In the Middle Ages when your neighbor ticked you off, you went after him in a duel. Jousting, swordfighting, it didn’t really matter. This has all been documented by Sir Walter Scott in his extraordinarily long and boring masterpiece, Ivanhoe. If your neighbor insulted you, your lady love, or your English feast (which mainly consisted of wild boar you had caught that day and then ate in a depressing, musty hall), you had the right to kill him during a competitive game in front of the king, queen, and all of your mutual friends.
This tradition came over with our European ancestors and became a slightly illegal yet generally accepted way in life in America. We have the famous duel of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr, when the hottest founding father to ever walk American shores was brutally murdered by a hothead. This was technically illegal, but no one really cared. There were the Hatfields and McCoys, experts in the art of generational grudges. And we have the great Italian crime families, who repay perceived slights with bloody horse heads.
But modernity has come. As Thoreau (sort of) said, we lead quietly desperate lives itching for the scent of fresh blood. Men no longer move out west to stake claim on lands. Instead, you mortgage your soul to banks for a house, a college education, and a better car. Once you get them, you will spend the remainder of your life trying to outbuy the Joneses. As an American, you will try in vain to keep our lawns greener than those of your neighbors so that they might quietly seethe with contempt for you while your soul rejoices in your luxurious grass. If your neighbor offends you, you can always try to sue him, but that generally doesn’t garner satisfying results. It’s not nearly as satisfying to win a legal case, even if you did get lucky and picked up by Judge Judy, because you don’t get to see any physical violence happen.
So we make our kids sign up for sports instead.
The neighborly traditions of the Middle Ages and the Hatfields and McCoys are alive and well in 21st century America, but instead of dueling in a war, people now use their children as miniature weapons to wreak havoc in their neighbors and rivals’ lives. Sports is a personal thing, and in the sanitized age we now live in we have very few opportunities to exercise those tendencies which Hobbes so beautifully described as red in tooth and claw. We still have teeth and claws and they’re aching for blood. We just now have to be smarter about how we go about acting out our brutish natures.
It’s generally an accepted American tradition that sports parents are the worst. Growing up as a girl in a generally female dominated family where reading was our competitive sport of choice, I’ve never really experienced it first hand. I’ve seen many movies and television shows which vividly illustrated this fact to be true, and like the rest of America, I generally believe what I see on television. But until I had actually been to a kids hockey game I never truly believed it in my soul. And now I do, because I have witnessed first hand the insane antics that hockey parents will aspire to.
Children’s sports should really not be called children’s sports. It’s a misnomer. It’s more like a game of chess, where the children are the pawns and bishops which the parents are going to use in the battle of bettering their opponents. Perhaps this is a way to exact a bit of revenge on their neighbors for having the perfect lawns, the perfect dogs, and the perfect American 2.5 children. Perhaps this is a way to relieve the stress of running the rat race. Or maybe it’s just a way to eke out some sort of success in a life which often seems meaningless. Whatever reason it is for, these parents are out for blood. The shrieking, the screaming, the latent desire to magically transport oneself in a Freaky Friday type of happening from their own bodies into the body of their child is incredible. These parents want revenge, and they want their revenge now.
No doubt it embarrasses the children. No doubt it confuses and frustrates the coaches, referees, and other innocent bystanders who signed up to pass their love of a game on to a new generation. But perhaps in some small way, all the shrieking and screaming are doing these parents’ souls good. They can derive some small satisfaction from their children, at least, because the complexes their parents pass on with every shriek will definitely haunt their children for the rest of their lives. These children will then either become their parents, or will spend the rest of their lives trying to solve their inherited complexes, creating much angst which will hopefully be used to create great stories and other artistic endeavours as these children attempt to wrestle and solve the problems their parents passed on to them. Whatever the case may be, I wish them well.
(As seen on The Penny Ledger)