. It’s not easy rooting for a team that is consistently in the bottom fourth of the league. Believe me. I know. That hasn’t stopped me from watching every game. It hasn’t stopped me from holding out hope that things will turn around. I am committed. Rain or shine, I will be watching if the Titans are playing. And I will be cheering them on.

Before going any further, I want to make a few things very clear:
1. This article will have many more questions than answers. I haven’t figured things out yet. So, if you have, please tell me what has worked for you.
2. I am not an expert fan or father. I have never tailgated. I am not a season ticket holder. I haven’t won the coveted “Father of the Year” award. I don’t think those things disqualify me from talking about this issue.

A few years ago, I noticed that after every loss by the Titans, I would be in a pretty awful mood. I was angry, impatient, and unpleasant. But, I figured I deserved to be angry because my team had failed me once again. I earned that anger. It was a righteous anger. (It was not righteous, I hadn’t earned it, and I am a moron.)

      I was not being the kind of father that my boys needed.

The other thing I noticed is that my boys were getting incredibly upset when the Titans lost. They were angry, impatient and unpleasant. I was appalled at their attitude and behavior. APPALLED! That’s when it hit me: they were just kids that were learning how to react to their team losing from one of their most influential teachers: Me. And I was doing a terrible job. I was not being the kind of father that my boys needed. I was showing them that an insignificant thing like football could seriously affect their emotions, and that was okay. It was okay to act like a spoiled brat after your team loses.

Once I saw that, it made me feel like a complete failure. I decided that things had to change. I’ll let you in on a little secret here: Change has come slowly and painfully. At first, I simply pretended I wasn’t as invested as I actually was. Inside, I was boiling hot when the Titans lost. But outside, I put on a brave face and made sure my boys saw me at my calm and levelheaded best. The problem was, the loss still affected my mood. I might not have been angry, but I traded that for sullenness. I might have conquered my impatience, but I replaced that with disengagement. I was still unpleasant. Clearly, this technique was not working.

I briefly flirted with choosing to stop caring about sports anymore. That worked for about 5 seconds. It was as the hip people say: A non-starter.

In the end, I settled on a fragile truce. I still love the Titans. (Stop making that face.) I still watch every game. I cheer for them. I complain about the referees. I complain about the team messing things up virtually every week. I go crazy when they win. (It happened 3 times this season…Yay for us?) I still get upset when they lose. (At this point, you might be thinking that this new system doesn’t sound any different than before. You might be right.) I do all those things, and I have added a few new things to my Sunday afternoon repertoire.

      It is okay to get excited about the winning and sad about the losing. I have told them that it is not okay to allow the final score of a sporting event to affect their attitude or behavior.

I have talked to my boys about how it is okay to cheer for their favorite teams. It is okay to get excited about the winning and sad about the losing. I have told them that it is not okay to allow the final score of a sporting event to affect their attitude or behavior. I have told them that I have not always followed my own advice and that I am working on it. I hope that since they see me working through this with them, it will show them that there will be things in their lives that require help from others to overcome.

The end result has been a mixed bag. I do feel like I am getting better. I don’t hold on to the losses like I used to. It had gotten so bad that it would carry over to the next few days. How insane is that? My boys are not getting as upset when the Titans lose. I guess one could argue that they are so disheartened by all the losses that they have no emotions left. I hope that is not the case. We watch the games together and when it is over, our lives continue. Maybe that is enough. They still get crazy happy when the Titans win. They still get sad when they lose. But I’m not seeing as much anger, impatience, or unpleasantness after a loss. It’s a small victory but I’ll take it. At its best, cheering on our favorite team is a bonding experience with my children. One that I learned from watching sports with my dad. (I hasten to add that I never saw my dad act in the awful and immature manner that I am confessing.) Any time spent with my boys doing something we all love, is time well spent. I just need to learn how to spend that time as wisely and as effectively as I can.

Thanks for reading this. Hopefully someone out there has some good advice on how to handle this. Until then, I will be monitoring all the Titans’ blogs and websites to see who the Titans hire as their next head coach.

Phill Lytle

I love Jesus, my wife, my kids, my family, my friends, my church, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, 80s rock, the Tennessee Titans, Brandon Sanderson books, Band of Brothers, Thai food, music, books, movies, TV, writing, pizza, vacation, etc...

6 thoughts on “Can I Be Passionate about Sports and Still Be a Good Father?

  • January 6, 2016 at 8:56 am

    When my Gamecocks fumbled the game away at UT this year I jumped up from my chair made some crude loud grumbling noises and ran into our bedroom to vent without anyone seeing me. My wife told me later our oldest child ran into his room and when she looked in he was just staring as if not sure what to do next. I have gotten so much better with my reactions, but I still have work to do.

    • January 6, 2016 at 9:27 am

      Yeah, it’s definitely a work-in-progress sort of thing.

  • August 1, 2017 at 10:51 am

    The article is top-notch, practical, useful. We all need that kind of advice if we love sports, and even more,so for the sake of our children and those who are watching us. The picture of you three is classic.

  • August 2, 2017 at 10:12 am

    As a dad who’s had more than one Saturday ruined because of his love for the Tennessee Vols, I feel your pain. I realized how much my cheering and grumbling during the game was absorbed by my kids when my youngest son held his hands in the air and said “Touchdown!” once after I cheered for a Vol score (he was one and hadn’t even said the words “mom” or “momma” yet). It was one of those funny but unproud moments. I still joke with my wife about it, but that moment helped me realize that my kids need to see me get as excited (positively, of course) in and for my interactions with them and my wife.

    • August 2, 2017 at 11:06 am

      Thanks for the comment Jeremy. It seems a lot of us deal with this. I do think it’s getting better in my life now that I have acknowledged the problem and am actively taking steps to fix it.

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