Dear Eli: I love watching professional sports with my kids. It’s been a tradition of ours for as long as I can remember. But lately things have gotten so political in the sports world (basketball, especially) that it’s really hard for us to just sit back and enjoy the games. My kids are teenagers now. They have viewpoints that are different from my own. In some ways, I’m proud of that. Proud that they’re becoming their own people with their own ideas on how the world should work. But I must say it makes for some pretty uncomfortable moments when these political issues arise during sporting events. I just don’t understand why athletes and their organizations have to take a stance on every little thing. It takes away from the game, not to mention negatively impacting our family time. Do you think athletes should be so proactive about current social and political issues?
—Less Talk, More Play Dear Talk: When I was a kid, I bought the same book every year from the Scholastic Book Fair. I can’t even remember what it was called, but inside this book were addresses for all the most famous professional athletes from that year.
To a sports-obsessed kid, this was a treasure trove!
Somewhere in my attic I still have a glossy picture Jerry Rice signed (or at least I hope he did) and mailed back to me after I wrote him a fan letter.
I say all of this to say that pro athletes are role models. There is no way to describe the sort of influence these athletes have on our youth.
For most parents, the problem arises when these athletes start promoting an agenda that is different from that of the household. As a result, they’re prompting your children to think differently from you, which in turn makes things around the TV uncomfortable.
But listen, being uncomfortable is okay. It’s actually the only way people grow. Think about it in terms of training. If your body isn’t hurting, then you aren’t getting any stronger.
The same is true for the mind. In order for us to continue to progress as a nation, we have to continually encounter and decode new ways of thinking.
Technology has undoubtedly put our world under a high-speed microscope. Superstar athletes — along with everyone else—are under more scrutiny than ever. Things they might have said in private fifteen years ago are now public the instant they say them.
This, of course, trickles all the way back to your house, your living room, the whole family huddled around the TV on a Tuesday night, ready to watch LeBron make history! You’re not tuning in to hear his views on politics, but there they are, stamped on the back of his jersey.
There is no escaping it. With every hour that passes our world grows more interconnected, more transparent. and with this comes a new responsibility for parents — we have to learn to talk to our kids all over again.
Whether we like it or not, kids now have access to anything and everything they want at the touch of a button. Gone are the days of skirting around a subject you’d rather not discuss with your child.
These days, you must have the difficult conversations. You have to prepare your kids for what’s out there, teach them how to think critically about what’s going on in the world. If you don’t, they might wind up accepting whatever viewpoint the professional athletes are pushing at the moment.