ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
I'm a guy who likes to have cutting edge technology, but I also like to save money. Is it better to get a plasma flat screen TV now, or wait a few years when prices go down?
That depends on which is more important to you, the cutting edge or saving money.
Both of these values stand on their own merits. Consumers on the cutting edge help to identify problems and refine the products for more user-friendly interfaces down the line. Consumers who shop for bargains provide a corrective in the supply and demand equation. You can live into either value with personal integrity without giving a Velcro shoelace for what other people think.
There are also the bragging rights that come with these values as you try to impress your neighbors. On one side of the fence there is neighbor who keeps up with all the latest as a means of status. On the other there is the neighbor who talks about the deals he worked out as though he had conned the seller.
Television commercials appeal to both shame factors. You are shamed in your neighbor’s eyes if you are still stuck with a computer built in 2002, yet you are shamed if you “paid too much” for a product. Whether you live by your convictions, or you live according to the opinion of others, your choice is still “buy now or save later?”
ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:
Which professional sport should I force my son to play so he can make millions of dollars, and I can live off of him?
So far, the following professional leagues recruit minors who might be “forced” to play by their parents: Soccer, basketball, and possibly hockey. Of these three, soccer is the safest, hockey is the stupidest, and basketball pays the most.
Even so, these leagues are not recruiting players who are, so far as I know anyway, younger than 15 at the time of league play. If your son is already 15 and you are trying to figure out NOW what professional league to get him into, he is already out of the running. You will have to get him into accounting, medicine or law through the more hum-drum mechanisms of good SAT scores and college selection.
White-collar professions do not allow as much for a Father to live vicariously through his Son. Despite the popularity of television programs devoted to depicting all the sex and glamour that comes with being a doctor or lawyer, in real life these professions do not capture the imagination.
So, if your son is going to fulfill all your dreams, sports training needs to begin early. Canadians in the Prairie Provinces have skates on their feet when they are three years old, sticks in their hand when they are four, and teeth missing when they are five. The only commodity not in short supply in the two-thirds world appears to be soccer balls. If your kid is not suited up for Kindergarten League T-ball, you can kiss the million-dollar contracts good-bye.
Children’s Leagues are a good test of your son’s developing ability against his peers. As a Dad, you need to do your part in fostering your son’s latent athletic mega-powers. Here are some easy steps to remember.
First, since this is your son’s future and your own fantasy about his abilities at stake, all the other rules of etiquette that dominate suburban American are out the window. You have every right to be a mean, obnoxious jerk.
Second, if you are not the team’s coach, the team’s coach is the biggest idiot ever born.
Third, if you are not the game’s umpire, the game’s umpire is the blindest umpire who ever lived.
Fourth, your son’s inability to field fly-balls is because a) the team’s idiot coach doesn’t know how to conduct practice drills so how can the kids learn anything; b) the blind umpire gave the batter two extra strikes because anyone with eyes could see that those low-and-away pitches had hit the corner, and you are not just saying that, either, because it should have been your son pitching instead of stuck out in center field trying to catch up to the barrage that these batters have been pounding since this pitcher either gets it low-and-away or lobs grape-fruit over the middle of the plate; c) Everyone knows that the other team corks their bats; d) Besides, the hitter was probably 13 years old, can’t you see the kid’s mustache? The top age for this league is supposed to be 11.
Fifth, when the ball drops directly into your son’s glove only to bounce out again, be sure to humiliate him in public with caustic, screaming sarcasm in the parking lot after the game. Such cheers as “I can’t believe you dropped that! What do you think this is? Croquet with the old ladies, and the ball BELONGS in the grass?” are very motivating to boys entering puberty.
The terrific advantage to children’s leagues is that you can make a bundle of money from your son long before he becomes a pro. If you know whom to sue and for what, you can make a bundle. You might even be able to afford a new plasma screen television. Just don’t tell your neighbors how much you paid for it, unless you got a real bargain.