MLB’s “Ultimate Father-Son Sweepstakes” made my baseball-loving, Star Wars-obsessed daughter cry

My six year old daughter loves baseball (when she was three she invited Manny Ramirez to visit her school). She also loves Star Wars (which she consideres the ultimate princess movies). And she loves video games especially those that involve smashing things).

So you can imagine how thrilled she was when, as we checked the scores at mlb.com, news of the latest Red Sox debacle was followed by an add featuring R2D2 and C-3PO and the new Kinect Star Wars for the Xbox 360. She was literally jumping up and down with excitement.

And then she got a puzzled look on her face as she slowly read the text, written in big, gold, Star Wars font.

“Daddy, what’s an ‘ultimate fatherson sweepstakes’?”

I didn’t answer immediately. I was dumbfounded, and was sure I must have been reading it wrong. There was no way Major League Baseball, who have made a serious effort to reach out to their female fans, would slap my daughter in the face this way. But it said what it said. ULTIMATE FATHER-SON SWEEPSTAKES.

So I explained it to her. And she began to cry. “Why,” she asked through her tears, “is it only for boys? I like baseball too.”

Like most girls her age, she’d had boys in her first grade tell her she couldn’t do things because she wasn’t a boy. But this was literally the first time in her life that the adult world was telling her that loving sports was not for girls. It helped a little that the fine print made it clear that the contest was not actually restricted to men and boys. But she was still confused and upset.

And she wasn’t ready to let it go. She asked me about it again on our way to school this morning. What could I do but explain that a lot of people think that sports like baseball are for boys.

“But, they’re not right” she half asserted and half asked.

“No,” I said. “Don’t listen to them. They’re wrong.”

“You mean like the white people were wrong not to let Rosa Parks sit in the front of the bus?”

(She just finished a “heroes” report on Rosa Parks, and reads a book about her to her younger sister every night.)

“Yes. It’s kind of like that.”

“But I thought those people were dead.”

I didn’t know what to say.

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15 Comments

  1. Steve
    Posted April 23, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    You should say “It is ok sweetie. Even if you were a boy and were eligible for the father-son baseball sweepstakes, daddy probably would choose take you to watch the pathetic Red Sox instead of a real team like the Detroit Tigers, so you might as well just go play with Barbies”

  2. Posted April 23, 2012 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    Screw it. Enter anyway.

  3. postdoc mom
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:29 am | Permalink

    My daughter is 5 and LOVES Star Wars. She likes baseball, but nothing tops Star Wars. Luckily she hasn’t see the ad for this and we’re not going to bring it up either. My general impression is that it’s a massive fail from MLB, but perhaps it comes more from the idea that girls don’t like Star Wars than from the idea that girls don’t like baseball (both are obviously incorrect generalizations). Neither is very “girl friendly” but we’ve been finding it particularly hard to find Star Wars themed items that don’t scream BOY (let me know if you locate a Star Wars nightgown!). My daughter likes dolls a bit, but she really loves Star Wars, dinosaurs and super heros. She’s been told by kids at school that she can’t like these things, and it’s so frustrating to see stuff like this.

  4. Vanessa
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Enter anyway, Rosa Parks style.

  5. Brad
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    You know that if your daughter loves Star Wars and baseball so much, you can still indulge those hobbies without the express written consent of Major League Baseball.

    A father son outing is a special bond that has its place in baseball, both historically and currently. There are certainly exceptions, as you personally know, but a Star Wars-baseball combination is more likely to appeal to young boys than girls and that’s who MLB is targeting in this instance.

    My 5-year old son is excited by this opportunity to combine two things that he loves. My 3-year old daughter, while probably too young, has shown no signs of ever caring about either.

    I’ve entered the sweepstakes, but should I not be selected, my son won’t care, because he knows that I will take him to a game by myself. I’ll dress up as Han Solo if I have to (he’s always Luke). When the time comes if my daughter ever wants to go to a game I’ll take her too and dress up however she wants me to.

    Instead of teaching my children that we can’t do something because of what’s supposed to be a fun and innocent contest, I’ll teach them that they can do whatever they want and daddy will help them do it, and not badmouth an organization that’s trying to foster father-son relationships.

  6. Brooke
    Posted April 24, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Brad: I think you missed the point. I think the post is more about gender stereotypes in general, and how they affect girls in particular, rather than specifically about this one contest. If this was an isolated event, then I would agree that the reaction is overblown. But girls are told from a very young age that they cannot like or do certain things because they are girls. Of course, the same is also true for boys, and that is an important discussion all to itself.

  7. Posted April 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Call me modern, but I thought “ultimate father-son sweepstakes” was referring to the Anakin- Luke relationship, not the applicants.

  8. Posted April 24, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    @Brad

    A father son outing is a special bond that has its place in baseball, both historically and currently.
    http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/genetic
    The history of the privileged position of the father-son relationship in baseball does not justify a marketing campaign that reinforces this privileged position.

    My 5-year old son is excited by this opportunity to combine two things that he loves. My 3-year old daughter, while probably too young, has shown no signs of ever caring about either.
    http://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/anecdotal
    There is no reason to expect your individual experiences are representative of all other families.

    There’s no reason that MLB couldn’t have developed a marketing campaign that promoted baseball and StarWars in a way that didn’t privilege your son over Michael’s daughter. But they can probably make more money this way by appealing to that “special” father-son bond.

    @pseudoknot: I thought the same thing and my first thought was dads chopping off their son’s arms with lightsabers.

  9. Posted April 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

    The people running MLB.com should pull their heads out of their asses and stop being such ignorant privileged douchebagges and insulting half of their potential fan base by implying that they either don’t exist or are irrelevant.

  10. Posted April 24, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Brad, I became a baseball fan because of my mother, who became a baseball fan because of her father, and now I’m passing it on to my daughter. Not a father-son relationship in there.

    Father-son outings surely had a special place in baseball history. But that’s a bad thing. Fortunately, today, when I go to games , father-son combos are a minority. A striking change from when I was a kid. I don’t understand why you think your experience with your son is so different from the experience of the other types of parent-child combos that it deserves some kind of special recognition by MLB, especially if doing so makes girls feel left out.

    And I do teach my daughter that she can do anything and that I will do anything to help her. Indeed, that incident happened right after we’d gotten home from an A’s game. And I routinely embarrass myself to indulge her interest in Star Wars (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42c-lmS2xGs).

  11. Cristian
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 2:59 am | Permalink

    “But I thought those people were dead.”

    Brilliant!

  12. Meredith
    Posted April 25, 2012 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    I agree with how gross of a misjudgement this is on the part of the MLB this is. I would apply anyway, just to see if you can get through.
    I am not sure exactly how old your daughter is, but it might be great to show her some awesome women in baseball. My current hero is Holly Swyers who wrote a book about fan culture in the bleacher section of Wrigley where she is not just an observer but a long time single season ticket holder herself.
    I am 23 and as a woman have traveled to several stadiums, had season tickets in Baltimore, I live in Wrigleyville and currently write about MLB culture. There are women in baseball, successful women who don’t have to sacrifice their sexuality or looks of dignity to be good at a job in baseball. I wish that is something I would have been able to see as a kid.

  13. Posted April 25, 2012 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    @Meredith

    One of my daughter’s favorite books when she was ~4 was Girl Wonder bu Deborah Hopkinson about Alta Weiss, who was a semi-pro baseball player in the early 1900’s.

  14. Karen
    Posted April 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    A month or so ago I was riding in a car with my sister and our daughters when my 5-yr-old niece said, “The trees have flowers on them!” My sister explained that some trees bloom in the spring, and that flowering trees mean spring is coming. My 4-yr-old daughter brightened up and hollered, “Baseball!”

    Fortunately, the Giants announcers and broadcast team are very pro-female, so my kid sees and hears all sorts of good things about women and girls in sports. I am furious that MLB would purposely exclude girls — and women. Why can’t I win opening day tickets for my daughter? My husband wouldn’t go.

  15. lando
    Posted October 4, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I think you should enter. I think you will win. I think that the designers of the advertisement could feel that they were doing something dicey and thus put father and child sized robots in the place of a father and son pair (which, admittedly, would be difficult, given the scarcity of good role models in the story).
    I also think that you’ll fail, once you win, to take your daughter to a Tigers game, unless it is a Red Sox-Tigers game in which case that could be a good occasion for your daughter to become a Tigers fan and fight sexism simultaneously.