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Column: First! ... and the 5-year-old
November 14, 2012 05:27 PM | 5949 views | 0 0 comments | 31 31 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mark Wallace Maguire
Mark Wallace Maguire
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Last year marked the first time when my oldest son Patrick, now 6, actually watched, and I mean really watched part of a football game with me.

Previously, he had feigned interest, primarily I believe to indulge in some tailgating food and to use the game as an excuse to run through the house and yard yelling, “Touchdown!” and “Go Dawgs!” at the top of his lungs.

But the few moments he did watch some of the games, his perspective proved enlightening.

Whenever a player ran or caught a pass, he yelled, “Touchdown!” I had to inform him that a first down wasn’t necessarily a touchdown, but I did encourage him to keep cheering.

Like most boys, he mimicked my enthusiasm and even if the play was a simple two yards and a cloud of dust, he would jump up and down and yell, “Go! Go! Go!”

Being a passionate fellow, he brought a very intense level of emotion to each game.

In particular, I recall the UGA-Vanderbilt game. At one point in the first quarter, he had an angry look on his face and his eyes were welled with tears. He was pointing at the television yelling, “Stop! Stop!”

When I asked him what was wrong, he said the TV shouldn’t be showing the Vanderbilt players at all, because they were “the bad guys.”

I let him know that though we wanted to win the game, they still had to show players on both teams. It was also during that game, that he noticed flags.

“What’s that, Daddy? Why are they throwing flags? Why are the flags yellow and not red, white and blue?”

I explained to him about penalties, and, unfortunately used the phrase “illegal formation.”

“Illegal?” he asked, his voice bordering on tears. “Are they taking the Georgia players to jail?”

I stifled my laughter, not wanting him to feel that I was mocking him and tried to explain what I meant by “illegal.” I worked my brain to find all the synonyms I could – unfair, out-of-place, against the rules and, yes, let him know no one was going to jail over a football play.

Throughout the season, his questions only increased to levels light years beyond the average fan.

“Hey Daddy, what if Georgia played the Atlanta Falcons? Who would we want to win?”

Georgia.

“Hey Daddy, what if Auburn played LSU? Who would you want to win?”

That depends on how much grass Les Miles is eating this year.

And my favorite: “Hey Daddy, if Georgia played the Jedis who would win?”

That answer at least was simple. With lightsabers and The Force, a Jedi football team would be unstoppable.

Toward the end of the season a strange thing happened. My son – a descendant of many UGA alum and football players – informed me his favorite team now was LSU.

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I like LSU.”

I chalked it up to his kindergarten teacher being an LSU fan and Patrick developing a slight crush on her.

I told him that was fine. He could like LSU, just not to root against Georgia, since after all he lives in my house. The LSU fascination thankfully only lasted about three weeks. Over the summer, he deepened his passion for UGA and I also worked with him on his expression for other teams. What do I mean?

Simple.

When he said he hated LSU, I would tell him not to use the word “hate,” but perhaps instead say, “I don’t care for it.”

Apparently, he thought that phrase was too polite for football.

“Daddy, what if I say they smell?” That works. Since then, he has refined his descriptions for feelings of teams.

“Pee-uuu. LSU smells.”

“Daddy, why does Alabama smell so awful?” And the gentler, in deference to friends and relatives from the Orange Nation.

“Tennessee has some great people, but a smelly football team.”

These aren’t the most eloquent phrases, but they are, unfortunately, a lot more diplomatic than what you will hear from most SEC fans these days.

And, to be honest, they are a lot nicer than what I will express when I lock myself in my man room during a football game and preach the old mantra, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

Patrick is 6 this year. He still hasn’t watched a whole quarter with me and that’s fine. There will be plenty of time for him to take a game too seriously as he grows up.

In the meantime, I will settle for questions about "Star Wars" characters playing in Sanford Stadium and the varying degrees of odors that emanate from other football teams.

Mark Wallace Maguire is director of Cobb Life and Cherokee Life magazines. He can be reached at mmaguire@cobblifemagazine.com.
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