Parents in the Penalty Box: Just Let Me Cheer for My Kid

When I’m slugging back my fifth Blue Moon, my friends don’t point out that I’ve just consumed 855 calories, excluding the orange slices, which I count for all 5 of my daily fruit and veggie servings. And they don’t say I’m never going to lose the beer gut if I continue to drink like a sailor.


Who needs those relationships? That’s why I’ve got a mother.

So, sitting in the bleachers in Northfield on that first perfect warm June night, happy to be in shorts and freed from the fart sack (a big L.L. Bean down blanket/jacket thingy) I’d been wrapped up in since Little League season started, admiring the willow trees spreading green across the horizon and feeling nothing but pride as I cheer loudly for my 11-year-old son, who has just ripped a double to emerge from his hitting slump, I didn’t need to hear from across the field: “Pipe down lady, it’s not like your son’s going to get a college scholarship to play baseball.”

Yes, I might have been a little loud with my cheers, borderline obnoxious, but it’s all from a good place of love for my kid, who was beaming on second base, looking the part of our All-American baseball player in his grey retro uniform. So, while I really wanted to go tell Mrs. Reality Check, to shut her stinking pie hole, I recognize that she makes a valid point.

According to NCAA statistics from 2003-2004, 7.3 million kids played high school athletics, and less than 2 percent of them receive any type of scholarship, let alone play sports in college. I can do the math. My short Jewish kid who plays baseball only four months out of the year won’t be one of the 3,983 players nationwide to get a scholarship. Odds are, he won’t even make his high school team.

From vertically challenged boys to lanky girls, getting an athletic scholarship is about as hard as finding an open green patch at a sold-out Ravinia show. More than 200 girls ran for the Girl’s Cross Country team at New Trier last season, yet according to head coach John Burnside, hardly any of his athletes received running scholarships. Burnside did say that more of the girls might have qualified for cross country money, but they often put academics before athletics, thereby ruling out many of the schools that might have offered them money. Same story in hockey, swimming and football.

So yes, the sane parent, not the one who gets occasionally lost in moments of exhilaration (or inebriation), knows better than to blow the boy’s college fund on a luxurious European bender. But the exuberant mom in the bleachers, basking in the glow of her son’s achievement, just wants you to shut your stinking pie hole.

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