CEO Coach Robinson Blog #Three: Further notes on follower-ship

by jeremy.robinson on November 24, 2009

Fenway Park at dusk, taken at 7:38 PM on July ...
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consider what being a follower of a team teaches us: The fan teaches the boy how to be a Father.

The insight has been seeping into my mind like a slowly leaking faucet.  The boy who was a fan turned out to be a fan (in my case a Yankee fan) who became a father. That was my journey anyway.

What does that mean, you ask?

Being fan was one of my first experiences of caring for others.  Like having a pet.  It happens that my pets turned out to be baseball players.  Many other kids like myself, pets or no pets, must have gone through a similar experience.  We learned how to love others by first being fans.

All the later relationships of my life have been reinforcements of that early training.  If this is so, I think that the women of this country can relax.  They don’t have to worry about sports taking over their sons or husbands lives.  As long as the playing and rooting involves some kind of relationship with other players, this is a developmental phenomenon.  Boys are learning how to play house by being fans equally well as girls when the girls are playing with dolls.

It’s just that we’re doing it by cheering for heroes.  We learn selflessness.  We learn caring.  We learn loyalty and endurance.  Sometimes, unfortunately, we learn to tolerate the pain and frustration of our heroes or our team’s ineptitude.

These are character traits that build formidable men.  In rooting for a baseball team through his childhood and adolescence, a boy is learning how to root for others and be part of a team.  He is also learning how to be ordinary in a passionate way.  He is learning what he has in common with the crowd at the stadium.  He’s getting to know how he fits in with his friends by talking about the players.  He learns the importance of heroes which prepares him for later mentoring relationships.

When a woman meets a man and is wondering if he is relationship material, she shouldn’t despair if she finds out he has a life-long interest in sports.  She should inquire further.  Even if she has no interest in sports, this man’s interest in sports may be just the thing she needs in him to make him a good father, a good provider, a builder of the family team.

Maybe, rather than asking men what their relationship with their mother was like, single women should be asking prospective husbands, (or with apologies to my gay friends, single men should be asking their prospective husbands) what their relationship with their home teams were like when they were boys.  Were they interested in baseball?  Did they play themselves?  How did they feel about including everybody in the game?  If they were baseball fans, did they always root for the same team?  What happened when they got frustrated with the team?  Did they stop rooting altogether?  How did they learn to cope with their frustration?

I like this zany idea as the test for a long-term relationship.  I would love it if women in the so-called market for meeting men would test it and send me their conclusions.  If it works, we may have a whole new way of looking at what developmental purposes are served by being a fan.  It’s like the cherry topping on the ice cream sundae.  We fans could get extra credit for what we love anyway!

I can just picture myself watching the baseball game.

“See honey, I’m watching the game.  But actually I’m making a sacrifice.  I’m sitting here learning how to be a better husband and better father.  See everything I do for you, sweetie?  Isn’t this amazing?”

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