My six year old daughter loves baseball (when she was three she invited Manny Ramirez to visit her school). She also loves Star Wars (which she considers the ultimate princess movies). And she loves video games, especially those that involve smashing things).
So you can imagine how thrilled she was when, as we checked the scores at MLB.com, news of the latest Red Sox debacle was followed by an ad featuring R2D2 and C-3PO and the new Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360. She was literally jumping up and down with excitement.
And then she got a puzzled look on her face as she slowly read the text, written in big, gold, Star Wars font.
“Daddy, what’s an ‘ultimate fatherson sweepstakes’?”
I didn’t answer immediately. I was dumbfounded, and was sure I must have been reading it wrong. There was no way Major League Baseball, who have made a serious effort to reach out to their female fans, would slap my daughter in the face this way. But it said what it said. ULTIMATE FATHER-SON SWEEPSTAKES.
So I explained it to her. And she began to cry. “Why,” she asked through her tears, “is it only for boys? I like baseball too.”
Like most girls her age, she’d had boys in her first grade tell her she couldn’t do things because she wasn’t a boy. But this was literally the first time in her life that the adult world was telling her that loving sports was not for girls. It helped a little that the fine print made it clear that the contest was not actually restricted to men and boys. But she was still confused and upset.
And she wasn’t ready to let it go. She asked me about it again on our way to school this morning. What could I do but explain that a lot of people think that sports like baseball are for boys.
“But, they’re not right,” she half asserted and half asked.
“No,” I said. “Don’t listen to them. They’re wrong.”
“You mean like the white people were wrong not to let Rosa Parks sit in the front of the bus?”
(She just finished a “heroes” report on Rosa Parks, and reads a book about her to her younger sister every night.)
“Yes. It’s kind of like that.”
“But I thought those people were dead.”
I didn’t know what to say.
[Michael B. Eisen is a biologist at UC Berkeley, lifelong Red Sox fan and father of two young girls. He inherited his baseball fanaticism from his mother. This story originally ran on April 23, 2012 at http://www.michaeleisen.org/]