Monday, April 2, 2018

Book Nook: Born Fanatic - My Life in the Grip of the NFL

The bond between a father and son is unique - and it can be a challenge too, especially when professional sports are in the mix. Michael McCormack writes about the relationship he had with his father in Born Fanatic: My Life in the Grip of the NFL.

As the oldest son of world champion Cleveland Brown, he watched as his father's career would change the outcome of over six hundred Sundays in his life. The book gives a glimpse into his unique experience with football fanaticism. I had a chance to interview him to learn more.

1. What are the positives of father-son bonding through sports?

The effect of sports on father-son relationships can be a double-edged sword. My story is one extreme example of the ups and downs. Overly-obsessive parents, the kind too often seen in neighborhood sports venues across the country, are different dysfunctional examples. But because sports does offer great opportunities for the parent/child relationship, I’m still an advocate for youth sports. At the top of my list of sports’ contributions is this: A father is often a son’s barometer of what success and failure means. By offering seasoned wisdom to their sons in victory and equally in defeat, fathers can provide a lasting example of resilience through the inevitable ups and downs of life. 

2. What could be potential drawbacks of fanaticism?

In the extreme, fanaticism is an addiction of the mind. It prunes to an unhealthy degree the way one thinks about her or himself, the world, and about relationships. A small example comes from a study done of sports fanatics which found that for 25% of self-identified fanatics, their team’s loss leaves them in such a bad mood, friends and family refuse to be around them.

3. How can parents balance a love for sports with other interests?

It’s not easy to walk the fine line between nurturing and enmeshment, the former allowing for individuation, the latter stunting it. As a father of five (now adult) children, my kids’ success and failure in sports too often influenced my own self-esteem. That can be a problem.

It helped me that my father never insisted that I play football, notwithstanding other aspects of our turbulent relationship and the fact football dominated our lives 24/7/365. He only insisted that whatever I do, I should try my best, not quit when it got hard, and discover that there is something to be said for serving a cause greater than yourself. These lessons are not exclusive to sports. For instance, my experience with theater work later in life was a great example of teamwork. Speaking  for myself, it was also helpful to remember as a parent that committing to excellence at anything – football, math, relationships – one has to understand that sooner or later, it’s going to be hard work. Resilience is required. 

About the Author:
Oldest son and namesake of a world champion Cleveland Brown and NFL Hall of Famer, Michael McCormack is a lawyer, writer, speaker and, still to this day, pro football fanatic living outside of Seattle, WA. His wife, Melissa, and their blended family of five kids give him a hard time about his endless use of sports metaphors, but he gets the last laugh as the best fantasy footballer in the house. McCormack shares his lifelong journey in the grip of the NFL with his debut memoir, Born Fanatic
Learn more at, and connect with McCormack on Twitter .

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