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A Fan's DNA: Raising a son who knows Dean Smith

March 11, 2015

My sister and I grew up in the home of an avid UNC fan, our father. When she grew up, she married a Duke fan. Two months ago, she and the Duke fan had a kid together. I asked her to write about it:

In sickness and in health.
Parents pass all kinds of things on to their children. Hair color, skin tone, blood type, mannerisms. Of course, biological parents have no control over what the child’s hair color will actually be. It is all complicated genetic science. And it is all out of the parents’ control. So no matter who the child looks like, and whether or not the child’s genes come from her parents, all parents work to pass on values, morals, and the traits that make up a personality. Yet, even though parents of all types work to instill these things in their children, they really have little control over what gets carried on and what gets left behind.

This desire for controlling the uncontrollable is also true when it comes to sports teams allegiances. What parents do not want their child to root for their teams? But a child who grows up in Lexington, KY might just root for the Wildcats instead of his parents’ Fighting Irish. Or a child prone to rebellion may pull for the Buckeyes instead of her parents’ Wolverines. Or maybe the independent child will not care for sports at all. It is just as likely that the child carry on the parents’ fanhood, no matter where the family lives. Parents’ choices influence what team their child roots for, but just like hair color, neither does a parent truly get to select jersey color.

My son is two months old. Already he has numerous clothing articles indicating his parents’ allegiances to the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers. I am sure Atlanta Braves and San Francisco Giants attire will make its way into his wardrobe also. All of this works out just fine, with the exception of the Packers recent playoff record against the 49ers, there is little contention between my teams and my husband’s. Except for college basketball.

I have dressed my son in 49ers clothing. I will not dress him in his Duke shirt, no matter how adorably small it is. My husband has put our son in a Packers onesie on multiple occasions. He has not brought out the UNC shirt, which is so much more adorable. When it comes to which NFL team Oliver roots for, we will be fine as long as he does not choose the Seahawks or the Bears, but there will be just a little more on the line when it comes to whose team he fills the championship spot on his bracket with every March. Though we will not know what team, if either of ours, he will choose for a number of years, it will be strange to witness him picking his inheritance.

My husband and I really cannot control what team he roots for, but February 8, as we sat on our couch with our son in between a Duke fan and a UNC fan, watching ESPN, one thing did become clear. One thing that we can make sure Oliver knows. No matter who you route for, whether it is the same team, the rival team, or some other team, when a man like Dean Smith dies, you remember him. You watch the footage, you listen to the interviews, you think about how different the game is now because of him. You make sure your child knows what matters more than a rivalry and what t-shirt he wears. You make sure he will know who Dean Smith was.

And, as with everything else, you learn to trade lack of control for unconditional love.  

Brittany Harvey is among many other things a graduate of Austin Theological Seminary and James Madison University. 

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