Every dad must return to mortal status at some sad point in his life.
My dad’s moment came the day he gritted out an F-bomb while driving a nail – and taking his thumb along for the ride – when I was a kid. I’d never heard anyone outside the playground say what I thought was the worstest bad word ever.
I’ve reverted to mortal status with each of my girls, although I can’t pinpoint the exact time or date. The know now I can’t lift a house. They know now I can’t wrestle an alligator. They know now I don’t know everything about everything.
I can’t slam dunk. Or hit a grand slam. Or punt the ball to the moon.
All dads must expect this. It’s sad, but inevitable.
What’s worse than sad? To lose out to one of your girls because of some stupid boy.
I’m not talking boyfriend material, yet. We’re talking celebs and athletes, who make some grand impression on a young girl that makes her forget about dad, at least temporarily. They usually need a haircut, I’ve discovered.
Here’s five I’ve lost out to in this lifetime. They’re in ascending order of impact, by the way.
1. Jonas Brothers
Joe, Nick, and … I can’t even remember the other one. They all need haircuts, though. They were the first lads to steal my girls’ attention. The Jonas Brothers played at the girls’ school as an up-and-coming act out of New Jersey, then returned to Charlotte years later for a free show in a parking lot. We have grainy mobile-phone pics to prove it. I’ll give them their props for charity work, although I wouldn’t bet on them in a slap fight against Hanson or anything.
Elise says the girls are so OVER Jonas. As if.
2. D.J. Augustin
Other athletes have dared compete with me: Michael Phelps, Cam Newton, Josh Hamilton. Even Tiger Woods, back in the day. None, though, entered the arena to a booming introduction the way former Charlotte Bobcats guard D.J. Augustin did. Or had the stirring announcement of “Deeeeejayyy!” every time he scored. The Bobcats this offseason let Augustin go, prompting Grace to scream in disapproval and Elise to disparage the franchise for having catapulted her favorite player for a second time (where have you gone, Gerald Wallace?)
A Bobcats player’s worst nightmare? Not another lousy season or a groin injury: One of my girls wearing your jersey. It’s like that cat that used to walk around the nursing home and cuddle up with the next senior to head to the pearly gates. You’re next!
3. Kaka (AKA Ricardo Izecson Santos Leite)
During the last World Cup, the girls and I watched Kaka’s Brazilian team dismantle an opponent on TV, during which the following exchange happened exactly (or quite loosely) like this:
Dad: Wow, girls. Do you see how well Kaka dribbles? How the ball stays moving at his feet, but he stays in complete control?
Dad: Incredible! Did you see that pass? He’s both strong and fast, which makes him so difficult to handle one on one.
Dad: He might be the greatest. I’m not sure any player today is such a creative playmaker inside the 18. Girls? What do you think?
Girls: *with faces on their hands and dreamy smiles on their faces* He always smiles when he plays, daddy.
4. Giovani Dos Santos
Another footballer, and this one a Mexican. This is Elise’s boy, only. This goal against the United States was utterly ridiculous. For a dude named after two saints, he’s a hell of a player. The thing is, I suspect Elise really does admire his game. I think he plays the way she’d like to play. He’s creative, strong, and a good leader. There’s little fawning over him, as with Kaka. Genuine admiration seems to power this crush, which makes it all at once admirable and even more dangerous.
I hope he knows I have no skill as a player and would resort to thuggish tactics if I ever had to mark him in a match. I hope he also knows no team in its right mind would ever trust me to guard even a patch of grass in their defense.
5. One Direction
Sports fans, do you remember Franco Harris playing with the Seattle Seahawks at the end of his career? Or Joe Namath, with the Rams? Aging, and no match for the boys who replaced them. That’s what they were. This is where One Direction leaves me. Five floppy-haired British boys. Goofy as can be. They’ve totally displaced me. I have the trading value of a Beanie Baby collection.
A Ford Escort. Acid-washed jeans. Every time they’re on the radio, or something new comes out on YouTube, dad loses. Those aren’t pictures of dad hanging around their bunk beds. They’re those dad-burn British lads.
My one moment of One Direction solace: Marie saw a shirt in Old Navy with the smiling faces of a British invasion boy band, and did that little happy gasp they used to let out when I came home from work. She shuffled off to the shirt, only to discover not five, but four British smiles there to greet her.
See, Marie, before One Direction, there were these lads from Liverpool … just like before there was Joe Jonas or Kaka or Harry Styles, there was this dude you thought could lift houses. Or wrestle alligators. Or hit home runs.
And he’d love to take you to a One Direction concert someday. But for now …