The Major League Baseball playoffs are in full swing (no pun intended), and there are dozens of reasons not to miss a single inning.
Near no-hitters. Fastballs scorching the 100 mph mark. The cherubic greatness of David Ortiz, a slugger who can change the complexity of a series with one swing. But fathers engrossed in the games can also glean a parenting lesson or two in between the balls and strikes.
* Tradition Counts: Just look at those unruly beards sported by several Red Sox players. They look cartoonish, and they must present a real problem at chow time. It’s all part of a venerable sports tradition, one also in play during the NHL playoffs. Traditions may sometimes seem silly, but they serve a real purpose. They give us a sense of community, a way of saying we belong to something greater than ourselves.The same holds true in modern families, even with something as minor as, say, eating hot dogs every Wednesday for dinner. Embrace traditions. Pass down some that your mothers and fathers once held dear, and don’t worry if your children gently reject a few. You don’t see every Red Sox player looking like Grizzly Adams this week, do you?
* Debate with Grace. Cardinals slugger Carlos Beltran didn’t take kindly to seeing Dodgers star Yasiel Puig’s on-field celebrations. Beltran, a future Hall of Fame candidate, could have taken the slacker way of showing his displeasure—send a nasty Tweet that would be catnip to sports scribes. Instead, Beltran handled the situation with care, understanding Puig is a young player who has yet to learn the nuanced culture of the national pastime. People can disagree without raising their voices, and Beltran’s way of expressing himself proves it can be done even at the highest sports level. Beltran might not grab as many headlines for his approach, but fathers can certainly applaud how he handled the situation.
* It Ain’t Over ‘Til It’s Over: Never give up. It’s part of our cultural DNA, but as with many mantras it’s far easier said than done. We may not see an epic comeback this year in the baseball playoffs, but who can watch the 2013 Red Sox and not recall how those Beantown faves crawled back from a 0-3 deficit against the Yankees to win the 2004 American League Championship?
* Play Hurt: This one will be hard for fathers to embrace, and it requires the approval of the local trainer or sports physician. It’s our job to protect our kids and prevent their existing injuries from getting worse. Yet it’s hard not to admire athletes like Tigers superstar Miguel Cabrera staying in the lineup despite nursing some serious muscle woes. His team needs him, and the star is better than most hitters even with lingering health issues. Young athletes need to learn their own bodies and listen when they tell them it’s time to shut it down. Yet the simple act of taking the field when you’re not at full strength can be a tonic to both you and your team.
* Mastering Mental Illness: Dodgers ace Zack Greinke possesses one of the game’s most coveted arms, but a few years back his career collapsed when he took two months off to deal with depression and social anxiety disorder. Naysayers wondered how effective he could be over the long haul given his mental health status, while others worried he couldn’t handle the pressures associated with being on a big city club. Yet here he is, shutting hitters down as part of the Los Angeles Dodgers, his anxiety issues kept under control. Mental health remains an issue that gets too little focus in our culture, but here’s an example of someone staring down their illness and emerging better than ever.