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Rob Jenkins - Fathering skills barely on track

For once, I actually passed a fatherhood test. OK, I made like a C+, but still.

The particular test to which I'm referring was our Cub Scout pack's annual Pinewood Derby, in which fathers of Scouts ... excuse me, in which the Scouts themselves, build toy cars out of small kits and race them on an inclined track.

For the past seven years, I have, um, helped my sons build their racecars. And not once in seven years has one of those cars come home with the big trophy. The most we've been able to accomplish is a second-place finish in 2004, with a couple of "Best-in-Shows" - kind of like Georgia Tech's basketball program.

This year I - that is, my son - finished third. Since we also made the top three in the Best in Show category, I awarded myself a C+ and can now live through another year feeling as though I'm not a failure as a father.

At least, not a complete failure. Because the truth is, the Pinewood Derby track isn't the only place I've routinely come up short. Since 1994, I've coached my sons on 30 different baseball and basketball teams, with nary a championship. That's 3 boys, 14 years, 30 teams - and zero titles.

Now you know why I'm such a loyal Falcons fan.

Again, we've come close, like the year my 5- to 6-year-old Pistons lost in the finals to the hated Timberwolves. I still believe the only reason they beat us is that their coach bought them all matching warm-ups.

But for the most part, my teams have finished in the middle of the pack, and this year looks to be no exception. Wonder how much those matching warm-ups cost ...

Anyway, it's some consolation to know I'm not exactly alone in my under abundance of parental success. This year, for instance, 10 cars competed in the Pinewood Derby, which means 8 other fathers also endured miserable drives home, grappling for answers to such timeless existential questions as "Do you think we should have put the weights in the back?"

Of course, it's possible some of those other dads didn't take the competition quite as personally, but I doubt it. Before the race, when the Pack Leader asked participants to come forward, 10 grown men rose in unison.

All in all, though, I have to say my sons have handled my serial inadequacy better than I have. They just seem to enjoy the games, oddly enough, and neither the thrill of victory nor the agony of defeat survives much longer than it takes to get home and turn on Nickelodeon or hop onto a skateboard.

I'm trying to work with them on their attitude, though. It's high time they learned to take winning and losing a little more seriously.

After all, they'll be fathers themselves one day.