Toddlers and Hockey Pants

January 1, 2012 9:28 pm Published by

September is no man’s land for televised sports fans. The NFL is playing meaningless preseason games which are generally concussion-less affairs hardly worth televising. The PGA has completed all four of its majors and is stumbling through a contrived playoff format that requires a calculator and actuarial charts. The NHL season is a month away and baseball – well, it doesn’t really count. So with my usual sporting preferences not currently airing, I have resorted to channel surfing more than usual in search of something to hold my interest. It was during one of these random wanderings that I stumbled upon what can best be described as a sign of the coming apocalypse – Toddlers and Tiaras. If you’ve seen the show, you’ll know what I mean. If you haven’t, words cannot begin to fully capture the cinema that you have been missing – but here is a try.

  Set in the southern states, the show is a “behind-the-scenes” look at the beauty pageant industry that revolves around toddlers, dressed up and acting like pseudo adults. Think 3-year-old in a bikini lip syncing and gyrating to Britney Spears – fake boobs and all. The stars of the show happily tell the camera that they want to be a pop star. (One is left to assume that they mean all that is good about pop stardom, excluding the rehab at 23.) Which makes me wonder – how do they know what a pop star is? To those not personally vested in the enterprise, it seems painfully obvious that the child is destined to become their mother – not a pop star. There wouldn’t be any shame in this, if only the mother were more Mommy and less agent. It’s a vibrantexample of parents living vicariously through their kids and it’s difficult to watch the show without a little bit of Canadian smugness creeping into my thoughts. I wondered, are there any set of circumstances that would bring me to similar behavior?  Indeed, I would bet there are.
  It’s been almost 30 years since I played minor hockey. My only experience with boy’s minor hockey since then has been as a casual observer. Arriving early for men’s league games over the years has afforded me the opportunity to watch plenty of minor hockey games, and, while it would be grossly unfair to paint all hockey parents with the same brush, I don’t think anyone would disagree that there are some of us that hold heightened opinions of our children’s talents.  Generally speaking however, we are less likely to recognize that quality in ourselves.  For some reason, we expect our kids to have abilities greater than the sum of their parents genetic offerings would suggest possible.  So while I may have been too slow of foot and mind to play hockey at the highest level, surely my third line winger of a son would be destined for greatness (if only his Peewee coach would recognize his talents and put him on the power play). The reality, of course, is that my son would be as likely to make the big leagues as little miss Suzie May from Alabama will become the next Britney Spears. Possible? Yes. Likely? No. A more reasonable hockey career course might be that if he’s real lucky, he will still enjoy the sport when he no longer feels the pressure of his father’s expectations. He too, could ascend to the beer league!
  Every society has their Toddlers and Tiaras – parents hoping for a life for their children that we assume is better than the one we have forged for ourselves. If they were to produce a reality TV show about Canadian hockey parents, would parents inAlabama gather around the television and shake their heads in amazement?
Thanks for reading,
Jeff Neumann

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