The DadBall Era: Chasing ‘Little Ghosts’

On a text chain this past Saturday, a few friends and I were discussing the Colts draft picks and weird Trump stuff. There was also talk of the small likelihood of possibly grabbing a beer later on, among other topics. Nothing terribly pressing. The thread was hijacked briefly with the breaking news that one of my friends was at his kid’s flag football game—an otherwise mundane event, yes, but for it was a game featuring T.Y. Hilton’s miniature four-year-old son (playing in a five-and-six-year old league).

“He’s the best player out here,” my friend texted from the game, speaking of the Little Ghost. “He’s unbelievable.”

He sent a picture of his son, Will, and T.Y.’s son posing together on the field after the game, their flags messily tucked into their belts, both looking as goofy and happy and oblivious as any four and five-year-old kids possibly can while awkwardly posing for pictures. My friend received the customary number of “cool pic” replies and lots of “why does Will look like a 9-foot Vigo the Carpathian?” and the other standard texts that you’d expect from bored, 40-something-year-old dads on a cloudy Saturday afternoon. We thought nothing more of it.

Until The Video emerged a couple hours later.

I was first alerted to The Video via Twitter. As the de facto “Mel Kiper, Jr. of Indianapolis Pee Wee Football,” it seemed as though I had a duty to break down the footage in a professional, frame-by-frame manner. Not because I know anything about football, mind you (I don’t!). But rather because as far back as 2012, I have been documenting the hellish, criminal carnage Blue the Colts’ mascot has been inflicting upon Pee Wee players on the gridiron. I am an expert on this topic. You see, Blue becomes a violent, dangerous lunatic once he takes the field with toddlers. Some say he should be castrated and sent to some secret black-ops prison in Belarus, but I am not one of them. Never mind Blue, though. His noble recklessness is a story for another day.

The Baby T.Y. video quickly went mega-viral. It was on SportsCenter, CBS Sports, Deadspin, the French equivalent of Deadspin, and so forth and so on, embedded on a billion other sites and drifting into the global corners of the internet abyss. You probably saw it. And you probably forgot about it until now. So goes the life-cycle of such videos.

It was so widely popular because of mini-T.Y.’s eye-melting, 6,000-watt athleticism in comparison to Will’s arthritic-knees-like plodding. The juxtaposition hardly seems real (especially to me, knowing that Will is phenomenally athletic himself). The fact that tiny T.Y. juked a bigger kid into another dimension probably did not hurt things either. But here’s the important part of the video, at least for #DadBall purposes:

  • There are literally TENS OF THOUSANDS of little T.Y.’s in this country who, in a variety of different sports, look like human cheat codes. They are the freaks and the savants—at four or five or nine years old, boys and girls both, black and white—who have advanced to an impossible physicality at warp speed, like X-Men.
  • According to some parents, they are wasting everyone’s time and pride simply by playing with and against kids their own age. Except it is not a waste at all. Quite the contrary!
  • There is great value in coming face-to-face with athletic freakishness, if only to expose the “normals” (and more importantly, their parents) to what kinds of supernatural athleticism lurks beyond their third-grade YMCA bubble, for example. It can be alarming for sure. But it is necessary. And before you uproot your non-X-Men daughter from basketball and stick her in lacrosse because what’s the point?, just know that the arc of athleticism is long—but it bends toward uniformity, more or less. The massive gaps in athleticism tend to lessen over time. At some point, skill becomes an equalizing factor. And in some sports, size as well. That point is certainly not at four or five or nine years old.

So hang in there, Will! You’ll catch up, most likely! And if you don’t—if in 10 years you still look like you’re running through a pool of yogurt trying to catch a proton—well, sport, then it’s time to hang up the cleats. But not now.