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The basketball version of "Toddlers and Tiaras" is upon us, and it hits close to home


Nate Taylor of the New York Times has published Real Basketball Moms of Kentucky, a piece about a handful of Kentucky women seeking a reality-television deal profiling their lives as mothers of high-school basketball players.

Taylor said six families have signed a deal with NorthSouth Productions, a television production company, but it’s unclear when or if the project will make it to screen (where is also to be determined). Taylor’s story revolves around three women, one of whom is Michelle Green, the mother of Henry Clay senior Jordan Green.

From Taylor:

The mothers say they want to draw attention to their sons in hopes of drawing a college scholarship. But their zeal has raised the eyebrows of the boys’ coaches, as well as the boys themselves.

“Sometimes, I’ve wanted to know what being a regular kid was like,” said Jordan Green, an 18-year-old, 6-foot-6 senior forward, who is the son of Michelle Green. “From Day 1, all I’ve known is basketball.”

His mother makes no apologies for her behavior. When Green, who works at a middle school, cheers from the stands, she said, “I turn into a complete different person.”

“I am an animal,” she continued. “I heckle everybody — the parents, the players, the referees.”

For those of you who grew up playing sports or have children currently playing sports or have ever attended a single sporting event or have ever considered the idea of sport, this doesn’t surprise you. The idea of a sports parent is universal; it’s universal from sport to sport, and sports parents exist outside of what we traditionally consider to be a sport. The worst sports parents in the world come from the TLC series Toddlers and Tiaras.

Toddlers and Tiaras, if you’ve never watched it, follows tiny children and their evil parents around the country at children’s beauty pageants. If you have ever watched this show without wanting to vomit, cancel your cable subscription, reconsider everything that brought us to this point or all of the above, you’re three better than me (four if you count “all of the above” as its own option). The truth is, I don’t have cable anymore, and reality television is a big reason why. It’s not the only reason—weighing the cost of what I received against time spent watching is certainly the primary reason, as I’m sure many former cable subscribers can relate—but it’s there.

The Toddlers and Tiaras parents are terrible people not because they’re objectifying people, but because they’re objectifying the only people in the world who rely on them for 100 percent of their livelihood. The Real Basketball Moms of Kentucky are no different, are they? Sure, their children are a bit older—they’re high schoolers instead of toddlers—but what choice are they given? Taylor’s story profiles three mothers who clearly work very hard for their kids to make their basketball dreams come true, and at least the children in this story (and perhaps eventually this reality television series) are old enough that playing basketball is (presumably) their choice instead of their parents’.

But how much of a choice is it for Bryce Walker-Byrd, the point guard at Eastern High School in Louisville, when his sisters were not allowed to participate in sports, clubs or after-school activities because the family’s expenses were going toward his basketball pursuit, according to Taylor? How much of it is a choice when it seems to become just as important and as much of an exhibition for the mothers as it does the sons?

Sports parents have existed as long as organized sports have, and so has Kentucky’s sometimes-perverse thirst for basketball, at least since Adolph Rupp brought it here in 1930. Reality television hasn’t always existed, though, as a way to both quench and further fuel the insatiable thirst these people seek when they put their children through lifetimes of embarrassment and the unbearable weight of living up to impossible-to-reach expectations.

The comedian Dana Gould described reality television as “a photo of a drawing of a hologram”; it’s as real as anything scripted on television, except it’s not scripted, except it is. It portrays what its producers think viewers want to see if they were a fly on the wall in whatever ludicrous situation the cameras happen to be in, even if the situations aren’t real. There is no reality. Real Basketball Moms of Kentucky wouldn’t be real to the “actors,” who are the mothers in this case. It wouldn’t be real to viewers, either, fully recognizing the cartoons on the screen can’t possibly exist in the real world. It would be real to the children, though, and it would be one more way in what is likely already a long list that has alienated the children from their parents, and the children from their teammates, and the children from their coaches, and the children from their classmates, and the children from their other friends, and the children from the sport now burdened upon them.

**

Nate Taylor, New York Times: “Real Basketball Moms of Kentucky”

Dana Gould: “Reality” Television (from his 2013 album, I Know It’s Wrong; be warned of adult language)


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