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Fri, April 26

Column: Dad-daughter activities always require compromise

Courtesy photo<br>The “Princesses on Ice” show haunts many dads’ dreams.

Courtesy photo<br>The “Princesses on Ice” show haunts many dads’ dreams.

This weekend, the Indianapolis 500 will celebrate its 101st year. Every year, I force my girls to sit down and watch one full race with me. I love to watch racing, and I want to share my love of the sport (and it is a sport, sort of) with my daughters. I want to create a tradition where we get a bunch of goodies and sit down as a family to enjoy this spectacle together.

That's the primary reason. The secondary reason is revenge. Yes, revenge. A year of attending sports events (like pee-wee basketball, where no one keeps track of the score so everyone wins), watching TV shows about ponies and movies geared toward young girls, and, frankly, because one day out of the year, I want to do something manly with my girls. But mainly because they forced me to go to Princesses on Ice. I still wake up screaming "No! The Princesses! The Princesses!"

Sure, they'll go hiking with me, but they pick wildflowers all along the way. They'll go biking with me, but on their pretty pink bikes, and they'll complain after the first few blocks that they're tired. I'll try to impart my love of horror, only to reduce them to sobbing, quivering piles of tears in my lap, making me feel like the biggest jerk ever for turning on "Goosebumps" in the first place. And I'll try to impart my chef skills to them, only to have my little girls say "Wow, Daddy. You're SO good at this. Why don't you just finish it and I'll watch." Yes, girls. I totally fell for that.

But I love my little girls. I love all their little girly ways. It's a wonderful life that I wouldn't change for a thing. I just want one thing, one thing that my girls see that I enjoy, and I want them to at least appreciate how important it is to me, how passionate I am about this.

So every year, we watch Indy. I always pick Indy for my girls to watch with me because it's typically the shortest race, because there is a lot of pageantry (the nickname of the race is "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," after all), and because they also have female drivers. That's important. Danica Patrick is always the fave at my house. (Ms. Patrick isn't racing this year - boo! - so my girls are going to have to pin their hopes on Ana Beatriz, Katherine Legge, or Simon De Silvestro instead.)

We print off the line-up and pick drivers. If your driver wins, you get some little prize. Also, it was the race that I always watched every year with MY Dad.

And my girls love it for about 10 minutes, then they realize that, yes, those cars are just going in a circle over and over again. And for two hours, unless there's a wreck or bad weather, those cars will continue going in that circle. My girls don't understand all the strategy involved, and they always forget what the flags mean, so I try to tell them.

I try to tell them some of the history of the race, about how Ray Haroun won the first Indy 500 in 1911. About Bill Vukovish, the Fresno Flash. About the Unser and Andretti dynasties. About how a little known actor and salad dressing salesman named Paul Newman was such a driving force behind the Indycar series before his death. About how the winner traditionally drinks milk after the race. And they nod at all the right times.

Honestly, they are interested, and they really do try to like it, but typically, at the end, they are greatly relieved when the ordeal is over. And I'm happy that despite losing interest so quickly, my girls love their dad enough to at least sit and watch. And they leave, and I watch the Coca-Cola 600, for 1,100 miles of racing in one day.

As Ernest Hemingway once said, "Auto racing, bull-fighting, and mountain climbing are the only real sports ... all the others are games." Got it, Ernie. So next week, girls, we climb a mountain. We'll leave bull-fighting for another day.


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