My oldest kid -- I
1. Your kid isn't LeBron.
This is as close to a unifying theory of sports parenthood as I possess. It is a helpful mantra to revisit reality when your toddler displays preternatural "crib hoop" skills. Feel free to apply it to any/all sports: "Your kid isn't Serena." "Your kid isn't Yasiel." "Your kid isn't Elena."
2. Your kid isn't you, either.
No one respects your lifelong Chicago-Boston-New York-Seattle-Detroit-Georgia-Texas-whatever fandom more than I do. Totally imposing your fandom on your kid is denying them the thrill of finding their own way. You can hope that Bryce Harper will one day sign with your Yankees, but until then, your kid will love him in any hat.
3. That said! Pick at least one team or sport and go all-in.
Fandom is ultimately your kid's own journey, but sharing the experience over a team or sport creates a meaningful bond, as my wife and I have learned over the past decade. She's from Gainesville, Florida, and there was no way that she and my son wouldn't bond over Gators basketball.
But it's less about you telling your kid which team to care about and more about enjoying it together. If your kid is obsessed with Cam Newton, tuck away your zeal for that other QB and follow your kid's lead.
4. Ask yourself: What would Ayesha and Steph Curry do?
5. Swag is nice, but experiences are better.
I, too, bought my kid so many of the jerseys, shirseys, hats and Fatheads, but the most memorable moments -- for him and us -- have come at the actual games. It doesn't have to be a major investment -- you would be surprised how similar your kid's reaction to attending a "major" game is to attending a lower-key pro game or a (non-football) sports event on your nearest college campus.
6. Ki hot takes are the best hot takes.
Arguing with your kid is (arguably) the least-pleasant thing in the day-to-day rhythm of your relationship. Instead of squabbling over the "you'll miss the bus!" morning routine, pick up on a news storyline, help your kid understand it and then ask them for their best effort at a hot take. Engage them on the merits and then, voila! A healthy back-and-forth, a "PTI" for parenting.
7. Volunteer to help coach your kid's team.
Participating is as much a part of learning to be a fan as those hours spent watching games on TV. You don't need to be the obsessive head coach (cough). Just offer to chip in wherever the other parent-volunteer coach might need some help.
(After watching our kid's fourth-grade soccer team huff around the field in their season opener, my wife -- an avid runner -- volunteered to hold weekly low-key training runs for the kids at the local elementary school field. Our kid appreciates that far more than "Coach Dad" during basketball season.)
8. Embrace stats.
Want your kid to enjoy math more at school, not to mention appreciate the games on the field even more? Show them how big a role numbers and data play in sports.
There is no shortage of reference materials in the ESPN universe -- from the visualizations at FiveThirtyEight to the nuggets from the @ESPNStatsInfo Twitter handle or the accessible, analytically comfortable writers such as Bill Barnwell, Zach Lowe or David Schoenfield -- but find a source that resonates with you and your kid and show them how, when it comes to math, they really can use this stuff in real life.
9. Embrace greatness.
Curry, Cam, Carli, Bryce, basically any Olympian. There are certain athletes whose magnetism and performances are so stunning that even a small child can recognize them. If you want to be a curmudgeon about the success or accolades of a buzzed-about athlete -- whether it's superstar or a one-shot wonder -- you're on the wrong side.
10. Failure is inevitable -- and welcome.
Despite the impulse to shield your kid from failure, their sports fandom can help them learn to process it in a natural and healthy way. As their parent, you might even realize it's OK for them to experience it elsewhere in their lives.
Keep that in mind when you and your kid experience a seemingly devastating loss by your team together, and it may even help you grow as a fan, too.