Sports parenting with a high degree of difficulty: Lynn and Rick Raisman
If you watched Olympic gymnastics Sunday night, you will understand why I am submitting Aly Raisman's parents, Lynn and Rick, as early favorites for 2016 Sports Parents of the Year.
While Ali was competing, NBC showed this incredible montage of her parents, featuring the full range of contortions you would expect from a high-stakes Olympic moment mixed with a lifetime of emotional investment.
First, Lynn -- looking at her daughter on the floor to the left -- executes a classic "Doubled-Over-Knees" bend. She shields her eyes with her left hand in a perfect arc yet still peeks out from under them. Dad Rick has a half-grimace, with right fist clenched.
Then Lynn lunges to the right in an "I-Can't-Watch" Full Look-Away (120-degree body angle!) but quickly recovers to look back, simultaneously incorporating a no-look Spousal Arm Clench, which speaks to the experience of decades of meet attendance.
She swoops with an arcing, graceful pivot from right to left, nearly shoulder to shoulder with Rick. She has a near-pleading look on her face -- whether your child is in gymnastics or basketball or soccer or the grade-school spelling bee, you know this look -- Please let my child reach her potential.
Now, Lynn and Rick find their rhythm and begin a synchronous Side Lean, followed by the most incredible combination of Back Lean by Lynn and Forward Lean by Rick. Rick then gracefully pulls back to the right to join Lynn; at this point, if there was a camera on you, the viewer, it would likely catch you leaning right along with the Raismans, going through the most relatable feeling in the world.
As Aly's routine winds down -- the most parentally excruciating components behind her -- Rick rises to give a shout of encouragement, then sits, expended, while Lynn leaps to her feet, clapping but clearly emotionally exhausted from the previous minute.
Being a parent these days involves all sorts of external distractions, but when the screen is tucked away during your kid's sports event, it is the most present and "in the moment" you can be -- if you let yourself get transported by the moment.
No question: It was as excruciating for Lynn and Rick Raisman as it was an authentic engagement with their child -- as pure a feeling of parenting as you'll ever get a chance to see. It is a glorious visual befitting the occasion.
Extremely high degree of difficulty. Zero deductions. Give Lynn and Rick Raisman the gold.
Dan Shanoff writes about parenting for espnW. You can connect with him on Twitter at @danshanoff.