Category Archives: Morality

Agreeing To Disagree

One of my messages to my kids has always been that it’s okay to get upset about how someone behaves, but that everyone has a right to think whatever they think.  So if someone does not treat them well, they have both a right and a responsibility to address the problem, to confront the behavior and/or separate themselves from that person.  But they do not have the right to impose their views on someone else.


Should we hide unpopular opinions in America?

Unfortunately, the rest of the world doesn’t always operate under those guidelines.  All too often, people respect freedom of thought–so long as the other person’s thoughts match their own.  Gun rights/control.  The definition of marriage.  Immigration.  Healthcare.  The topics are endless.  From talking heads on TV to people I meet daily, we seem to have arrived at a point where too many people believe they have the only acceptable point of view.

Personally, I think extreme, all-or-nothing positions are usually intellectually lazy, but the truth is:  I don’t care very much what other people think.  Everyone is free to believe whatever they believe; and I’m pretty sure it’s all but impossible to convince someone to change ‘sides’ through a public conversation once they have dug in anyway.  How many Facebook ‘wars’ does it take to demonstrate that?  So all I really care about is how people ACT on their beliefs.  I’m fine with ‘live and let live’–so long as how you want to live does not harm other people.  And I expect to be allowed to do the same.

So in the spirit of acceptance, I have a few simple requests of the world this evening:

  • Decide whether or not we are friends before you include me in your Facebook world.  Simple, right?  Then, if I take a different position than yours on a topic–live with it.  If I mock you–feel free to unfriend me.  If I get into an extended, unfriendly back-and-forth–unfriend away.  And rest assured, neither of those will happen.  But if I’m voting for a different candidate for governor or I have the audacity to post a status update from a steakhouse rather than liking your picture of a tofu sandwich–lighten up.  (For the record, this one was inspired by a high school friend who decided there was only one morally acceptable presidential candidate in 2012.  She unfriended me without even telling me she had done so, and I haven’t heard from her since.  Really?)
  • If you don’t know me, keep your thoughts on my Redskins t-shirt to yourself.  I’ve been a fan of the team my whole life, and yes:  as I do not live in a cave, I am aware of the controversy related to the name.  Obviously I’ve made up my own mind.  It’s fine if you disagree, but I will probably not react well if you decide to play t-shirt police.  (This one?–Inspired by the stranger at a swim meet this morning who quickly re-thought his choice to voice a critical opinion of my shirt.)
  • My wife and I will decide whether and at what age our kids are allowed to have cell phones, social media accounts, and pretty much everything else.  Have I ever used the word ‘should’ in a conversation about your kids?  (Easy answer:  No.)  That’s something to think about.

Actually, the best example of this philosophy in my own life is my relationship with my son’s godparents.  We have been friends for over 25 years, and partly because of a 20 year age difference we see the world in almost completely opposite ways on almost all things political.  So we do banter, but we also accept one another.  It is still possible.

Earlier this evening, I read tweets by ESPN’s Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) quoting Michael Sams in response to Tony Dungy’s statement a few days ago that he would not have drafted Sams because of media distractions:  “Thank God [Dungy] wasn’t the St. Louis Rams coach. (laughs) I have a lot of respect for Coach Dungy.  And like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions.”  Well said, Mr. Sams.  Well said.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Finding Peace, Morality

A Call For A Little Decency


On the beach!

Our family just returned from a GREAT week in Ocean City, Maryland.  We always enjoy our time there, and having visited almost every year since 1979, I have seen family-friendly improvements implemented in almost all aspects of the town.  There are many more kid-friendly options for lodging and dining.  Several competing grocery stores have moved in.  In a major safety renovation, the city has installed pedestrian islands between traffic lanes on the main highway that runs through the entire city.  In my opinion, Ocean City grows into an even better option for families each year.

But there is one flaw that I believe has become more and more anti-family, particularly over the last decade:  T-shirt shops.

Yes, I said, “T-shirt shops.”

When I was a teenager, I enjoyed browsing through t-shirt shops at the beach.  It used to be that the relatively few shirts that might been of any concern for parents featured beer ads or ambiguous sexual inuendoes.  Instead, many shirts advertised the town, depicted movie or television characters, or offered innocent jokes.  My personal favorite purchases in the early ’80s reflected my enjoyment of Ocean City, my appreciation of the art (?!) that was The Dukes of Hazzard, and my support for Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins (along with a corresponding hatred of the Cowboys).  But the world has changed.

Shirts hanging outside of these same shops now brag about illegal drug use–in words and images.  Some make explicit proclamations about casual sex; they celebrate treating others–especially women–as objects, marginalizing the importance of emotional attachment.  Others joke about violence and/or racism.  For perspective, there is no doubt that such shirts violate typical public school dress codes for content.

So since my kids have been old enough to read, we have avoided going near these shops.  We have even abandoned what used to be annual trips to the boardwalk.  Am I just getting old and uptight?  I don’t think so–at least not when it comes to this.  I recognize that a reasonable counter-argument might be that people wear those shirts, so kids may see them anyway.  But for me there are two critical differences between what I would consider a tasteless shirt on an individual and dozens of them hanging outside of a shop:

First, my kids are well aware that not everyone lives according to a single set of values.  So we can have a conversation if they notice someone wearing something I would expect them to view as inappropriate.

Second, there are other shirts hanging alongside the “adult”–How’s that for an ironic euphemism?–ones.  And those other shirts draw children’s attention with images of pop singers, Sesame Street characters, and sports.  Some of the inappropriate shirts even satirize characters children love.  Familiar images serve as attention magnets for kids, who are then exposed to offensive content.

So, assuming anyone agrees with me on this, WHAT COULD BE DONE?  Assuming laws are not already on the books, waiting to be enforced, it seems to me that a simple ordinance prohibiting PG-13 and beyond content from being displayed outside of shops or in shop windows would be reasonable and effective.  I am not an attorney, but I have to believe the same types of community standards that allow the sale of pornographic magazines–but restrict their display–could be invoked.

Mini-golf!  Good times.

Mini-golf! Good times.

In the end, there is probably more money to be made by making the boardwalk and shopping centers more welcoming to families.  Family-friendly is good business.  It’s also usually right.

Not everyone plans to visit the Maryland shore.  But we all take our kids out into the world to places where standards that I–as a dad–consider appropriate to protect children have been relaxed, or even abandoned.  If you have encountered something similar–or if you disagree with my concern–please take a moment to leave a comment sharing your perspective.


Filed under Morality, Places to Go, Vacation & Travel

Coaching Kids vs. Coaching to Win

Two years ago, my then-7 year old son began his first football season more excited than he had ever been about playing a new sport.  Even while he was loving soccer the previous two falls, he had been lobbying to give football a try.  So we signed him up for flag football, assured at the spring registration day by a member of the football club’s board that he was eligible, but were called the following week with news that he was actually 1 year too old and needed to play 7-8 year old tackle.  While I was sure I did not want him in football for the long term because of injury risks, our boy was easily one of the biggest kids in the age group, so my wife and I were OK with giving it a try.  He was more than OK with it:  the boy was eager.

The Big Guy (right), with a teammate

Practices started, and while I thought the adults involved (both parents and coaches) were crazy to expect 7-8 year olds to practice 5-6 days per week for almost all of August (until school started), he was having fun; so I parked in my chair on the sidelines and enjoyed watching him practice.  As it turned out, the coach played my son roughly the minimum number of plays permitted by the league all season.  In most games the coach actually kept count of the plays and pulled my son off the field for good as soon as he reached that minimum, even in the middle of an offensive of defensive series.

Lack of effort?  No–The boy worked hard whenever he had the opportunity to get into a game, and he never shied away from contact.  Lack of performance?  No, again.  I saw my 7 year old offensive/defensive lineman pushed backwards exactly once during the entire season.  In every other play my son ether locked up his opponent in a tie, pushed him backwards, or got past him.  I am not claiming he was a 7 year old Russ Grimm or Reggie White, but he did at least well enough to fit in with what his peers were doing around him.

But let’s set all of that aside for a minute and assume that my son–or any player–had been the most inept 2nd grade football player since the days of Red Grange.  This was the LOWEST team available in a league without cuts, essentially a recreation team.  Where was he supposed to gain experience?  How did sitting on the bench at age 7 foster interest in the game?

So what WAS the rationale?  Taking the coach up on his public offer to address any concerns along the way to guarantee a great experience for every boy, I emailed to schedule a brief meeting for after practice about what my son needed to improve in order to get on the field.  The coach–a former college player and the football club board member who initially advised us to register for flag–explicitly told me that the team “needed” to make the playoffs, and he felt my son should not be in the tackle league without first playing a year of flag football–even though the league’s policy was inflexible about the age limit for flag.  However, he also assured me that all of the boys would have more balanced playing time after they got past the first 3 opponents, who were supposedly the main obstacles to the playoff grail; he shared that he did not want anyone to have the experience his family had gone through the previous year when his wife “rode” his older son’s coach all year about playing time.  I walked away after a very friendly conversation still disagreeing with the ‘win first’ mentality, but confident that the situation was going to improve for my son.

The balanced playing time assurance was–to be kind–inaccurate.  All of the other players had significantly more playing time that season, except for one:  surprisingly, the other bench-dweller was the coach’s own son.  Apparently the part about being committed to winning was sincere.

By mid-September, my son was already starting to talk about returning to soccer the following fall because “they let me play.”  After the team’s eventual loss in the playoffs, I took my son out to breakfast on the way home, and while we were eating he told me–unfortunately with blank resignation because the bitterness had worn off–“I only played in the first half because we were trying to win.”  I followed up with the league (and since then with many members of our community who have asked me about my experience with the football club) in extensive detail about my concerns and my son moved on.  Our now-9 year old is once again happy and excelling on the field…in soccer.

7 year old kids.  A coach’s “need” to make the playoffs.  The two ideas do not seem to belong together.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Activities & Sports, Morality