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Jock Dad, Nerd Son

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"That boy ain't right."
Hank Hill, King of the Hill
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Tends to be a High School trope. When a father was a jock in high school (usually marks his Glory Days) while his son pursues less athletic endeavors, usually to the father's disappointment. In quite a few cases the father's grief stems from him being a Jaded Washout who had hoped to live vicariously through his son, but the son's interests effectively means he can't.

Related to a "Billy Elliot" Plot, but is part of the underlying characterization as opposed to a single episode plot. Subtrope to Like Father, Unlike Son. Could be considered an intergenerational version of Sensitive Guy and Manly Man, as well as a loose gender inversion to Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter.


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Examples:

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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Doraemon, Nobita's father is Dumb Muscle. Nobita himself, however, is one of the weakest kids in school and is thoroughly uninterested in any sort of physical activity.
  • A Gender Flipped version (more like Tomboy Mom, Girly Daughter) is shown in Pokémon X&Y with Serena and Grace. Grace was a famous professional Rhyhorn Racer (a rather rough sport in the Pokémon world), and tries to enforce it on Serena, who eventually settles down for Pokémon Showcases.
  • Dragon Ball: Son Goku and Son Gohan. Goku is a martial artist who loves fighting and training who spends all of his days with training whenever possible. Gohan on the other hand, while being a powerful martial artist himself, is more of a scholar, which is his profession. In days of peace, Gohan spends his days studying or doing his job, leading him to become out of shape. Goku has already accepted that Gohan is not a fighter and doesn't expect him to fight alongside him. Depending on the media, Goku might show a little disappointment towards his eldest son.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Daredevil #1: Young Matt Murdock wants to become a jock, but his father, the small-time prizefighting boxer "Battling" Murdock, forbids him to do that (or to "rassle" with the neighborhood kids) so that he can concentrate on his studies and have a better life than his past-his-prime dad. Thus very much against his will Matt becomes a nerd and the butt of cruel jokes by the boys of his Hell's Kitchen neighborhood.
  • Inverted in one 80s Spider-Man story, where a Flashback showed us that Flash Thompson's dad was a brilliant academic, who was totally unimpressed by his son's prowess on the football field. Flash bullied Peter because he saw him as the sort of son his father wanted.
  • Inverted in Runaways. Chase is initially presented as a jock, and his parents are both super-geniuses. His father is less than impressed with his son's athletic abilities.
  • Cyborg is an inversion. Even though Victor is brainy, he resents his scientist parents pushing him into academics and chooses to pursue athletics...until, of course, the accident that nearly killed him, at which point his dad made him a cyborg to save his life.
  • Played for drama in Ultimate Fantastic Four. Gary Richards is a huge sports nut and obsessed with "manly" behavior. His son — Reed's quiet nature and fascination with science elicits his scorn, to the point that he openly regards Ben Grimm as being the son he wanted but never had.
  • An odd variation in Preacher: Jessie's father was a Vietnam veteran, but was murdered when he tried to take his family away from the clutches of his wife's Evil Matriarch. Jessie spent his childhood forced to train to be a preacher, but his grandmother's henchman Jody made sure to teach Jessie all about horses, cars, guns, and fighting (well, taking beatings), apparently honestly concerned that Jessie was a weakling just because he cried when his friend was murdered or his puppy nailed to a fence. His last words just before Jessie kills him were "Prouda you, boy".
  • Robin Series: While Tim is plenty active he's also a nerd whose into photography and doesn't care for American Football, which is dad doesn't seem to be capable of understanding. As a matter of fact Jack only figures out Tim is Robin after he tears his son's room to shreds after hearing that the high school football coach doesn't recall Tim trying out for the team and discovers the Robin suit hidden behind a discrete panel in Tim's closet.

     Comic Strips 
  • Parodied in Hägar the Horrible with Hägar, who is virtually Book Dumb illiterate and goes on raids to make a living, and his very literate and studious son Hamlet, who prefers reading to fighting and is vastly more skilled than his father at reading and writing.
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    Film 
  • Chicken Little: Provides the contrast between scrawny and geeky Chicken Little and his father, a former star athlete.
  • Halloween (2018): An early scene has a father and son on a hunting trip right before Michael escapes from custody, with their dialogue showing the son he prefers dance lessons to hunting.
  • Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves: Inverted. Wayne is a tech nerd whose youngest son, Adam, plays baseball. At the beginning of the movie, Adam asks Wayne to let him go to baseball camp instead of science camp. Wayne ultimately obliges (and is overjoyed to discover how much math there is to it).
  • How to Train Your Dragon: Hiccup would be this to his father Stoick the Vast. Scrawny little nerd-boy in a society of huge, fierce, dragon-fighting Vikings.
    Hiccup: [sarcastically imitating Stoick] Excuse me, barmaid! I'm afraid you brought me the wrong offspring! I ordered an extra-large boy with beefy arms, extra guts and glory on the side! This here, this is a talking fishbone!
  • Mr. Peabody & Sherman: A downplayed version. Both title characters are extremely dorky, but Mr. Peabody is an accomplished athlete, winning two Olympic medals.
  • Tea and Sympathy: The play and film play this to the hilt: the former football player dad, who still acts like a high school jock, and his son, the sensitive actor and singer whom everyone suspects of being gay. Dad rather crudely tries to push his son Tom into more "manly" activities, oblivious to the effect on his psyche. Yet when Tom has a mental breakdown resulting in a suicide attempt, Dad's nowhere to be found.

    Literature 
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Greg, the titular Wimpy Kid, is the nerd son to his father Frank's jock dad. An odd case since Greg is Book Dumb unlike the typical nerd, but the trope is still there: Frank wants Greg to play sports, even if Greg hates them and would rather stay at home with comic books and video games.
  • Project Tau: Kalin Taylor has this relationship with his father, to the point where Benjamin Taylor wonders if Kalin is really his son.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire:
    • Prince Maekar is a medieval version of this in the Tales of Dunk and Egg prequel series. He is famed for his joint military exploit in the Blackfyre Rebellion alongside his brother, and tries to coach his sons to be great warriors like himself. Only one of his kids becomes a good warrior, and that one turns into a deplorable sadist as well, while the other three become a well-meaning but craven drunk, a mild-mannered scholar and a rebellious runaway hanging out with commoners. Maekar has a blindly antagonistic Papa Wolf moment in response to the prowess of his children being brought to question by the events of the first novella.
    • Randyll Tarly is a brilliant, no-nonsense warrior while his eldest son Samwell is a fat bookworm. Randyll spent Sam's entire life trying to whip him into shape without success. Finally, when his wife birthed a second son, he gave Samwell a choice: Join the Night's Watch and renounce his claim as heir to House Tarly, or suffer a "hunting accident".
  • Things Fall Apart: A fairly unconventional example set in colonial Nigeria. The Hero Okonkwo is a phenomenally strong warrior and farmer with a predilection for violence and is as macho as one can possibly get—in sharp contrast to his eldest son Nwoye, who dislikes fighting and prefers listening to women's folktales (and later converts to Christianity because his sensitive heart is touched by the missionaries' songs). This irritates Okonkwo to no end, and more than once Okonkwo has considered possibly killing his son.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Big Bang Theory: Sheldon often talked about how his father forced him to learn football. Explored in detail in the prequel series Young Sheldon, where we see that his father is a football coach.
  • Bones:
  • Frasier: Martin has this relationship with both his sons in a slightly different context. Martin was a man's man cop for decades and has two opera-loving, psychiatrist sons with whom he has little in common.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Uncle Phil was an Academic Athlete and a star athlete in college, while his son Carlton is academically oriented but terrible at sports, especially basketball. When his cousin Will starts playing basketball and becomes the star of the team, Carlton becomes jealous of his father bonding with Will over their common interest in sports.
  • Friends: A bit of a Downplayed Trope in the relationship between the somewhat nerdy Ross and his father, even though he was generally portrayed as on the positive side of the Parental Favoritism; "The One With The Male Nanny" revealed that Jack Geller once saw the young Ross playing with his toy dinosaurs and asked why he wasn't outside "like a real boy". A similar, in-law version involved Ross and Rachel's dad, an stereotypical "All-American Boy" bordering on Jerk Jock.
  • Grounded for Life: Henry wants to sign up for tap dancing, but his dad pushes him to do a more "masculine" sport like soccer.
  • Married... with Children: Al Bundy was the Big Man on Campus in high school. He was a football hero and made it with every hot girl in his class. In contrast, his son Bud is constantly trying (and failing) to score with women and is much more academically oriented. On one occasion, Al says that if the two went to school together, Al probably would not have let Bud hang out with him.
  • NCIS: McGee's father. Admiral of the Navy dad and computer nerd son.
  • The Outer Limits (1995):
    • In "Sandkings", Dr. Simon Kress was a nerd growing up while his father was very much a jock.
    • In "Stranded", a nerdy teenager with an interest in science is neglected by his sports-oriented father, who openly favors his more jock-like (but still nice, at least to his little bro) older brother. When an alien bounty hunter's ship crash lands nearby, this makes the kid more open to an offer of friendship from the alien, who turns out to be the bounty hunter's criminal.
  • Schitt's Creek: Johnny brags about being his school baseball team, but it was a Hebrew school team called The Flying Latkes, and it's clear Johnny was a nerd. However, he's a better player than his Camp Gay son David who only agrees to play in an amateur game to please his boyfriend. The storyline turns out very sweet as Johnny, who is on the opposite team, loses interest in playing to cheer on his adult son who makes a surprise hit and wins the game.
  • Seinfeld: Before coming up with the famous "show about nothing" idea, George pitches a sitcom idea to Jerry that revolves around this trope, although "jock" might be stretching things a little.
    George: You want an idea? Here's an idea. You coach a gymnastics team in high school, and you're married, and your son isn't interested in gymnastics, and you're pushing him into gymnastics.
    Jerry: Why should I care if my son is into gymnastics?
    George: Because you're a gymnastics teacher, it's only natural.
    Jerry: But gymnastics is not for everybody!
    George: I know, but he's your son!
    Jerry: So what?!
  • Still Standing: Brian tends to be a nerd, and his dad doesn't approve.
  • That '70s Show: Red is a War Veteran instead of a former High School Jock. He still has this type of relationship with his son Eric. One episode also made reference to Red having been on the wrestling team when he was in high school.

    Stand-Up Comedy 
  • Patton Oswalt talks about being the younger half of a variant of this — Military Dad, Nerd Son. And also, its flipside.
    "My dad was a Marine colonel. Look at me. Fuckin' pot belly and man-boobs. 'You know, father, the short stories of Tilly Olson are a wonderful window into contemporary womanho—' Punch, drink, cry. So now my kid's going to be a Navy SEAL, gonna beat the shit out of me and all my friends, rip up my comic books, melt our lead figures, make our lives a living hell; ughhhhh... 'Hey dad, I threw your Blade Runner gun on the roof. Heh heh, faggot. Maybe if you do three pushups I'll go get it down.'"
  • Comedian Tim Nutt, though he's not a jock, mentions he heard that the natural instinct of children is to rebel against their parents, so he worries that in 10 or so years he'll be an example of Stoner Dad, Nerd Daughter.
    "Turn down your music, Dad! We're trying to study!"
    "Excuse me, Father, may I have a word? These brownies taste peculiar."
  • Ed Byrne has a routine about his father, a former fabricator in sheet metal works, and now even as a pensioner is much tougher than his son. He explains that they share a sense of humour, but that's about it. Eddie Senior is a big burly chap who is good with his hands. Ed is a scrawny, long-haired 'weakling child' who likes performing. The nadir for Ed comes when he buys something big for his house and his dad tells him not to try installing it because he's scared that Ed will hurt himself. And then turns up with his toolbox, still wearing his pyjama bottoms.

    Video Games 
  • In Firewatch, Ned Goodwin fancies himself an adventurous outdoorsman living off the land. Despite his many attempts to get him interested in things like hiking and rock climbing, his son Brian is far more interested in comics and role-playing games. This eventually gets Brian killed in a cave-in, driving Ned away from civilized society entirely.

    Web Animation 
  • Dolph's dad in Camp Camp is a military man who is very embarrassed about his son's love of arts and crafts and wishes he'd take up a manlier hobby, like guns or (American) football. For some reason, this disturbs him more than Dolph's other major issues.

    Webcomics 
  • Inverted with Roy Greenhilt and his father, Eugene, of The Order of the Stick. Roy chose a career as a fighter class as opposed to a wizard like his father, which are seen as a jock and nerd class at least in universe. Played straight with Eugene and his own father, Horace, who had inspired Roy's career path. Interestingly, Roy was apparently a nerd compared to other fighters (possibly because Roy tries very hard to avert the "fighters are Dumb Muscle" stereotype)
    Roy: Well I hate to break it to you dad, but this isn't the end of the line. More like half-time.
    Eugene: What? How can you halve time itself?
    Roy: *Sigh* I should have known a sports metaphor would be wasted on you.

    Western Animation 
  • Stan and Steve Smith from American Dad! provide the trope's page image. Stan constantly tries to help his son with various "masculine" activities to avoid letting Steve repeat the same poor experience Stan had in high school.
  • Batman Beyond has Willie Watt. He's a complete nerd and not the Adorkable kind. Conversely, his father Frank is a well-built man who is into construction. He makes it clear to Willy that he "ain't raisin' no wuss" and even encourages Willie to use violence against the bullies that torment him. This inspires Willie to steal a high-powered construction Golem and attacks his fellow students with it at a school dance. He even aims to be a Self-Made Orphan and tries desperately to kill his own father. What was Frank's response when his son got arrested for all this mayhem? "Guess this means he ain't no wuss anymore." Batman's Disapproving Look makes him regret saying that.
  • One The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror episodes shows us Prof. Frink's dad, who, although also an academic, is more of the Adventurer Archaeologist sort.
    • Rainier Wolfcastle stars in an In-Universe example, "Help!, My Son is a Nerd!" Kent Brockman is surprised to find out it isn't a comedy.
  • Hank and Bobby in King of the Hill. Hank was a high school athlete; Bobby is pudgy, lazy and more interested in becoming a comedian, not to mention more sensitive than Hank ever feels comfortable with.
  • On one episode of Dexter's Laboratory, Dexter's dad tries to teach him how to do sports, but is always thwarted by Dee Dee. Not that Dexter's dad is athletic, but his interests goes that way.
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had Slickis, 'this Academy's most esteemed graduate', a world-renowned top athlete and professional scarer. His son Ickis was often mistaken for a cute bunny rabbit on scares, and once even got his foot run over when he tried to frighten two teenagers who wanted to make-out at an isolated location. That said, Slickis supports Ickis despite his shortcomings, even emphasizing his own failures to make his son feel better.
  • Parodically reversed in South Park's take on High School Musical: Bridon Gueermo wants to be on the basketball team, but his abusive Camp Straight father pushes him into dancing. And if anyone calls him out on it, they find themselves on the end of an annoying, limp-wristed slap.
  • An in-law version in Regular Show between the socially-awkward, sensitive Mordecai and Frank, Margaret's intrepid helicopter-piloting dad.
  • One episode of Hey Arnold! featured a pair like this. In "Rich Guy," Arnold and his grandpa meet Sammy Redman, a millionaire who adores sports. Sammy becomes quite close to Arnold, even calling him "Sonny," which viewers find out is his way of making up for the fact that his own son Alan is a photographer who hates sports. Eventually, Sammy and Alan find common ground in baseball photographs.
  • As an interesting inversion, The Goode Family has Gerald, a borderline Hippie Father, struggling with his son Ubuntu joining the school's football team.
  • Inverted in DC Super Hero Girls. Giganta's parents are nerdy scientists while she's an athletic jock who hates science class.
  • For a given value in My Dad The Rockstar between Willy Zilla and his father Rock. Both are musically talented, but whereas Rock is a boisterous Rock God, Willy is far more reserved and into jazz with his trombone. The inverted relationship exists between Rock and his own father who is a world famous classical cellist.
  • Inverted in She-Ra and the Princesses of Power with Bow and his parents. Bow's dads are both historians who want him to inherit their library once they retire. However Bow is secretly a talented archer fighting against the Horde.
  • The Rugrats Season 5 finale, "The Family Tree," reveals that Chuckie's grandfather, Marvin Finster, is much more conventionally manly than Chas Finster, who is Chuckie's father.
  • Another inversion in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode: "Common Ground". Quibble Pants is the nerd who is worried he has nothing in common with his future stepdaughter who loves sports.

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