Son, I think it’s high time you and I sat down and touched base. As your father, it’s been difficult watching you drop the ball these past few months—your grades are down, you’ve been breaking curfew most weekends, and who knows what kinds of trouble you’re getting into with those new friends of yours. Your head just hasn’t been in the game, and sadly for me, I’ve had a ringside seat as you’ve repeatedly struck out. I’m in your corner, son, and I truly want to help you come out swinging and rally, but it seems like I can’t even get through to you with any of my sports analogies.

Honestly, I thought every one of my sports metaphors has been a home run, but based on your continued poor behavior, I guess they’ve all been false starts. I’ve just about emptied my playbook when it comes to getting you back on the inside track. I’ve tried idioms from baseball, football, hockey, basketball, boxing—but none of them have been in the ballpark.

What do you need? Swimming metaphors, horse racing, cricket? Listen, this is a sticky wicket and I’m willing to grab the reins if that’s what it takes.

The thing is, it’s not like my sports-based advice is coming out of left field here. Time and time again, I’ve tried to draw up plays that will get you to drop the gloves and put some shots on goal for a change. After I first heard that you were getting in trouble at school, I thought I made myself perfectly clear when I sat you down and told you that life sometimes throws you a curve and that you need to be able to roll with the punches, but you refused to play ball. Then, after you got suspended just a few days later, you flat-out ignored me when I tried to let you know that you were down to your last strike.

If all of these metaphors have missed the uprights, tell me exactly how I’m supposed to come up with a game plan that will get you to push the ball over the goal line.

Look, I know that not every call is going to go your way, and I’m not expecting you to knock it out of the park every time you step up to the plate, but I’m also not just going to sit on the sidelines and keep watching you swing and miss. You’ve got a tough lie, sure, but when life backs you up against the ropes, you’ve got to get back on your feet and give it your own one-two punch. Just last week when I caught you talking back to your mother, I told you straight up that the clock was winding down and that if you didn’t put on your game face and put some points on the board, you could expect to be riding the pine.

And then what happened? That’s right: We caught you with alcohol that same week and we had no option but to bench you. The ball was in your court, but you decided to lead with your chin and now you’re down for the count.

But apparently that’s par for the course with you.

Listen, young man, your mother and I really want to see you swing for the fences and go the distance. After all, why do you think I keep telling you all these sports analogies about getting back on the field and playing like you mean it? You’ve got big-league potential—all you have to do is take it one play at a time. We know life isn’t a chip shot—it’s a marathon—but you have to keep in mind that a walk is as good as a hit in this game. Son, if you just keep your eye on the ball and leave it all out there on the floor, anything you put your mind to will be a slam dunk.

But frankly, at this point, I feel like I’ve gone 10 rounds with you and I’m running low on analogies that will make you realize you’re behind the eight ball here. Honestly, it seems like no matter what I say, you can’t seem to get it through your thick skull that it’s fourth and long in the fourth quarter with the title on the line. It’s infuriating.

At this point, I’m starting to think I should just throw in the towel and let you run your own race. Is that what you want? Because until you quit acting out in class and start treating your parents with a little respect, I’m no longer going to the mat for you. Maybe that’s the only thing left that will make you realize you’re off base.

I hope you don’t think that’s a low blow, but that’s just how I see it.

Timeout, son. I guess what I want to say is that I’m your father and, well, I love you. I love you so very much—more than I ever knew was possible. When I look into your eyes, I see the same beautiful eyes I saw 16 years ago when you came into this world, when you brought so much joy and so much pride into my life. You’re going through a difficult time right now, and I know I haven’t always been the best dad in the world—there are things I’ve done wrong and things I wish I could change—but I want you to know that I care about you more than anything in the world. I want to be a better man for you, a better father. And we can get through this, I just know it. I love you and I am here for you, always, and I want you to understand that.

Boy, that probably didn’t make any sense. I guess what I’m really trying to say is you’ll always be a starter to me—the ace of our staff—and I don’t want to see you become some washed-up second-stringer. Got it?

Goodnight, champ.