Sports fandom is an interesting sort of thing. For the most part, it seems like fans of sports are like the majority of fans of anything else. They follow it enthusiastically but recognize that it's a diversion from the important things in life (nothing wrong with distractions - I have plenty of them). It can go a little further, as I always find it interesting when people dress up their babies and toddlers with clothing bearing logos of their favorite teams. It's almost like how people indoctrinate their kids into religion - saying things like how their little babies are "fans" of various sports teams, as if the kid has any clue what that even means. That's pretty harmless though, as I don't think that there's a real risk (unlike with religion) that the parents will disown their kids if they later choose another favorite team or lose interest in sports altogether. It's fun for them, and while I obviously haven't done that with my son, I don't see anything wrong with it.
Of course, just like any other hobby, there are people who take it too far. I really recommend the movie Big Fan starring Patton Oswalt for an exploration of this idea. I'm talking about the types of people who will insist that their team is the best no matter what actually happens, and they'll talk about how that team will win upcoming games with the same zeal that fundamentalist Christians will say that they know that Jesus is coming back in our lifetime. This is the kind that annoys me the most, but luckily I don't run into them very often. It's the kind of fan who will insist on talking to you about sports even when you've made it clear that you're not interested in them and that you don't follow them. A while ago, I was grocery shopping and some guy just randomly came up to me and told me some stupid joke about The Raiders. That's right. There was absolutely no transition, no set-up. He just walked up to me and made some comment about them. No, I wasn't wearing a Raiders shirt. It was just totally random. I should have made a joke about Green Lantern right afterward and then when he'd look at me all bewildered, I could say: "How does that feel?"
My son's been exposed to sports maybe only slightly more than he's been exposed to religion, as I know that they introduce them to the idea at his preschool. I showed up one time and he, bat in hand, was trying to hit a ball that the preschool's owner was pitching to him. I haven't signed him up for any kind of preschool soccer lessons or anything like that though, as I know they exist because I see them going on when I go for walks in the park.
Despite my apathy for sports, I still find myself worrying that I'm not doing my fatherly duty when I don't expose him to sports. I have told some men that I know who are into sports that they're going to have to help me out when it comes to teaching my son how to throw a football and all that - and I'm only half-joking. After all, a boy's gotta play sports, right? That's what they do, so I need to be sure to sign him up for something eventually.
It's occurred to me recently that maybe it's not such a big deal, and perhaps sports are so nested into the popular culture that even a person who doesn't follow them is somehow STILL affected by that. Why should that be? I don't worry about whether he'll be interested in mountain climbing, hang-gliding, or boating, do I? It's fine with me if he gets into those things, just as it's fine with me if he gets into sports, but I don't have some nagging feeling that I'm somehow failing him by not introducing them to him. It's rather weird that a person like me, who doesn't care about sports, worries that my son won't care about sports, isn't it?
I figured that I'm going to stop concerning myself with that. My dad didn't introduce me to my current interests, so it's quite possible that if he can get into sports all on his own. I do realize that for a lot of sports fans, part of the appeal is all of their good memories of their parents either taking them to games or cheering them on while they were playing, so that might make it a bit less likely that he will ever get into them. However, I'll never discourage him. In fact, I do want him to find some things that interest him, and I'd be really happy if he told me that he wanted to sign up for baseball for the sheer fact that I'd be glad to see him take an interest in something. I'd feel the same way if he took up dance, art, or cleaning up litter in the park. Of course, if he shows a keen interest in comics and superheroes, then that will be even more fun for me, but I didn't have a kid so I could have a little clone of myself running around the house.
If he never gets into sports, he'll be just fine. The worst thing that he'll have to deal with is the annoying sports fan who won't shut the hell up about it.
P.S. If for some reason you're reading this and want to comment along the lines of: "But what if he turns out gay?" then I'd like to ask you to stop reading my blog and to never read it again.