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Scratch, Spit, Hip Check

The one drawback to watching sports is the bad habits my kids pick up.

“Stop spitting” has become one of the most frequent refrains next to “put the seat down” in our family of boys. I was flummoxed over where my toddler learned to spit, until we all sat down to watch a baseball game one night on television.

At the beginning of the season, when the games overlapped with school-year bedtime, we had the habit of listening to the first couple of innings on the radio and then reading about the outcome at breakfast the next day.

But once the school year started to wind down (and the Subway Series ), we found ourselves camped in front of the T.V. with greater frequency.

My older boys commented on the various wads causing unnatural protrusions from almost every player’s cheeks; my husband and I marveled over how often the players spit; and our toddler simply copied by spitting on nearly every dry surface in striking range.

I never turn off my Momdar – the precision instrument a mother develops to detect anything from how the outside world will impact her children to cookies being snatched from the cookie jar – so when I saw my toddler imitating the spitting players, I decided to become a keen observer of other bad habits from the wide world of sports.

Ostensibly, the major baseball bad habits are chewing tobacco, spitting and scratching, but we also got a recent lesson in honesty while watching the Yankees.

When Yankees outfielder Dewayne Wise made a dramatic leap into the stands to catch a pop fly, the umpire called the Indians’ batter out, unaware that . Instead of risking ridicule by coming clean, he played right along.

But baseball’s not the only sport with ready-to-imitate bad habits; I acquiesced when my kids begged relentlessly to watch the last game of the Stanley Cup finals.

Within minutes of the start of the game the referees stopped play because of blood on the ice. Then, after several hip checks, I put the kibosh on hockey out of fear that our toddler would hip check the next little girl he sees at the playground.

Football ranks slightly better than hockey in terms of sanctioned violence – there was a lot of fraternal tackling while watching games last season – but at least the Jets have Tim Tebow, a player dedicated to both praying and chastity. His acquisition may be the worst move in the Jets’ franchise history, but as a mom, I can’t complain.

Of course, I would be living in La-la Land if I pined for the halcyon days in the sports world where all of the players were perfect gentlemen. I could put a moratorium on sports since every sport seems littered with knuckleheads, from Tiger Woods’ dalliances to Lance Armstrong’s doping, but running away from the problem solves nothing.

Instead we’ll keep on watching our spitting, scratching and dishonest players, while maintaining a constant conversation about the right way to act. In the meantime, let’s go Tebow!

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