The following is part of a series called Short Short Sports Stories which are real life stories and things that happened around 1000 words.
My dad never played sports, and never really cared about sports. Except for gardening, which is sort-of a sport, if you consider The Iron Chef a sports competition.
Sports was something I picked up on my own, growing up as a bored kid in the 'burbs. Maybe it was the colorful uniforms, or, that joining sports was a way to get my folks to let me wear sneakers to school even though I didn't have gym class.
Still, sports has evolved into a lifelong passion that makes me feel like a kid (good) and also sometimes makes me act and dress like a kid (bad).
Certainly in America it is normal for Father and Son to go sports nutty together and even wear matching gear. Some might say that's what Saturdays were made for. Others take it a step further, and dress up the dog too.
Likewise, as a near-insane soccer fan, I got my kid enrolled in "Lil Kickers" as soon as he was age-eligible. With his enlistment he was put on a team -I think it was called the Cottontails-- and got his own uniform, with number 4 smack dab on the back.
There, the kids learn simple directions and do activities in sequence. They roll the ball, stack cones, knock down the cones, and eventually learn to kick with rudimentary skill. More importantly, they learn to interact with each other, share, and to plot the first steps toward a lifelong pattern of good sportsmanship toward adulthood.
At this age, the age of toddler-hood, sharing remains a challenge and every parent gets bombarded with messages about how pivotal every experience is for kiddo.
With this baggage in mind, that we attended a friend's barbeque one summer day on a typical August Saturday. Parents let loose with a beer, some dogs and burgers in a fenced-in, controlled suburban environment where the kids could play, semi-supervised.
The kids played with bikes, footballs and big toys in the yard. Most got along pretty well while others had at times some trouble socializing. Ironically, it was in this protective environment that my kid, barely age 3, got in his first throw down fight with another kid, a 5-year-old who had trouble sharing and playing nice.
This 5-year-old had started to push kids out of the way, grabbing any and every toy when he felt like it. This went on for about an hour or two. He pushed a few kids out of the proverbial sandbox a couple of times, each getting into a mild altercation with Fiver. After another push, Fiver grabbed my kid by the shoulder and threw him back causing my kid to fall back on his butt in the grass.
Before I got a chance to put my beer down in enough time to run over, my kid punched Fiver in the back of the legs Ron Hextall-style, as they both hit the ground and started handwhacking each other.
As I broke up the fight, which seemed like a brawl, my kid was both upset and fired up. The crowd of beer-guzzling, brat-eating parents and guests looked unsettled. Nobody got hurt, thankfully, and we made them both apologize and shake on it.
I'm not sure where my kid got his street smarts. Surely, I never taught him how to hit like that or to retaliate against a bully like an unruly NHL goaltender.
As a kid, I remember a fellow Philadelphia Flyers fan, one of my friend's dads, call Ron Hextall a thug. Hextall was known not only as an excellent goaltender in two Stanley Cup campaigns, but also for being the guy who would step in when a player from another team got out of line. Of Hextall, my friend's dad said "He's a thug, but he's our thug."
Ron Hextall retaliation on Chris Chelios
Now, before you jump to any conclusions, let it be known I'm not raising my kid to be a thug (just a Broad Street Bully, maybe). And if he ever pulled some of the stunts that Hextall pulled on the ice, my kid would be grounded for a month.
But, there is something important about sticking up for yourself as you realize that sometimes the scuffle is part of life. It's probably just a standard ritual in a growing boy's existence, like it or not.
It all reminds me of an advertisement that I saw a few summers ago.
Adidas ran an ad bearing their brand new jersey for Newcastle United, a big club known for their army of fans. Adidas ran the ad worldwide, trying to compete against Nike, who had bagged the $100 Million-plus Manchester United shirt deal.
The Adidas ad read "Some Day We'll All Dress Like Our Fathers". At first, I wasn't sure right away what the marketing wonks were getting at. I already owned the shirt, so they might have had me there.
I had seen ads of a similar note for Canadian Club, stating "Damn Right, Your Dad Drank It." Yet, the 1970s guys in the ad dressed like Kojak didn't make me want their whiskey. After all, who said I wanted to drink or dress like my dad?
But after a second read, I figured that the message was that we, as sports enthusiasts, spectators and players, all take inspiration from our elders such as our fathers, coaches and other figures in our lives.
Those marketing wonks were half right. But much of the time, it's the other way around.
Andy Frye writes about sports and life here and tweets throughout the day on Twitter at @MySportsComplex.