Charity, losing with(out) grace, and other lessons from the NFL championship games

Sunday's championship games offered teachable moments on leadership, sportsmanship, and even lip reading. 

Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee/AP
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) hits the ball away from San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree (15) and is intercepted by Seattle Seahawks outside linebacker Malcolm Smith (53) during the NFL football NFC Championship game on Jan. 19. in Seattle.

From Peyton Manning raising money for charity via his “Omaha!” play calls, to Richard Sherman snatching personal failure from the jaws of professional victory, the runup to Super Bowl 2014 is an epic parenting opportunity.

Our kids learn a lot from watching sports on TV, especially if we are there beside them to give the color commentary on good and bad behavior exhibited by the players. 

Sunday was a highlight reel of teachable moments, both during and after the game.

The main message I found in both Mr. Manning's and Mr. Sherman's performances is that our words have the power to build or destroy our image in an instant.

On the positive side, I got to tell my son Quin, 10, that every time Manning yelled “Omaha!” at the line of scrimmage, money was donated to his charity, thanks to help from the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce and other businesses. 

According to CBS Sports, the Denver Broncos' quarterback has made a practice of shouting "Omaha!" before the snap, and this week a group of city officials and business owners in Omaha, Neb., announced they would contribute to Manning's Peyback Foundation every time Manning said the word on Sunday.” 

While it wasn’t Manning’s call to make his shout into a fundraising opportunity, it’s still a positive and creative way to tie social responsibility into the game. Bravo to all those involved.

During the Broncos' 26-16 win over the New England Patriots for the AFC title, Manning said “Omaha” enough times to earn the Peyback Foundation a $24,800 check, CBS reported.

However, Quin, a gamer and math whiz who's a latecomer to football fandom, was baffled. “Omaha?" he asked me. "Why not Minecraft or decagon, octagon, triangle!”

It became a source of laughter as we sat in front of the set and tried to decipher what the quarterback was yelling.

Drapes!” I said at one point in the game. "I think he said drapes.”

My husband rolled his eyes and said, “Grapes. He’s saying grapes.”

Turns out hubby was right.

My husband and I watched both the Patriots vs. Broncos and the Seahawks vs. San Francisco 49ers games on Sunday, while Quin drifted between the games and the Minecraft game he was playing a few feet away.

My husband, Robert, has been spending a lot of time lately teaching Quin how to throw a football. Quin has been excluded from casual play before school for his lack of skill.

Quin got a football for Christmas and each and every day you can hear the calls from our backyard, “10, 42, rhombus, Picachu, hike!

As we watched Sunday's games, Robert took the opportunity to teach Quin more about the game, while I used it to point out the good and bad behavioral choices made by the players themselves.

Thanks to Seattle Seahawk's cornerback Richard Sherman, I got to tell our son that no matter how great a player you are, if you’re a bad sport, you’re a loser.

Sherman made the most dazzling play of the playoffs when he broke up a throw to San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree in the end zone that linebacker Malcolm Smith then intercepted, essentially ending the game and sealing the Seahawks' 23-17 win.

Just as Sherman – known for his poor sportsmanship – had victory in his hands, his bad habits sank him.

First he slapped Mr. Crabtree on the butt, then he made the choke symbol at the opposing team and capped it all with an interview after the game where his mouth just kept running.

"I'm the best corner in the game!" Sherman screamed at Fox reporter Erin Andrews. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's what you're going to get. Don't you ever talk about me!"

While Ms. Andrews stood gaping, Sherman continued, "Crabtree! Don't you open your mouth about the best. Or I'm going to shut it for you real quick!"

That was quite the teachable moment.

I reviewed the play with Quin this morning because I have spent a lot of time emphasizing how important it is to be a “good loser,” because of his temper fits when he loses at anything.

My friend, chess Grandmaster Susan Polgar (also a huge football fan) is my go-to for coaching kids in any game because of her motto, “Win with grace. Lose with dignity.”

I reviewed that motto with Quin today, and Ms. Polgar also tweeted it as a reminder. Meanwhile, Quin was worried for Sherman, saying, “I bet his mom saw him do all that. I feel sorry for him!”

Maybe the NFL should create helmet visors (perhaps with Google Glass?) that show players an image of their mom or dad superimposed on the field at critical moments.

Until then, we have to rely on old-school parenting to teach our kids that our words can either support our goals or undermine them.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of 5 free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.