The Breakfast Table

Attack of the Hockey Dads

Dear Liza:

I fear I’ve not explained myself properly. I agree that big-city-artistes vs. suburban-sport-utility-boobs construction is simply wrong–especially in a region like ours, where the suburbs are surely more ethnically and economically diverse than the core. (Hell, as most Ivy League freshmen will be unable to tell you, your part of Virginia was actually part of D.C. until 1846; if I had my druthers, we’d take it back.) I certainly don’t think there’s any greater moral value to living here than there. But what I do mean to say is that as a D.C. taxpayer, not to mention a guy who likes his public transit options to be as plentiful as possible, I feel that Metrorail has used my tax dollars to ill serve my neighborhood even as it aids yours. Maybe that was a fair trade-off: I’m not saying Metro’s evil, only that I really hate it when the city gets into municipal cheerleading for something that has facilitated its decline. Who knows, if the Orange Line didn’t exist to efficiently carry you to work, you might be living around the corner from me. And while I’d of course like the company, I’d like it even more if the city could use some of your tax dollars to repair the freakishly malfunctioning street lights on my block.

The news, yes. Your comments have got me thinking about the gender-specific way athletic parents are presented in the media. Look at sports dads: Richard Williams pushes Venus and Serena until they become tennis stars; a hockey father allegedly gets homicidal. Contrast this with all that saccharine talk of soccer moms–those faithful souls who, win or lose, schlep their kids to games. If Bush- and Gore-types compete for soccer moms, Buchanan has the tennis/hockey dad vote locked up. (Where does poor Nader break into that race? Right now, he can probably count on the referee vote. Which will get him pounded by the sports dads and vaguely sympathized with by the soccer moms.) Meantime, what will we in the media do when some rising NFL star’s mom goes Bobby Knight on him on the sidelines? I suspect it won’t be pretty.

It’s a good thing engineering dads aren’t so famously abusive as their athletic equivalents. There would be some pretty severe parental violence afoot down at missile defense HQ. But we can talk about all that tomorrow, when we ruthlessly banish lifestyle from our exchanges and speak of Israeli coalition mathematics, African AIDS politics, and other subjects occasionally overhear-able on the Metro.

Right on,