The sports world tends to offer up fertile ground for these types of unanswerable questions. Two that have come up in the past month I suspect will have clear answers in the next few years.
Question #1: "Dad, why can't we watch any game on TV that we want?"
Ouch. Hmmm. "Okay, well you see there are people who control the rights (rights? that's a little too sports lawyer-y now, isn't it?) to what games the TV stations (TV stations? Am I living in 1970?) can show."
Thud! Makes absolutely no sense to a 7-year old who just wants to watch the Cal Bears game. So what's the solution? Ah, the Internet. Something my 7-year old knows as well as anyone on the planet. She gets what the Internet is about. So I explain how, because she can watch almost any other show she wants over the Internet, that someday the people who have the "rights" to the games will figure out a way to put all the games on the Internet.
"Will they all be free like the shows on Hulu?" she queries. Hmmm. The follow-up question, always a killer. Here I unfortunately have to introduce the evil dark side of the sports business to her and tell her that watching a live sporting event costs a lot of money and if she wants to be able to watch any game she wants whenever it is on TV she will have to probably pay for it. Either à la carte (always good to mix in a little foreign language when answering hard questions, it throws your kid off a little) or as part of a "bundle" that includes a bunch of other shows you probably won't care about.
At this point, I think I've worn her down on the watching sports on TV question. And then a week later she's back with another one.
Question #2: "Hey Dad, why don't they put the Coke sign on a player's uniform like they do on the stadium signs or a race car?"
Okay, granted, this one's not necessarily as wrought with complicated business and legal terms as Question #1, but it is nonetheless devoid of any good, logical response. In fact, this time the Internet doesn't really help either. So, again, I have to fall back on the answer that this situation will change someday.
In fact, I tell her that in some sports, like soccer, they already do this and it helps pay for the costs of those expensive sporting events that she can't watch on TV when she wants. Oops, I'm crossing wires of two different, yet challenging, questions. Actually, I tell her it's just a matter of time before the sports like football, baseball and basketball start putting the logos of companies like Coke or McDonalds on the jerseys. Wait, I realize even those sports have already done it -- it's called putting the logos of Nike, UnderArmour and Reebok on the jerseys.
Ultimately, I think I've been able to enlighten my daughter about the business side of sports. She now has a working knowledge of TV rights and why not all the games are on TV, but she is convinced -- as I am -- that eventually they will all be available to her anywhere, anytime thanks to the Internet -- viva ESPN3?!
As for the logos on the players, well, I think she sees that happening already now and that it's not far off to see them on jerseys and helmets. Maybe, say, by the time she enters the NFL draft? Heck, anything that makes it cost her a little less to watch that Cal Bears game on her iPhone will be good by her.