Parents, like sports fans, live with bitter & sweet
Jerry Brewer reflects on the first year of his son's life.
Times staff columnist
To my son, Miles Brewer, who turned 1 on Friday and can already dunk (on a two-foot hoop):
You're so big now that I can barely pretend to carry you like a football. I'm running out of arm space. And nerve. Your mother would kill me if I fumbled our precious one.
You're so big now that you don't fall asleep during long Mariners games anymore. Instead, you crawl toward the television and try to turn it off, which is often a merciful gesture.
You're so big now that you can throw things, and it gets Daddy really excited about your sports possibilities. The daydreaming ends, though, when my face becomes your target.
Now that you're a mature toddler, capable of standing in your crib and yelling at maximum volume in the middle of the night, we must have a serious talk. We will have a series of these throughout your adolescence, and they only get more awkward. This chat is about accepting that life is programmed to be bittersweet, and if you're destined to be a Seattle sports fan, multiply the bittersweet by a hundred.
Can I tell you a story? I realize how much I love you during an odd, recurring moment. Like everyone in the 2-Feet Tall And Under Club, you touch your face too much and rub at your eyes too vigorously in the middle of the night. Sometimes, too many times, I'll walk into your room in the morning and gaze upon a most heart-wrenching sight.
A scar on your face. Again.
A scar on your gorgeous, innocent face.
No matter what we do, no matter how well your mother clips your fingernails (I'm still scared I might clip your skin), you manage to rub too hard. The intensity of my love startles me during those times. I want to protect you from everything, including yourself, but restriction is the enemy of self-discovery. And that's the most difficult part of parenthood so far. Independence is an essential part of your development, but it's the most bittersweet part of our experience because we hate to see you suffer, even in the smallest way.
Every day of your life, we have to give you more freedom because you deserve it. Every day of your life, if we're doing our job, you'll need us a little less. Over the past 12 months, as your mother and I have witnessed you grow in elementary yet eye-popping ways, I've realized that these bittersweet moments are ubiquitous (as the son of two writers, you'll be able to spell that by the third grade).
It's all about wanting more control on an uncontrollable journey. But this is your game to win, not ours. I get that, but at times, I wish I scarred for you.
Excuse me if I sound like an obsessed sports fan, but when it comes to you, I am.
On a much more trivial scale, sports bathe in the bittersweet. That's the nature of these games. They're pleasant. They're painful. No matter what happens, you can only sit there and watch, transfixed. (Fortunately, we can have a greater influence on your life, but it's still limited.) As a spectator who adores a team at a distance, it's the best time you've ever had being helpless. And then it's the worst time.
Just think about your first year around here.
The Seahawks are back, Miles. Well, they're back as long as they don't keep getting suspended for putting funny stuff in their bodies. They're Super Bowl good if they don't mess it up. And they're led by the bestest, littlest quarterback in the NFL, Russell Wilson, who is as classy as he is accurate.
On the other hand, the Mariners are still lost. Like I say when you lose a favorite toy, they'll come home soon. Problem is, you just can't go to the store, buy a replacement baseball team and pretend everything is all right.
I worry for general manager Jack Zduriencik (you'll spell that by fourth grade), the funny-looking bald guy who runs the team. You'd like Jack Z. He's a good, decent man. He has a plan that can work. But to be around when you start showing an interest in baseball, Zduriencik needs better results.
The Washington quarterback who smiles a lot, Keith Price, lost himself this past year. His coach, Steve Sarkisian (you'll spell that by fourth grade, too), had to feel like a frustrated parent with Price in 2012. You just want your children to see what you see and make the right decision, son. When there's a disconnect, it's painful for the teacher. But if Price returns to form, both player and coach will be better for their struggles.
The bittersweet taste exists everywhere. It's hard to watch people question Washington men's basketball coach Lorenzo Romar, who is one of the best people in sports.
It's hard to watch two of the greatest women's basketball players in the world, Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson of the Storm, suffer injuries and require surgeries that will make them miss an entire season.
It's hard to watch the Sounders FC, our young Major League Soccer franchise that has done most everything right in its infancy, experience first-time lows this season.
And I guess I should finally tell you this, Miles: The Sonics aren't coming home. Not yet, at least. We could blame David Stern, that mean little man, but what do I tell you when you start freaking out because I'm not feeding you yogurt fast enough? Patience, son. Patience.
As I type these words, you just temporarily lost your privilege of feeding yourself because you splashed food all over the dining room. We'll restore that freedom shortly, and in a few years, you'll be so good handling the fork and spoon that you won't even need us at your side for breakfast.
It's a sad thought because we enjoy those intimate moments. And it's a wonderful thought because we'll be able to eat our food without fear of flying pieces of egg.
Fortunately, if we learn to deal with the bitter, we can enjoy the sweet.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @JerryBrewer
About Jerry Brewer
Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports.
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