Thursday, September 17, 2009

Emily Monforto, Steve Monforto and Great Sports Parenting

The Varsity Dad sports parenting moment of the year came on Tuesday night.

As you have undoubtedly seen on YouTube or the Today show or cable news, Phillies fan Steve Monforto caught a foul ball from Jayson Werth. High-fives all around. He gave the ball to his 3-year-old daughter, Emily Monforto... who promptly proceeded to toss the ball back.

Steve Monforto's reaction?

He hugged his daughter. And the look on his face has no trace of disappointment, let alone frustration or anger. Just love. (See the video here.)

Love for his kid. Love that this is EXACTLY what a 3-year-old is supposed to do. Love that Emily's lesson from all those catches in the backyard is: Throw the ball!

It was the perfect reaction. It should be used as the model for all parents out there who want to incorporate sports into their kids lives.

At Varsity Dad, we talk about raising a good sports fan. In this case, you can't teach a better lesson or have a better experience. And I'm quite sure that part of the reason I love this story is because I have a 3-year-old of my own.

But there is a wider thing about parents who want to push their kids into -- and through -- sports. Maybe they are trying to reclaim their own glory (or non-glory). Maybe they earnestly want to earn a college scholarship for the kid. Maybe the kid genuinely likes it.

Either way, the process starts young, and the first lesson -- at age 3 (hell, at age 13) -- is simply to love the game. Love watching it. Love watching it with your dad or mom.

I'll bet there are sports-crazed parents out there who would have at least looked annoyed at their kid. Not a trace of that from Steve Monforto.

Just love of his kid and love of being at the game with her.

It is a lesson that every sports fan -- parent or otherwise -- should embrace.

-- D.S.

PS: All's well that ends well. When the Monfortos were on the Today show this morning, they were presented with personalized Phillies jerseys, along with a ball signed by Jayson Werth. To their credit, the Phillies gave Steve Monforto a replacement ball at the game. Whoever caught the real ball could earn a lot of goodwill by giving it back to Emily Monforto.

(OK, if I can offer one bit of constructive criticism, from the Varsity Dad handbook: Steve, ditch the pink Phillies cap for Emily and give her a classic red Phillies hat. You get one, why not her?)

PPS: All the more remarkable, I think that the Monfortos have single-handedly changed the reputation of Philly sports fans -- or, at the very least, eroded the rep that Philly fans are complete boors. It's the new poster-story for Philly sports fans. Goodbye, booing Santa; hello, Monforto mania!

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