Two Cents: New Reality Show Spotlights Insanely Obsessive Sports Parents (6/3/05)

(I worked as a Sports Editor from late 2004 until the summer of 2006. This is one of the many columns I was able to save that were originally published in The Sun-Times of Heber Springs, Arkansas.)

On Wednesday, Bravo began a series of public service announcements masquerading as a reality TV show called ‘Sports Kids Moms & Dads’.  The network that gave us ‘Queer Eye for the Straight Guy’ and ‘Showdog Moms & Dads’ calls their latest installment a series that “follows five families’ daily struggles and conflicts as their child athletes strive to excel in the highly stressful, competitive ‘win at all costs’ world of sports”.

When the discussion of kids and sports comes up, three words that should never be used are: struggles, conflicts and stressful. But it’s not Bravo’s fault. This series is definitely timely and needed.

As recently as a few years ago, the National Association of Sports Officials said they receive at least two to three reports a week of violent parents. Parents like the one in 1999 that gave a 10-year-old $2 to bean a kid with a fastball, or the Texas father who shot and wounded his son’s high school football coach this year over playing time.

Apparently, parents of all walks of life can lose it, as evidenced by the two Alabama teachers who got into a fight over a girl’s high school basketball game while another parent punched out a ref.

Those are just a few of the examples unfortunately. I’ve covered this topic in a serious tone on more than a few occasions. But for levity’s sake, I’m going in a different direction with ‘Sports Kids Moms & Dads’. After all, how can I seriously dissect a reality show on a network that brought us ‘Manhunt’ and ‘Boy Meets Boy’?

I’ve decided to keep a running diary of the show’s noteworthy moments. I’m sure there will be many. If this goes as planned, I’m going to try and continue the diary until the show ends sometime this summer. Unless of course you fair readers deluge me with a bombardment of hate mail.

Before we begin watching, let’s review the participants:

Kim and Bryce (16) of California. Sport: Figure skating.

Kim can’t watch Bryce compete and, despite her not being a skater, is free with her criticisms.

Sharon and Sarah (8) of Texas. Sport: Cheerleading.

Sarah practices over six hours a day, and her family spends $15,000 per year on the sport.

Craig and Trenton (8) of California. Sport: Football.

Trenton practices five days a week, has games on Saturday and goes through passing drills every Sunday. Craig says, “His future and my future are tied to his dream of being an NFL football player”.

Karen and Karlie (17) of Connecticut. Sport: Equestrian.

Divorced mom Karen recently took out a second mortgage to buy a horse and ship it over from New Zealand. She has to work two jobs in order to afford the $50,000 per year the sport costs.

TJ and Lindsay (14) of California. Sport: Basketball

TJ is Lindsay’s coach, hangs early pregnancy fears over her daughter and admits it’s difficult treating her fairly. And TJ admits they are going to “tag team their dream” of scholarships, college ball and the WNBA.

Let the fun begin!

9:03 – Craig says Trenton chose him as a parent because he wanted to play football. Trenton robotically says his dream is to win the Heisman and play in the NFL.

9:06 – Eight-year-old Sarah works out after some loveless encouragement from Sharon. I notice during her routine she has abs like Clark Kent.

9:07 – Videotape of Sharon angrily yelling “Lock it!” and “Why are you looking at the pool?!” to a three-year-old Sarah who is standing on her and her husband’s shoulders in the pool. This is followed by Sharon saying it was devastating to come in 2nd at the National Championships this year. I think this mom is getting my early nomination as the parent most likely to commit an assault.

9:09 – Bryce’s first words about skating are “It’s free and fun”. I’m not sure what it means, but dark clouds, ominous lightning and a witch’s cackle accompanied his statement. Bryce doesn’t go to school until 11 in the morning because he practices for three hours. He then practices again at 2 with three coaches. Judge Vicki has the demeanor of a Nazi war criminal.

9:16 – 17-year-old Karlie is complaining about working on her equestrian stuff four hours a day. C’mon! The two eight-year-olds are already working on their pension plans. I guess that makes her the underachiever of the group.

9:19 – TJ stops practice to rip Lindsay while she’s shooting free throws. First comment Lindsay has is the shocking revelation that she gets mad at TJ. TJ is the first parent that says she’s proud of her child. That’s probably because Lindsay’s already getting scholarships.

9:23 – Trenton, who slept in his Oakland Raiders Charles Woodson jersey, is woken up at 6 a.m. on game day by his mother. Craig would have done it, but he left at 5:30 to go to one of his five jobs.

9:29 – Sharon reveals that Sarah goes to three hours of workouts at a classy place called ‘Planet Funk’ before major competitions. I wonder if they’re trying to get the funk out or get the funk up. Where’s George Clinton when you need him?

9:31 – Kim affectionately points out for the camera everyone that beat Bryce in the Regional competitions. Cut to Bryce who looks like his mom is telling him there’s no Santa Claus. Bryce helps himself feel better by obsessing over a videotape of him busting his butt on a triple axel in Regionals. The hair on the back of my neck is standing up.

9:32 – Karlie’s horse’s name is Disco GoGo and cost $40,000, which Karlie says is a “huge amount of money”. The next scene reveals Karen saying that Karlie is now riding her college education. I wonder how that’ll work out in job interviews.

9:40 – After yelling at his players before a “must-win” game, Trenton’s coach says the fastest, most aggressive prayer in history, and I could have sworn he said, “give us the strength to bust them up”. Trenton makes a game winning touchdown catch and his dad looks like he’s the one going to Disneyland.

9:44 – TJ doesn’t want Lindsay to date, which can only mean she’s going to date. Coach TJ says since it’s the last day before her team’s first game it’s time to get serious. I guess before she was just grim, joyless and irate.

9:45 – Sarah might be working too hard. Sharon says Sarah is on two teams in today’s competition, then applies more makeup to cover up “those dark circles” under Sarah’s eyes. Sarah’s cheerleader coach is worried that Sarah isn’t getting enough food, water, or sleep. Sarah falls during her second routine and coach tenderly tells Sarah, “You bailed”. I wonder if it’s because her only sustenance has been a steady diet of ‘Rah rah sis boom bah’.

9:52 – Bryce admits he doesn’t tell anyone he figure skates because “people think figure skaters are gay”. Bryce says Kim is at every practice unless he messed up the day before. But she gives an example of her unconditional support when Bryce makes a mistake, by saying she gets frustrated because “I write out large checks to his coaches”.

9:54 – TJ tells her team that the closer they get to the game the more focused they have to be. She doesn’t seem to know she’s driving seven teenage girls in an Astrovan. During the game she rides Lindsay more than anyone else, who admits she tries to do well to shut TJ up. They win 58 to 16 and TJ reluctantly doles out some praise.

9:57 – Karlie is getting the early nod for biggest sports brat. Karlie abruptly leaves the room at dinnertime and then her and Karen have the obligatory mother-daughter anorexia fight.

9:59 – Highlights from next week include Trenton getting beat up by a huge black man hired by Craig; Sarah’s cheer coach saying Sarah needs to do more cheering; and Karlie’s equestrian coach saying, “It sucked”.

Wow. What a show, I actually gave up the Suns-Spurs for it. There was no crying, yelling, cussing, or fighting, but there’s always hope for next week.

Categories: sports, television

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