I Watch My Sports Team But Not My Husbands

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 11:28:27 AM

Husband-and-wife team Beth and Lefty who have asked their last name not to be disclosed learned this firsthand after they launched the Web site, Yankeessuck. Where else in the world can you just pick an enemy and just hate them? In watching the action, people do indeed identify with teams, and for some, team identification is both important and powerful to their sense of self.

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The son suffered his first injury when he lost a tooth on a Brentwood basketball court. He picked it up, threw it to the sidelines, and kept playing as the father cheered the greatest athlete he had ever seen.

Aidan Cullen was 8. He was packed in ice and, a few hours later, played in another game while the father basked in the glory of his star. Advertisement Aidan Cullen was in middle school. I loved it. I loved the power of it. His son Aidan has been in almost constant pain for several years after being diagnosed with a disease partially caused by being pushed to play sports through injury and affliction.

At one point he thought about suicide. Today he feels lucky if he can physically show up for high school baseball practice. Advertisement Everybody cheered him so much, I felt like they were cheering for me.

This is about parents, youth sports, and ego.

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Advertisement Mark Cullen, an established screenwriter, wanted to begin the new year by acknowledging the biggest villain in his most important story is himself. Mark Cullen, right, is a former athlete who feels he pushed his son, Aidan, too hard in sports.

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He detailed the familiar story of a parent pushing a child into athletic oblivion, causing long-term damage to the entire family. He agreed to expand on his remorse despite the embarrassment it might cause him across a landscape where obnoxious sports parents are rarely held accountable with more than a frown and a sigh.

If you know one of those parents, give this story to them. Of course he was. At age 52, Mark Cullen is a 6-foot-3 former basketball star who was invited to walk on at UCLA before breaking his ankle. He eventually gave up the idea of playing sports and wound up writing for television and movies.

When his son Aidan was born 17 years ago, he had that second chance. It got so, I just wanted to play well to make him happy.

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I would find myself looking at him on the sidelines after every play to see if he was smiling. He was as big as a 9-year-old, and tougher. He would chase down other kids and fight them for the ball while his father shouted with joy.

He was thrown out of two Westside youth leagues because of rough play. He was never disciplined by his coach because it was his father.

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Aidan was becoming a neighborhood star, but the cost was slowly growing. He would scream at Aidan from the bench.

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He would pull him out of games for mistakes. He would scold that a double would have been a triple if only his son had worked harder in practice.

Several men who coached with Cullen agree that he was tough, but none described him as crazy. By the time Aidan had enrolled at Windward School in seventh grade, the injuries and over-exertion finally caught up with him.

His body began to hurt and never stopped hurting. The pain struck his knees, then smothered his back, then finished his dreams. Doctors told Cullen that one of the causes was that Aidan constantly played hurt. He quit sports for several months and began dealing with the disease with a combination of medicine and physical therapy.

He eventually felt better, and his love of baseball led him to rejoin the Windward team this winter for his senior season. But the nagging injuries have returned, and his contributions will probably be limited. He came forward with his story in hopes of sharing that understanding.

Kids will find their way.

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It was a notice from New York University that he had been accepted into the Tisch School of the Arts to study his new passion of photography.

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