Let girls play!

One and one is 12. 

A few weeks ago, I got a mysterious text from my daughter Maddie.

“I have an idea for your birthday. Call me.”

It turns out she had a lead on some tickets for the Seahawks’ playoff game against the Panthers. They were pricey, but if I could pitch in she wanted to take me to the game.

My answer? “Hell yeah!”

I’ve spent a lot of time watching sports with my daughter. Whether we’re raising our scarves for the Sounders, or catching rays in the cheap seats at Safeco, or just inhaling nachos while we watch Monday Night Football, it’s always a good time.

Dads have a funny relationship with their daughters. We love them more than life itself, but we don’t always know how to spend time with them. I never had much tolerance for Barbie and My Little Pony, so I had to come up with a different plan. I’m happy to report that it succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, and now I can pass it on to you.

Get your daughter involved in sports.

Don’t start with watching. Start with doing. There are teams available for girls in almost every sport, from softball to swimming, from ultimate Frisbee to lacrosse. She doesn’t have to be good. She doesn’t have to be experienced. She just has to show up.

Not every little girl will take to it, but you’d be surprised how many do. Contrary to popular belief, girls don’t naturally shun competition. More often, our culture teaches them to avoid it in order to be “nice.” In so doing, we teach them to be a little less confident, a little less bold, and a little less than they’re fully capable of being. We need to give our daughters the experience of pushing themselves, and getting better at something. We need to show them that no one is diminished if they pit their skill and determination against that of others.

We need to teach them that the drama of sports isn’t on the scoreboard — it’s in the hearts and minds of the human beings on the field. And when they figure that out, more likely than not, they’ll be hooked. Bring out the nachos!

Our seats for the playoff game were way up in the nosebleed section — an exorbitant price to pay for a view the size of a smartphone screen. But it was totally worth it. As the Seahawks rode their relentless defense to a dominant victory, 65,000 souls coalesced into a tidal wave of sound and exultation.

We were no longer just a father and a daughter — we were part of the 12th Man. Our expensive seats were all but superfluous. For most of the game, we stood up and leaned forward, and rode that wave together. After my birthday, Maddie went back to Portland to start her senior year in college, and I went back to life as usual. But as the Seahawks continued their march toward the Super Bowl, we texted and emailed at every twist and turn of their journey. Their awful first half against the Packers. Their miraculous redemption in the final minutes. Marshawn fined for checking his balls. The Patriots not fined for not checking theirs. On Super Bowl Sunday, I was out of the country. I had to watch the game on a little TV in a Mexican bar, surrounded by a handful of expat 12s.

Together, we lived and died through the ups and downs of that crazy game, right through to the final, tragic, horrifying play. Then we drowned our sorrows in piña coladas. It was an epic experience. And even though Maddie was thousands of miles away, I could feel her there with me, hanging on the outcome of every moment and every play.

Next year, Maddie will be heading off to graduate school, with a plan to someday become a sports journalist. It’s one of the last steps in my long, clumsy process of letting her go. We may never live under the same roof again, or even in the same part of the country. But I take strange comfort in the fact that, wherever she goes, we’ll always be cheering for the same team. And the next time Russell Wilson launches a perfect long ball into the steel-blue Seattle sky, and it settles into his receiver’s arms 40 yards down the field, I know I can send a one-word text to Maddie, and she’ll send back a one-word reply. SEA! HAWKS!

As the Legion of Boom always says: “We all we got. We all we need.”

Jeff Lee longs to go Beast Mode in Seattle.