Pat Fitzpatrick: 'Knowing that every mom was making a video of my race shame didn't help one bit'

I MIGHT give sports day a miss next year. 

The bit where the dads come up and race each other is all very well, unless you’re the guy who waited until he was 45 to have kids and now you’re racing a bunch of youngsters in front of your kids and the whole school.

It was worse this year at my son’s sports day because it meant getting down on my 52-year-old knees. The race involved pushing one of those giant bottles they use in water-coolers up and down the hall, on your hands and knees. 

I was lucky to come last, my knees screaming at me to give up half way down the hall, my mortification levels up to 11.

Knowing that every mom in the hall was making a video of my race shame didn’t help one bit.

The punishment didn’t stop there. Top tip for anyone in charge of sports day – don’t organise a tug-of-war between the dads. At least a race has an endpoint. But a tug-of-war between two well-matched groups of man-children could technically go on forever. 

It felt like our team were on a winner, just as the first bits of skin were starting to lift off the palms of my hands. At that point the other shower starting shouting encouragement at each other and dug their heels in, as much as you can on a polished wooden floor.

Neither team could get enough grip to move the other, so we froze there, burning away our skin while partners and kids clapped and laughed their heads off.

Eventually, a dad on the sidelines couldn’t take it any more and jumped up to join the other team.

This was the excuse we needed to give up, so we did, shouting ‘cheat, cheat’ at the other team, while applauding them with our purple hands because it’s important to give a good example to the kids.

The morning was rounded off with a medal for all the kids. I know they don’t hand out wooden spoons for Biggest Loser at these things (any more), but if they did, I would have had my moment in the sun. 

I laughed off my rubbishness in front of the others, but it hurt a bit alright. I have just enough competitive streak to feel bad if I lose, but not enough to ever win anything.

Thinking about it now, maybe I’ll just invent an injury to rule me out of competition next year. (At my age, I probably won’t have to invent one.)

I’d hate to miss out on the whole event because you learn a lot of about your own child at sports day.

For example, this year showed that our five-year-old is a bit of a dreamer. He’s actually lightening fast over the first 10m, particularly when I’m trying to catch him to wash his face, but he doesn’t have any iron-fisted will-to-win. That’s fine. Winners can be very boring, give me a dreamer any time.

The other thing I realise is that he isn’t a cheat. This is no surprise in one way — he comes from a long line of people who just can’t bring themselves to bend the rules. (One of his grandfathers is still referred to as Timmy the Rules.)

But he still isn’t short of a trick or two when we play Connect 4 or Guess Who at home. So, I thought he might be one for taking the odd short cut – and then I saw the other kids in his class. My little guy was one of the few who bothered to run all the way to the wall before turning for home.

Anyway, it would be a shame to miss out on all this because I don’t want to be shown up by younger dads. So, see you all there next year, in my heavily strapped ankle.

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