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Friday, Jan. 19, 2007 | I guess every parent has a moment when they must explain a horrible Earth-shaking tragedy to their children.
Back in 1974, my parents had to explain Watergate to me. Other friends I know had to explain Monica Lewinsky or the 9/11 attacks to their kid.
My moment came this past week when I had to explain the Chargers’ loss to my daughter, Alex.
Turns out, the child was the father — or mother, in this case — to the man.
I believe in tradition. That’s why I tried to teach Alex to say, “Go Chargers” when she was one. She does say it when I ask, but I don’t think she totally understands what a Charger is. She knows they play football, but that means every time there’s a game on, she says, “Is that the Chargers?” or “Look, it’s daddy’s favorite team, the Chargers.”
“Uh no, honey, that’s Boise State versus Oklahoma.”
I wanted her to watch the game this past Sunday because, like I said, I believe in tradition. My earliest memory is when my dad woke me up to watch the men land on the moon.
My hope was that Alex’s earliest memory would be of something just as amazing: a Chargers playoff victory.
That wasn’t the case.
To be honest, it’s hard to explain the intricacies of an NFL football game to a 3-year-old. She knew there was a big game, and she saw daddy cheering and yelling, depending on the action, but she kept wanting me to do something other than watch the TV.
“Daddy, let’s play princess. You’re the prince and we have to get married.”
“Not now, sweetie. The Chargers have the ball.”
Two seconds later, there’s a turnover.
“Daddy, I’m Cinderella. You have to dance with me at the ball.”
“In a minute, sweetie. I’m trying to see if the Chargers defense can avoid a stupid penalty.”
“Okay,” she says.
But a few minutes later, she starts dancing in front of the TV and my father-in-law is yelling (as nice as possibly), “Alex, you’re standing in front of the TV.”
To be honest, I wasn’t watching the game the whole time. Some moments, especially in the second half, made me squirm and I couldn’t watch as the Chargers gave away a game that was supposed to be theirs.
“Daddy, does that mean you can play with me?”
“No, I’m still watching the game, I just need some cringe time.”
“Oh…Will you play Barbies with me?”
“In a little while. When the game is over.”
The game soon was over. It was painful, but since I’ve grown up expecting the Chargers to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I was surprisingly OK with it.
Or so I thought.
I’ve spent the last few days in a funk, worrying about how L.T. is taking the loss. I also feel bad for Shawn Merriman having his unsportsmanlike “Lights Out” dance shoved down his own steroid-stuffed neck.
But mostly I feel sorry for Mayor Jerry Sanders, who, because of the loss, won’t be able to engage in a stupid publicity stunt with a mayor from another city. You know, like bet a box of fish tacos against a crate of jambalaya with Mayor Ray Nagin. Considering the state of the city, that might have been the most enjoyable act of his tenure as mayor.
So I’ve been down in the mouth and, like a glutton for punishment, I’ve been reliving the whole debacle by listening to sports radio.
This is what I was doing Wednesday when I was picking up my daughter from my in-laws.
Alex overheard one of the announcers mention the Chargers and, wanting to be helpful, yelled, daddy, the Chargers just scored.”
I used the moment to have a heart-to-heart talk.
“No, honey, the Chargers didn’t score. The game was Sunday and they lost because of stupid penalties and turnovers.”
“What’s a penalty?”
“Well, during a game, sometimes athletes break the rules so they get punished by letting the other team have extra yards or an automatic first down. The Chargers lost, in part, because some of the players engaged in bad behavior, like head butting another player.”
“What’s head butting?”
“That’s when a football player smashes his helmet in another player’s helmet.”
“And that’s bad?”
“When the other team gets a first down because of it, it is.”
“What’s a first down?”
“It’s when a football team manages to go 10 yards in three plays or less. Do you understand?”
“Yes, uh, no.”
“It’s okay. Neither do I. But let me explain. The Chargers are my favorite team and I wanted them to win this game so they would play more games and then go on to a really big game called the Super Bowl.”
“They’re not playing in it?”
“No, they’re not. At least not this year.”
“So you’re sad.”
“Yes, I’m sad. Really sad. But I’m happy I can talk about it with you. I really am, sweetie.”
“It’s OK, daddy. Everything will be OK.”
“I’m sure it will.”
“When we get home, let’s play princess. I’ll be Ariel, the little mermaid, and you can be Prince Eric.”
“Okay, sweetie. But only if you say, ‘Go Chargers!”’