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March 27, 2008 at 9:32 pm ET
Indoctrinating My Daughter

I have a dilemma. 

My five-year-old daughter, who I love dearly, lives in St. Louis.  I live in Kansas City.  She is a wonderful child:  kind, thoughtful, gregarious.  Those traits are not genetic. 

My worry is that she will grow up to be a Cardinal fan, endlessly recounting the history of the franchise and its multiple championships, with me sputtering “but, but, but, 1985!” at every family outing.

It is not an easy task rooting for a small-market team.  It is even harder to persuade someone to root for something that will continually lose and not in the cute and socially acceptable Cub way.  

The following are some possibilities to persuade her to root for the Royals I’ve been considering.

1. Hope The Royals Become A Winning Team

I became a Royals fan growing up, following a young, exciting, competitive team that always made the playoffs. I was able to root for players who remained in a KC uniform for a decade or more, knowing they would never leave.  This seems to be the usual path for fandom.

Disadvantages of this approach:  Wildly Unrealistic. Rooting for the Royals today is akin to rooting for a happy ending while watching a film with subtitles. Why disappoint her now, when I might pay her future bills at the psychotherapist?

Furthermore, all the good players my daughter could conceivably root for will be leaving for greener pastures in less than three years. We already have to buy her new shoes and clothes every year. Why add to that by requiring a purchase of a new hat and jersey every three years?  And what kind of life lesson does that teach her?  That you run the risk of losing someone you love because someone else has more money?  (Actually, a useful one, but one she should learn later in life.)

2. Bribery:

Every child’s loyalty is ultimately for sale and the asking price is surprisingly cheap. Sure, there is the hats, the caps, the posters, but a parent sometimes has to go to the basics: massive amounts of processed sugar.

The Royals had a promotion with Krispy Kreme where a dozen glazed donuts are given away if the Royals tally thirteen hits. This is, on most nights, an absurd hypothetical for the Royals to achieve. So I’m offering the same approach, except setting the bar much lower. My child receives copious amount of sugar if the Royals tally two runs, or if they put a batted ball in play against a particularly tough left-hander.

Disadvantages of this approach:  The aftermath may include listening to Dora The Explorer songs sung at a very high decibel level from the back seat during the drive home. Risk of diabetes and/or obesity.

3. Driving Up The Negatives Of Your Rival:

Every political consultant suggests that when your candidate is unlikable, the only way to win is to attack your opponents unmercifully. Ok, by “every political consultant”, I’m only talking about those employed by Senator Clinton. But there is a larger truth here. The Royals aren’t going to be successful, so the best approach may be just to tear down the other suitor for her affection: the Cardinals.

Choosing the content of my negative attack is crucial. Negative attacks such as “they’re owned by an brewery” or “Mark McGwire is a cheater who lied to Congress” might be too subtle for a five year old. I’ve decided instead on attacking the one thing children identify with viscerally: the mascot. Example: “Fredbird punched out Spongebob after drinking too much grownup juice.”

Disadvantages of this approach:  She may turn as bitter and angry in adulthood as her father. May involve lying.

4. Total Immersion:

Instead of stories of Ariel and Isabella or the rest of the (ever expanding and increasingly expensive) Disney canon, read her stories of the golden age of Royals baseball.  It was a long time ago in it was seems like a fantasy world where the Royals were, um, good.  George Brett is the Prince, Herzog the cantankerous Wizard who inexplicably switches sides to evil, while Billy Martin, Steinbrenner and Reggie Jackson make terrific villains who provide occasional comic relief.  The sidekicks are terrific:  McRae was dependable and loyal; Willie Wilson was talented but mercurial; Quisenberry impish, Patek the dwarf.

Cover her with Royals gear.  Many, many Sluggers dolls. 

Disadvantages:  Eerily similar to the child rearing techniques of Todd Marinovich and that didn’t end well.  The Department of Social Services might frown on her watching the 85’ World Series on a continual loop with her eyes forced open, like Clockwork Orange.

5. Reverse Psychology:

Root against the team, hoping that she will root for them in an act of teen rebellion.

Disadvantages:   Way too subtle and I don’t have the attention span to pull it off.  Also, have to hide the Royals paraphernalia I own in a closet filled with pornography that I am also trying to hide from her.

6. Rooting for the Royals As Life Lesson:

Life isn’t fair. John Kennedy said that and he was a scion of millionaires with a fantastic looking wife and multiple mistresses.  Dealing with life’s disappointments is an important life lesson.  The Royals are a teachable lesson:  they don’t fail with glitz like the Yankees, they don’t fail with the literary street cred that the Red Sox did before 2004, and they don’t lose with the celebrity star power of the Cubs.  They just fail without drawing attention to themselves, trying and failing for its own sake.

Also, the Royals provide an opportunity to impart the importance of sharing.  We don’t just lose; we allow others to succeed by comparison.  We’re givers.

Disadvantages:  My daughter might be confused by all the talk of noble failure and think she’s a Russian peasant.  Also very possible that I’m crushing her hopes and dreams at the age of five, which is kind of cruel when you think about it.——— I’d like to grow old with her whining about the failures of ourteam.  I know I shouldn’t be whining. I have a healthy, happy five year old who knows I am her father and shockingly doesn’t seem to be that terrified by that prospect.   But I’m dreading the awkward discussions in which she brings up Denkinger, I bring up the fact that we outplayed the Cardinals throughout the Series, or that Jack Clark could have caught a popup in the same half inning, or that Hal McRae didn’t play in the Series, or that THERE WAS STILL A GAME SEVEN.

If all else fails, I’ll just lie and say the Royals are 12-year olds doubling as Major League players, like Hannah Montana.  The way the Royals play, that might actually seem plausible.

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14 Responses to “Indoctrinating My Daughter”
  1. Chad says:

    Here’s an idea: Tell her she’s related to one of the Rasmussen’s who played for the Royals. Eric played in 11 games for the 1983 Royals and Dennis pitched for the Royals in 1992, 93 and 95. By the time she’s old enough to figure it out, she’ll already be hooked into being a Royals fan.

  2. Scarlett says:

    That…is actually a brilliant idea, Chad. I would’ve totally fallen for that as a kid.

    This article is hilarious.

    “Fredbird punched out Spongebob after drinking too much grownup juice.”

    So funny.

  3. Chad, the problem is that Eric Rasmussen also pitched for the Cardinals.

    I also considered pretending Joey Gathright was a superhero, except without upper body strength.

  4. Chad says:

    Then go with Dennis. He had the longer career anyway.

  5. grantfunk says:

    Have you considered telling her that cardinals are a minor league team? or that they’re like tv wrestling vs. real wrestling?

  6. Bruce says:

    Or just tell her that the Cardinals owners are evil money-grubbing Indian givers who are backing out of a promise to help revitalize downtown St. Louis.

  7. Grantfunk: I did consider inventing fake competitions, such as the Small Market Cup, in which the Royals-Devil Rays matchups were meaningful.

    Bruce: I’m not sure my five year old is fully appreciative of the socioeconomic effect that the Cardinal owners may have had on the Lou, but point well taken.

  8. Adam C. says:

    Or you can just let her make up her own mind. Psycho.

  9. Scarlett says:

    Or you can realize it’s a funny article. Lamer.

  10. Aaron says:

    Or you can remember that absolutely nothing is worse than having a Cardinal fan in the house.

  11. MPA says:

    As a Royal fan since their debut, I’m having the same issues with my 8-year old son. In the interest of full disclosure, my Dad was a huge Yankee fan and I was 6 years old in 1976 whe Littell gave up that homer to Chambliss, and the reverse psychology crap my old man pulled on me only made me hate the Yankees even more. So I’m all in with the Royals, and not sure how to encourage my boy.

    My son’s latest question that he asks daily: “Ok, now, why do you like the Royals again?” I’m almost to the point where I’m encouraging to sell his soul to any other team than the Yanks/Cubs/Red Sox/Cards. But start that loyalty with a team now.

  12. Jimmy says:

    As a 23 year old Pittsburgher, I might be considered your daughter’s ghost of christmas future. Consider that the apex of my mlb world occurred when i was 8. I dutifully rooted for the pirates for the next 13 years; knowing all the players stats, going to games (still wondering what a competitive baseball game is like where the outcome actually matters), and buying pirate gear. I finally matured and realized that we’ll never have a competitive team under our current ownership, so i’m pretty much completely apathetic towards baseball, boycotted the buccos, and won’t even check out the results in the paper. I feel i’m a better and happier person since this choice. So if you want to risk ruining baseball altogether for your kid, being a royals fan might be the way.

  13. Buff Manly says:

    The Cardinals are no longer owned by a brewery, so that one’s out.

    And the De(Dim)Witts are really no more savory than Royals’ ownership, just with a bigger payroll and Albert Pujols.

  14. ben schafer says:

    Instill in her a fear of birds?

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