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Sports vs. the Front Page

I don't post a lot about parenting here. I remember when I didn't have kids yet, thinking to myself that parents seem to be obsessed with the topic of parenting, and I didn't want to join that crowd. I haven't changed my mind. Don't get me wrong: I love being a dad. I love Abby, Jacob, and Zachary with all my heart, and I also know that I have a lot to learn about my role as a father. But I don't want to be one of those people who talks about my kids, or about parenting, all the time.

Having issued that disclaimer, I must say, as a dad, i am saddened at what I see on ESPN.com today. See, my 8-yr-old son Jacob, while not being allowed to surf the entire internet yet, is free to go to the ESPN website. He also gets to read the sports section of the local paper. He likes sports, and I've seen some good things in his life as a result of his role as both a spectator and a participant. Thanks to baseball cards and the stats and standings listed in the paper, he has learned a lot of math that I didn't get till I was at least 4 years older. He embraces good role models like Josh Hamilton and Michael Young. He gets the concept of teamwork and trying hard to accomplish a goal. He sees what's wrong with being a selfish team member.

But there's a dark side to sports, too. When I look at the headlines, I see a bunch of stories he isn't ready for yet. Just today, for example, I see, on the front page of ESPN.com, stories about:

--a college football player's stabbing death after a party

--another college football player's suspension for lying to authorities

--an NFL running back referring to fans and reporters as "fags"

--a pro tennis player using crystal meth

and that's just today. In a few days, the list of disturbing, not-for-kids stories will be replaced by new ones.

Ideally, I'd like the sports page to be a place where my kid can read stories which have more to do with...I don't know, sports, maybe? I know that he will be exposed to the realities of life, and the failures of humans, in time. I'd just like to be able to put off that exposure a little longer, if possible. I would like to know there's one section of the newspaper I can plop in front of him and not have to worry that he might be reading something he's not ready for yet. But this is the world we live in, so I have to watch everything and assume nothing is safe. And that's a shame.

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