Detail of torch and flames during Official Torch Relay on July 23, 2016 in Ubatuba, , Brazil.
Detail of torch and flames during Official Torch Relay on July 23, 2016 in Ubatuba, , Brazil.  Ale Meirelles—Brazil Photo Press/Getty Images

I Want Olympic Glory for My Son. He Doesn't Want to Break a Sweat

Jul 28, 2016
Ideas
Joel Stein writes a weekly column for TIME magazine. His book, Man Made: A Stupid Quest For Masculinity, changes people’s lives.

Time goes by so quickly once you become a parent. Actually, time goes really slowly because you're always pretending you're talking to a mouse who runs a cheese store or building Lego cars or something else so boring you'll even sneak looks at your phone to go on Facebook and see your friends' kids. But the opportunity to train your child to bring fame and fortune to the family does go by fast. My son Laszlo is 7. And we have not even chosen his Olympic sport.

I explained to Laszlo that in order to get into the 2028 Games, he needed to pick a sport right away. "That's definitely not going to happen," he said. "Running around, sweating, for a long time, 200 hours, I would definitely not want that."

I read him the list of sports in case one sparked his interest anyway, but indeed, many of them involved running around and sweating for 200 hours. As I got to the end amid a torrent of noes, however, Laszlo said that "equestrian" sounded interesting. This persisted even after I told him what equestrian means. "But you never want to ride horses," I said, remembering the time my lovely wife Cassandra drove him an hour to his preschool teacher's stable and he mounted and dismounted the horse simultaneously. Why equestrian? "They have so many bad options," he said of the Summer Games.

Excited to begin his equestrian training, I turned for advice to Robert Dover, the coach of this year's U.S. Olympic dressage team, a four-time bronze medalist and the host of the 2007 Fox Reality Channel show The Search for America's Next Equestrian Star: Dressage. "I feel sorry for you already," Dover told me. "Your kid wants to go into the most expensive sport in the Olympic family. The only other one would be yachting. Stick with something that just requires good running shoes." I cannot get Laszlo to wear anything but Crocs. He fears even wearing sneakers will cause sweating.

Dover also warned me that Laszlo might get made fun of by other boys, as he had been as a kid. That's when I realized I had no idea what dressage was. I watched a video of Dover, and it turns out that Laszlo's instincts were amazing: this was not a sweat-driven sport. Dressage riders wear top hats, white gloves, and coats with tails. The horses' manes are braided, which, as anyone who has ever been to a horse prom knows, is the most formal mane style. The horses are judged on their ability to horse dance, which involves trotting in place, pirouetting, moving sideways and other moves that I'm assuming drive fellow horses mad with lust. Laszlo and I, who always watch the Tonys together, thoroughly enjoyed it. I assured Dover that growing up in Los Angeles in 2016, Laszlo would have to do way worse than horse dancing to be a social pariah. He'd have to play football.

As if dressage wasn't already appealing enough, Laszlo's sports career wouldn't require us to travel to smelly gyms for competitions. Laszlo's dressage events would take place in European cities at venues where champagne is served to viscounts and marquesses. Indeed, Dover is friendly with Princess Nathalie of Denmark and Princess Haya of Jordan, and apparently dressage is also a magnet for sheiks. Right now, despite our sending him to a supposedly diverse charter school, Laszlo knows zero sheiks.

I had forgotten, however, that Laszlo hates princesses, thanks to Disney's effect on girls at his school. "Princesses are hard to be around. They might judge you," he said. Also, I worried that given dressage's roots in training horses for war and Jews' roots in running from horses trained for war, it might not be a sport that was suited to our people. "How wrong you would be," Dover said, telling me he got his first horse for his bar mitzvah, which was all black and named Cassius Clay, though his parents renamed it Ebony Cash. 1969 was a confusing time in American culture.

After hearing my new pitch of a fabulous life of minimal sweating, Laszlo seemed convinced. "I like being on a horse while the horse is slowly kind of dancing," he said. "That's if I had to pick a sport." I sighed and told him that this is America and he doesn't have to pursue any career he doesn't choose.

"Unless Trump takes over," he said.

"Trump is not going to make you do dressage," I explained.

"He might make us do a sport," he said.

I hope we can find a good pony for under $75,000.


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