On Sunday, we hurried home from church to catch as much of the women's World Cup match between USA and Brazil as we could. The kids love watching sports events, and will often excitedly comment on the stats being shown on the screen and the rules being followed by the players. It gives them a chance to understand the structure of an activity that's highly structured, building up a diagram in their minds of how the sport works, cog by cog.
When we're watching baseball, Archer will frequently stop whatever he's doing and trot out to the living room to check on the score and the situation. He often delivers a sportscasterly bit of commentary on what he sees, something like "This is just an epic duel between two players." And if we yell or get excited, he'll come running to see what happened.
So when Abby Wambach headed the ball into the goal in the last minute of injury time on top of extra time to tie the game, and Noel and I exploded in joy, both Archer and Cady Gray dashed into the room from their designated play-in-your-rooms time. And of course we let them stay to see the penalty kicks. They perched on the loveseat together explaining to each other how it worked and counting the goals each team scored. When Hope Solo made the only save of the PK's, they crowed. And when the last USA kick found the left corner of the goal, they leaped off the coach and screamed along with their parents.
Sports can bring families together -- that much is a commonplace of nostalgic commercials and greeting cards. What surprises me are the characteristics of sports that attract them. The numbers and scorekeeping, sure, for Archer; but also the boundedness, the comprehensibility, the transparent structure of them as rule-governed activities. In the act of understanding sports, the kids find handles to understand how all kinds of things work -- or should, in a perfect world.