From Craig James to Sean “Diddy” Combs, An Ode to Stage Dads


TMZ first reported Sean “Diddy” Combs was arrested Monday for assault with a deadly weapon. UCLA athletics released an official statement that sheds some light on TMZ’s report Diddy physically went after a Bruins coach when his son, walk-on defensive back Justin Combs, was yelled at.

Diddy’s weapon of choice? A kettlebell, UCLA reports.

Given the time of year and NCAA rules prohibiting the contact coaches can have with players, the pool of candidates with whom Diddy brandished the offending gym equipment.

Perhaps the addition of Snoop Dogg’s son, wide receiver Cordell Broadus, rekindled a fire in Diddy. Snoop’s former home label, Death Row Records, attacked Diddy’s founded label Bad Boy rather harshly in the mid-1990s, most notably on Tupac’s track “Hit ‘Em Up.”

Some will be quick to equate Diddy’s overzealous behavior with his wealth and social standing. Not many fathers of college kids drink vodka ’til dawn with Jesse Pinkman, after all.

However, Diddy is simply part of a fraternity with a long and illustrious history that goes back as far as team sports: Diddy behaved as a stage dad.

Diddy is no different than countless fathers around this country. Stage dads, also known in some circles as helicopter parents, are ubiquitous at sporting events, typically mumbling to their fellow stage dads about how much better they would fare than the coaches. Of course, the others agree, overlooking the irony they all have the same goal: showcase their own kid above all others.

Stage dads call their local publications to shout down editors. Your game recap neglecting to mention Junior’s three carries for seven yards is keeping him from getting a scholarship!

I wonder if master recruiters like Nick Saban or Urban Meyer know just how much talent the local rag beat writers around this nation are costing the Crimson Tide and Buckeyes?

Stage dads’ hovering exists under the guise of it being all about their kids, but in reality, it’s dad commandeering the spotlight.

Consider King Stage Dad Craig James. The former ESPN analyst had a bully pulpit thousands of stage dads nationwide would kill for, using the Worldwide Leaders’ airwaves in late 2009 to launch an all-out assault on former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach.

Forget a kettlebell: James’ weapon was his face plastered all over Sportscenter until Tech acquiesced and fired Leach for sending Adam James to an equipment facility while recovering from a concussion.

Adam James left Texas Tech with 66 receptions and three touchdowns, but his time as a Red Raider will be remembered almost exclusively for his dad parading from one ESPN program to the next, campaigning to have the most successful coach in Tech history fired.


Stage dad’ing isn’t about the son: It’s all about Pops.

At my first newspaper job out of college, one stage dad held up a homemade sign with his the number of his son, a benchwarmer on the varsity basketball team, pointed at the head coach. This went on for the duration of every home game.

I’m sure that’s not horribly embarrassing for a 17-year-old.

Take that small-time instance, add national headlines and throw in a kettlebell, and you have the recipe for an utterly mortifying experience if you’re a young walk-on, just fitting into the culture of a successful college football program.

Seeing as how stage dads are uniquely gifted at usurping the spotlight, it’s probably not enough we just had a holiday celebrating fathers. In honor of the timing of Diddy’s arrest, let’s make the Monday after Fathers Day a time to “celebrate” stage dads.