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Breeding A Houston Fan: A Story Of Fear, Desperation, And Commitment

It's important for a father to set goals for his child.
It's important for a father to set goals for his child.

As one gets older and creates oneself a family, one realizes that certain things that were once important become less of a big deal, and other things that one previously took for granted become invaluable. The most valuable of these newly scarce resources is time.

It seems that as I get older and gain responsibilities in both my job and my family, I've not had the time for some activities that I used to enjoy deeply. I no longer have the calluses on my fingers from playing guitar, my 5K time has dropped drastically, and the amount of time I spend screwing around reading random stuff on the internet has been cut by an order of magnitude.

When resources are thin, one must become more... ahem... resourceful. As such, there are only a handful of places on the internet that I regularly visit. One of these is Joe Blogs, where Joe Posnanski spins his tales about sports and life.

Recently, he had two posts which, when combined, affected me in a way he probably never intended.

The first was this one where he talks about how his sports-hating daughter fell for a sport he never imagined: NASCAR. The second was a bit of a rambling post where he reflects on the death of Donna Summer and other elements of his childhood.

The first post got me thinking about how my daughter, who is 17 months old now, will grow to think of sports. I've mentioned before that my wife is more like Joe's daughter, only without the love of any sport, so there's certainly a chance my daughter will follow her footsteps, but somehow I remain optimistic that she will be not only a sports lover, but that we will spend countless hours watching and enjoying football and baseball.

Yet only after reading the second post was I slapped in the face with a sudden and frightening possibility. The impact was triggered by a single line:

I suspect more people today (though I only suspect it, don’t know it) choose their favorite teams rather than simply sticking with the team they inherited.

Suddenly I put the two posts together and was faced by a terrible possibility: What if my daughter grows to love sports but roots for other teams?

The notion became a little more frightening when I considered the evolution of my own rooting interests. The fact that I do not share the same passions as my parents suggests that this is a real possibility.

Growing up, in my house, baseball was king. My mother was born in Cuba, but relocated to New York City when Fidel Castro took power. There she grew up to become a Yankees fan. My father was born in Mexico, though to Cuban parents, and also became a Yankees fan for reasons unknown (he claims that it's because his grandfather was a Yankee fan, but I've always been a little suspicious).

In football, my mother was a Dolphins fan because she used to spend the summers with her family in Miami. My father also became a Dolphins fan, again for reasons unknown (and, to date, remains unexplained -- though I suspect it has something to do with my mom).

I was born in Mexico, but at the time my paternal grandfather was living in Houston, so while I was too young to really care about sports, he would bring me Astros gear when he came to visit. When I was four years old, we moved to Houston and I rapidly became a passionate Houston fan.

While I will always deride my parents for their Yankees fandom, I will also credit them for supporting me as an Astros/Oilers fan. They never really tried to steer me too hard towards their teams (with the exception of two years when we lived near New York City), and allowed me to grow into the fan I have become today.

My daughter will have no such luxury.

See, it's fair to say that I have become a much more passionate fan towards my Houston teams than my parents are towards theirs, so having my daughter grow up as an Astros and Texans fan is, in my mind, a critical element of her development (or a symbol of my own social ineptitude -- either way, it's a big deal).

It also doesn't help that I'm pretty much the Lone Ranger of Texans fans out in these parts. I yearn for some company.

Still, that line from Posnanski's second post is terrifying. If children these days are choosing rather than inheriting their teams, then it means that I have to overpower the other influences that might drive her decision.

While I didn't technically "inherit" the Astros or Oilers as my team, they were the teams from my hometown and back then, it was extremely difficult to steer a child away from those teams. There was no Sunday Ticket and no MLB Extra Innings, so my parents could not put on a Yankees or Dolphins game on in place of the local team.

There was no internet to show clips of whatever team you wanted to see. Heck, there wasn't even a SportsCenter to show endless highlights of nationally prominent teams (actually, I guess technically there was as SportsCenter started in 1979, but I didn't get it so the point still stands).

Today, however, there is a tremendous amount of competition for a child's attention, let alone fanhood. My family will push her towards the Dolphins and Yankees. Considering we live about equidistant from Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville, her school friends will likely steer her towards some combination of the Dolphins, Bucs, Jags, Rays, and Marlins (unless they have equally neurotic parents in which case any other team comes into play). Television will drive her towards the Jets, Cowboys, Patriots, Yankees, and Red Sox (any of which will cause me to seriously consider disowning her).

I already have a big enough challenge simply steering her away from florida gator football, but directing her to specific teams will require a comprehensive and aggressive approach.

*I'm not necessarily going to try to direct her towards any college football team -- no parent who claims to love their child would knowingly push said child toward Northwestern football -- but becoming a Gator fan is grounds for dismissal from the family.

All of this means that despite the fact that she doesn't even have all her teeth yet, it's past time that I develop a strategy.

I've already failed with my now 7-year old niece. I only saw her about once a month when her mind was malleable enough to sway such things, and now she's a passionate Yankees and Dolphins fan. I can live with the Dolphins side, but the world needs another Yankees fan about as much as it needs more greenhouse gasses.

If I've learned anything about this failure it's that the stroke must be played at some time between years 2 and 4. Before 2, she doesn't really have the attention span for anything longer than The Fresh Beat Band (though as my daughter, that attention span may never actually develop), and she especially doesn't support anything that doesn't have multiple musical interludes. After 4, it's possible, if not likely, that she will have already been polluted by some of the aforementioned influences.

So my window of opportunity opens in a mere matter of months. Now I need to determine my plan.

As best as I can figure, the ideal approach will have her sitting and watching and enjoying games with me. There are two things working against me in this scenario: a) my wife hates sports, and b) my usual approach to watching sports includes a lot of drinking and cursing.

I'm pretty sure I can overcome the first challenge by simply expressing the importance of the situation and framing it as "quality bonding time". As for the second, well she's just going to have to get used to daddy drinking (I'm a freaking homebrewer for crying out loud), but I should probably scale it back a bit. The cursing, however, will be a bit of a challenge. As I'm sure is the case with most of the regular BRBers, I watch sports with a driving intensity, so when things go wrong (which is more often than I'd like), I tend to respond... um... passionately.

Still, I'm pretty sure that with just a little bit of extra focus, I can overcome these challenges and in short order, she should look forward to watching sports with daddy. I then only need to occasionally buy her toys, outfits, and other trinkets with the appropriate logos to reinforce the dedication.

I also think that I'll be able to take some of the factors that I fretted over earlier, such as SportsCenter and internet highlights, and use them to my advantage. Whenever my teams do something good, I can make a big stink about it and we can relive the moment in all it's glory over and over again. When things go badly, however, I'll be able to hide those highlights therefore shielding her from the disappointment that Houston teams will inevitably bring her later in life.

Now I need to focus on controlling some of the other external influences. Fortunately, by selecting the 2-4 year window, I've already mitigated these forces. She's not yet in school, so there's nobody that will pressure her from that angle, so I really only need to focus on my parents. Luckily, since we don't strongly root for the same teams, we don't often watch games together. So all I really have to do is make sure there's always something else going on during family time, and I should be home free from this perspective.

The only big risk is that my parents watch her during the day while my wife and I are at work, so from the time I drop her off around 7:15am until my wife picks her up at about 4:00, they have exclusive access to her susceptible rooting interests. While there are no sporting events at this time, I think all I can do at this point is express my desires and say something along the lines of "she shouldn't be watching that much TV."

These actions should go a long way towards getting her started as a Houston fan, but we cannot ignore the issue of maintenance lest all this hard work be for naught. This is really the key here. Once the 2-4 year window has expired, there will still be a few more years where we must defend against a shift in allegiance. At this point, she'll start attending Pre-K and will, for the first time, be truly influenced by people outside her family.

My approach to this will be to begin instilling her with traits such as loyalty and independence (I guess this might be a good idea for non-sports related reasons as well). Considering our geography, she must become comfortable with being alone in her fandom. Once she leaves the comfort of home, she will not have many allies. I'm not certain if the best bet here is to make this an "us against the world" scenario or something more playful like a game where she develops a playful banter with non-Houston fans. I may even go so far as to put her on the offensive where we see how many other children she can turn towards our side. Ultimately, though, we'll have to see what kind of personality she develops before the strategy is set as the wrong once could easily backfire.

Handled appropriately, though, we can make sure that she not only becomes a die hard Houston sports fan, but also that it becomes a lasting devotion filled with the highs and lows that such fandom entails. After all, somebody has to read me the box scores when I'm lying in bed in a retirement home.

In truth, the decision as to which teams my daughter roots for is a minor one in the grand scheme of things, but if you've come to Battle Red Blog in search for the answers to life's more important questions, you're well down the path of disappointment.

Some may say that it's wrong to try and project a parent's dreams onto their children. Some may say that I should leave her be and let her find her own path. Some may say that it's cruel to steer an innocent child towards the Texans or Astros.

To those, I would say that they may be right, but this is not a conscious decision on my part. While I may actively pursue the strategy that will achieve the desired result, the decision to try to transform her into a Houston fan is as instinctual as feeding and caring for my precious little girl.

Now it's just a matter of implementing the plan.

The game has begun.