Hockey Mom

Of all the frightening things the Republican party has done over the course of my lifetime, perhaps nothing had been quite as scary as the nomination of Sarah Palin for Vice President. Forget the fact that her light bulb doesn’t seem to be all that bright (after all, the Republican’s 1988 pick, Dan Quayle, famously bombed a grade school spelling bee over the word “potato(e)”); forget that her politics are just slightly to the right of Ghengis Khan’s; forget even, that her foreign policy experience consists of living in a state where “Darn it, I can see Russia from my house.” No, the scariest part of her nomination for me lies in her own description of herself: Hockey Mom.

Hockey moms are, to put it mildly, scary. In fact, when it comes to the scariest sports parents of all time, they hold all top three spots; although the first thing that usually comes to mind when you think of over-the-top parenting might be the stereotypical Little League father berating the volunteer umpire, trust me: that figure pales when it comes to the teeth-bared, no-holds-barred approach of a hockey mom. I ought to know: for three long months, I tried to become one of them.

At first it seemed like a natural fit; after all, my son Clyde loved to skate, and he loved any sport that was overtly physical (his only complaint about soccer was that there was “not enough wrestling”). It would have been a perfect match, if not for one thing: his mom just wasn’t cut out to be a hockey mom.

I should have known it was going to be a fiasco when I got his pile of gear, a bewildering array of pads and clothing that looked like it had been designed to protect Shiva. I remember thinking: I’m supposed to put all this on one child? Clyde wasn’t any help, either: as soon as he got his athletic cup on he could not be distracted from running up to everyone he knew (and plenty of people he didn’t) and trying to convince them to play “knock-knock” jokes on his crotch.

Once I had somehow gotten him into his gear (with a few pieces left over), though, and got him onto the ice, it was even worse. Because then it was just me and the other hockey moms.

The first thing I noticed was that nobody was complaining; nobody, that is, except me. I was cold (“It’s like a freezer in here!”), the bleachers were uncomfortable, and would it kill Late for the Train, I thought, to open up a satellite store in the lobby? Not the other moms, though; while I was content to huddle in a little ball at the top of the bleachers (isn’t heat supposed to rise?), they were pacing the floor next to the ice, pausing occasionally to bang on the plexiglass and shout unintelligible directions at their offspring in a tone reminiscent of the one someone might use on, say, a moose eating the flowers out of their front yard. Right before they went and got their gun.

Now, I’m not saying that soccer moms (or Little League moms, or gymnastics moms, or even Science Fair project moms) are any less vocal than hockey moms–how often have I found myself yelling “The goal is that way” or “You call that a hypothesis?”–but I have to say that there was a tenor to the hockey moms’ yelling that was truly frightening: it was as if they genuinely believed that whatever they were yelling through the plexiglass made any difference whatsoever to the child on the ice. As if they were listening. And this, finally, is why McCain’s pick of Sarah Palin–a self-described “hockey mom”–is so very scary: on top of everything else, we now have to add delusional.

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