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Sports Talk: Palin the hockey mom
Published in Daily News Egypt on 03 - 10 - 2008

Sarah Palin is perhaps not the most intelligent person around, but she has definitely re-energized John McCain s bid for the White House. Part of her appeal comes from the fact that she is, among other things, a hockey mom, describing herself as such in her speech to the Republican National Convention. And it seems that for so many people, at least in America, Palin s hockey mom experience is just as valid as her professional credentials.
What is a hockey mom? Supposedly, they can swing an election result in the US, but for our purposes they are American mothers living in the suburbs whose time is often spent transporting their children from one hockey practice or game to another.
They must supervise homework and dinner, and are by necessity focused and disciplined. Comprising white married women with kids under 18, they are well off, with annual incomes over $75,000. The money is necessary for it costs about $1,500 a season for a child to play ice hockey. The cost of equipment can easily add a few hundred dollars more.
How many other hockey moms are out there? Probably a few hundred thousand.
How do hockey moms compare with their more famous sisters, the soccer moms? In cultural, social and political discourse of the United States, soccer mom refers to the broadly demographic group of women with school-aged kids. They are typically imagined as upper/ middle class, with a college education, and living in suburban areas.
Soccer moms have the hockey moms outnumbered by a wide margin in the US, claiming a total membership of more than 3.1 million players.
Parents who take their kids sports too seriously can get out of hand on the sidelines.
Hockey partisans claim that hockey moms are a bit more intense than their soccer counterparts, both in terms of the commitments they make to the sport and the intensity with which they cheer their kids. Partially as a result, USA Hockey spearheads a Relax, It s Just a Game campaign to try to get moms as well as dads to calm down.
The truth is that hockey and soccer parents are both tough when the situation warrants. Most can keep their anger inside but some make their emotions known. Some will mutter something or other, some yell, some look away from the field, some walk towards it, some make gestures, and some get red in the face.
The referee and their child s team usually top the list of sources of anger, followed by rude opponents, hostile remarks or gestures, coaches and illegal play. The worst offenders are those who take personally any slight to their children on the field.
It has something to do with their own sense of personal worth getting wrapped up in how their children are doing in these games. They feel intense, internal pressure to see their kids performing because their children are like extensions of themselves.
While aggression by spectators dates back at least to gladiator times, today more than 40 million American children play competitive sports, and parents flock to the sidelines. That can be a lethal combination. Among the most extreme examples: In Reading, Mass., in 2000, a father beat to death another father while watching their kids youth hockey practice game.
In Egypt, sideline spats don t turn lethal. We don t have ice in Egypt; ergo we don t have hockey moms. But we have plenty of soccer moms making personal sacrifices for their children's benefit; over-scheduling themselves to make sure everyone gets to their games and practices on time.
The Egyptian soccer mom is a somewhat overprotective, yet encouraging figure, and is less likely to get bent out of shape if their kids make an error at some sporting activity. They keep whatever aggression they might harbor in check, are not prone to turning into monsters at youth sports events and confrontations with parents of children on opposing teams is rare.
Rarely do these upstanding women citizens fly off the handle. Rather, they sit and watch, patient and quietly, hoping that one day their labor will pay off. Sometimes it does. Hamada Imam, one of Egypt s greatest footballers, often credits his wife for her back-and-forth efforts as a soccer mom for making their son Hazim one of the best soccer players in Egypt of the past decade.
Any mother here or abroad shuttling her children between school and sports practices can identify with Palin. But let s hope they re smarter.


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