Follow TV Tropes


Jock Dad, Nerd Son

Go To

"That boy ain't right."
Hank Hill, King of the Hill

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.



    open/close all folders 

    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. (This story has been contradicted by every other appearance of Flash Thompson's dad.)
  • Also 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 another 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.

  • A downplayed version appears in the Mr. Peabody & Sherman: Both title characters are extremely dorky, but Mr. Peabody is an accomplished athlete, winning two Olympic medals.
  • Hiccup from How to Train Your Dragon 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!
  • This is the case between Chicken Little and his father in the film of the same name.
  • The play and film Tea and Sympathy 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.
  • Inverted In Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves. 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).

  • 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.
  • Project Tau: Kalin Taylor has this relationship with his father, to the point where Benjamin Taylor wonders if Kalin is really his son.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory often talked about how his father forced him to learn football.
  • In Grounded for Life, Henry wants to sign up for tap dancing, but his dad pushes him to do a more "masculine" sport like soccer.
  • Brian from Still Standing tends to be a nerd, and his dad doesn't approve.
  • Played with on 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.
  • On Scorpion with Ralph and his father, Drew, a minor-league baseball pitcher.
    • One second-season episode involved Sylvester and his father, a retired military officer.
  • That '70s Show has shades of this, with Red being 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.
  • Similar to the above, on 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.
  • On 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.
  • Friends:
    • A rare in-law version appeared, being one of the reasons for the mutual dislike between Ross and Rachel's dad.
    • It was also a bit of a Downplayed Trope in the relationship between 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".
  • 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.
  • NCIS has McGee's father. Admiral of the Navy dad and computer nerd son.
  • On 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?!
  • In Bones episode "Boy in the Time Capsule", Alex Stinson, an uber-nerd science kid, was the son of a jock football player (Terry Stinson) and his head cheerleader Childhood Sweetheart Janelle Stinson, and the father was disappointed at him being a nerd. It turns out the nerd was actually the son of the Victim of the Week, Roger Dillon (the titular "boy"), an uber-nerd computer geek who nobody in his class liked and who was the Abhorrent Admirer of the Alpha Bitch - that is, until they had to do a paper together, she fell for him, and they had sex. The "father", who had discovered the affair, as well as another nerd (Gil Bates), who was the victim's best friend with whom he had created a computer program that would make him very rich by the time the Jeffersonian was investigating the crime, were the murderers.

    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."

    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.

  • 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 
  • 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 serves as Willie's Start of Darkness. He steals 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 episode of The Simpsons shows us Prof. Frink's dad, who, although also an academic, is more of the Adventurer Archaeologist sort.
  • 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.
  • A constant source of contention between Steve and Stan Smith of American Dad!. 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.
  • 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.
  • Ben Hare and his son Harecules, from Beany and Cecil.
  • Nickelodeon's 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 Mordecai and Frank (Margaret's dad).
  • Coach Reinheardt and his son Gordy in Angela Anaconda. Though the coach has no problem with his son and has complimented his cooking.
  • 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.


Example of: