A Slightly Sick Quest For Glory

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - June 08, 2005
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The newest dip into the world of reality television, or exploitive voyeurism, is the Bravo series Sports Kids Moms & Dads. In case you missed the first episode, the program follows five parent/child teams as they mortgage homes in quest of athletic glory. The kids range in age from 8 to 17, and the parents from protective supporters to others, OK, maybe only one, who are just a yardstick from beating their kids for using wire hangers.

TJ, from Westchester, Calif., is the coach of her daughter’s basketball team. Daughter Lindsay, 14, receives training from two other coaches, who are there to work on her dream of the WNBA. Though Mom can be pushy at times, she seems the most normal of the bunch. At least at this point. TJ was 20 and playing college ball when she got pregnant with Lindsay. Two years later, she gave up another child to adoption. TJ, a tough coach who believes in the power of visualization, is determined that her daughter will not repeat her mistakes. So, for now, basketball is king, boys better beware and the letters are pouring in.

Bryce, 16, who is hoping to become an Olympic figure skater, seems old enough to handle his situation. Though mother Kim was sad for four or five days and was “kind of angry at Bryce” after a fall earned him a fifth-place finish in a competition.

Karen is the mother of two horse lovers. One in particular, Karli, is the most talented. She has a $40,000 horse and the Bravo website says Mom spends $50,000 a year on the sport. The parents are getting a divorce and Mom, a registered nurse, says she may not be able to continue the spending. “They were resentful when they (Karli and her sister) found out the divorce may affect their horses,” Karen said. They should be OK.

The dark horse in this race toward pathetic behavior is Sharon, the mother of an 8- year-old cheerleading prodigy from, you guessed it, College Station, Texas. Dad is a lawyer so he can afford the 15K they spend on cheer and dance lessons and, thankfully, Sarah seems to lap it all up. She competes with two cheerleading teams, and though all the girls are a bit too made up for ones so young, that might be a minor thing. Mom, for the most part, seems OK. She’s there to comfort Sarah when she finishes second in a competition, but it’s an old family movie that is a bit disturbing. It shows Mom and Dad in the pool trying to get a then 3-year-old Sarah to stand on their hands. “Lock your legs! Lock your legs!” she repeats in a somewhat angry tone.

The parent with the best chance at going over the deep end is the father of a talented wide receiver. Trenton, 8, blond hair and still very much a kid, has dreams. He lists winning the Heisman, a national championship and a Super Bowl among them. Ayear ago he may have wanted to be a fireman or thought it exciting to follow around garbage trucks, thinking how cool it would be to stand on that little step on the back while stopping ever so often to feed the steel beast another bag of old baloney and cardboard boxes. Trenton devotes seven days a week to football. He has a personal trainer who runs him up and down hills on the days when he is not in pads. After Saturday morning games, he and father of the year Craig go over the game and review Trenton’s performance.

“I think we choose our parents,” Craig said. “He knew that I would help him fulfill his dreams.”

It’s a wonder that anyone so clueless about basic biology could conceive a child let alone raise one. But he continues.

“My major dream that was not fulfilled was playing in the NFL. I hope that it can come true with Trenton.” It doesn’t stop there for the father who ritualistically sets up his son’s uniform before the game. Helmet placed above the jersey with shoulder pads inside. Pants below, socks then cleats. Almost like a small person, he says with pride, as viewers no doubt await his chanting and chicken sacrifices. “I haven’t exactly achieved everything I wanted to in life. Trenton gives me hope for the future so our futures are tied together.”

Who knows where this series or the subjects are heading? Poor ratings, bankrupt households, kids on stress meds, parents in need of a good head slap. But here’s two bits we’ll see another Todd Marinovich before a second Joe Montana.

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