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Jock Dad, Nerd Son

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Kent Brockman: Rainier Wolfcastle... star of McBain and the upcoming film, "Help, My Son Is A Nerd".
Rainier Wolfcastle: My son returns from a fancy East Coast college, and I'm horrified to find he's a nerd.
Kent Brockman: I'm laughing already!
Rainier Wolfcastle: It's not a comedy.

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 "Gender-Normative Parent" 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 inter-generational version of Sensitive Guy and Manly Man, as well as a loose gender inversion to Feminine Mother, Tomboyish Daughter.


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    Anime & 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 the Series: XY 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 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. However, Gohan would briefly return to fighting during serious crises. Depending on the media, Goku might show a little disappointment toward his eldest son.
  • The Quintessential Quintuplets: Fuutarou Uesugi is a straight-A student whose physical capacities are below average, to say the least. His father Isanari, however, has a muscular physique that suggests he regularly exercises.

    Comic Books 
  • Daredevil: Subverted in issue #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.
  • Preacher: An odd variation. Jesse'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. Jesse spent his childhood forced to train to be a preacher, but his grandmother's henchman Jody made sure to teach Jesse all about horses, cars, guns, and fighting (well, taking beatings), apparently honestly concerned that Jesse was a weakling just because he cried when his friend was murdered or his puppy nailed to a fence. His last words just before Jesse kills him were "Prouda you, boy".
  • Robin: While Tim is plenty active he's also a nerd whose into photography and doesn't care for American Football, which his 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.
  • Runaways: Inverted. 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.
  • Spider-Man: Inverted in The Amazing Spider-Man (1963) #372, 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. However, this was eventually made non-canon with his father actually being established as an abusive alcoholic and a cop who pressured Flash into athletics.
    • It's also inverted for Peter himself. He's the nerd dad and in different universes like Spider-Girl or Renew Your Vows, his daughters are more athletic and less interested in science than him (Mayday Parker was on the basketball team until she had her powers and Annie May was a Bully Hunter when she was a kid and her spider powers were active from birth)
  • Teen Titans: 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. Later versions of his origin have Victor's father brushing off his son almost entirely because of his athletic focus, even when it's made clear Vic's academically excelling as well.
  • Ultimate Fantastic Four: Played for drama. 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.

    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.

    Fan Works 
  • In the X-Men: Evolution fanfic XXY:Evolution, where most of the characters are genderbend, Kit Pryde (male Shadowcat) is a geeky kid who likes sci-fi and fantasy while his dad Carmen was said to have been a great quarterback in high school. Because of this, Kit believes himself to be a disappointment to his dad, which even the bullies, his coach, and one of his dad's buddies think so, and his emerging mutant ability makes it more difficult. But his dad does accept him for who (and what) he is, and apologizes for making him think otherwise.
  • Lightly touched upon in Telling Lies? No, Mama, when Lila and her mother turn into an akuma. Lila shoots beams that turn people into their opposite, while her mom makes people tell truths they've buried deep inside. One boy she hits is a basketball player. After her beam hits him, he admits that he hates basketball and only joined the team because his dad made him. He really wanted to do theater, but his father said it was for gays.

  • Inverted with Marty McFly and his father George McFly in Back to the Future. Unlike his cool popular skateboarding son Marty, George was an unpopular shy nerd who is constantly bullied.
  • Chicken Little: Provides the contrast between scrawny and geeky Chicken Little and his father, a former star athlete.
  • Father of the Bride (2022): Adan is a softspoken lawyer who dislikes sports, while his father Hernan is a pompous businessman who dabbles in several sports. Hernan laments late in the film about where he went wrong with Adan, and Billy reassures him that he raised a good son.
  • 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!
  • Life of a Horse Trader: Yone is a Boisterous Bruiser who is also a champion sumo wrestler while his son is quiet and bookish. This causes some tension when it's time to decide about Daihei's education.
  • 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.
  • Charlie from Where's Willie? likes hiking, fishing, and sports. Willie is a Child Prodigy who invents a computer that can Hack the Traffic Lights. Charlie doesn't understand his son at all, and even threatens to get rid of all his computers at one point.

  • 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.
  • Park and Jamie in Eleanor & Park are the poster child of this trope.
  • Ghost Girl (2021): Elijah's father is a former football player who still has the body to prove it, in contrast to his son, who's out-of-shape and hates sports.
  • 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, Baelor, and tries to coach his sons to be great warriors like himself. Only one of his kids, Aerion, 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 (Daeron), a mild-mannered scholar (Aemon) and a rebellious runaway hanging out with commoners (Aegon). 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".
    • The first known Baelish was a sellsword from Bravos, his son a knight, and his son a minor lord who fought and distinguished himself in the war of Ninepenny kings. The next Baelish has no martial skill, instead being a financial miracle worker who elevates the house to greater heights.
    • Aegon the Conqueror was a muscular, charismatic general who brought about the union of the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros through military force. His son and heir apparent, Aenys, was a spindly nerd who had no interest in fighting and preferred the company of septons and maesters to knights. Many people at the time complained that Aenys was not fit to be his father's successor, and dreamed of Aegon's other son, Maegor, who did inherit his father's physical prowess, of becoming king. Unfortunately, Maegor would go down in history as Maegor the Cruel...
  • 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.
  • Frasier (2023) has an inverted case with Frasier and his son Freddy, who dropped out of Harvard to become a firefighter and has more blue-collar tastes like Martin did.
  • 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 shared 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, a 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.
  • The Kids Are Alright (2018): Mike Cleary is a jock dad who wants his sons to become nerds. As a machinist at an aerospace company during the Space Race, he's seen what scientists and engineers can accomplish so he pushes Lawrence, his eldest, in particular, to pursue an education and gain opportunities he didn't have growing up.
  • 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 on 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 sports-loving dad Bill doesn't approve.
  • That '70s Show: Red is a War Veteran instead of a former High School Jock but 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 flip side.
    "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.
  • Stand-up comic Allan Carr is the son of former professional footballer Graham Carr, a man who turned out as a central defender for several middle-ranking football sides in the English League and who became manager of Northampton Town. He had high hopes for his son Allan following him into professional football. Allan now makes his living and reputation as a Camp Gay stand-up comic who will point out he had zero interest in football while growing up.

    Video Games 
  • Assassin's Creed Origins: One quest in the "Curse of the Pharaohs" DLC has Bayek run into a young man who wants to become a scribe, but is hesitant because he thinks his father would look down on such things. His father? Is Rameses II, one of Egypt's longest lasting and most successful rulers (it's a long story). Fortunately, the quest ends with the kid learning his father is actually fine with his choice of career.
  • 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.
  • The Isle of Armor Downloadable Content of Pokémon Sword and Shield has Mustard and Hyde. Mustard was the Galar region Pokémon Champion in his prime (for 18 years) and still remains a formidable Pokémon trainer even in his current age. Hyde, his son, is a Child Prodigy who has made inventions that are utilized by those living in the dojo located on the very isle and has yet to show any capacity in Pokémon battles. That being said, there's no known conflict between the two of them.

    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 in 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 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 cute 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.
  • Big City Greens: Remy, Cricket and Tilly's best friend, is a mild-mannered, geeky, nerdy-type kid who's more into science, math, music, and video games than typical manly or athletic endeavors. His father, on the other hand, is a wealthy retired professional football player, who was the star jock at both his high school and university. The episode "Football Camp" even revolves around Remy's dad trying to get him into playing football by making him and Cricket come with him to a football camp, until Cricket convinces Remy to tell his dad that he's okay with being better at football on his video game than in real life, and that he doesn't have the same sports dreams as his father.
  • The Cleveland Show: Highlighted in the episode, "Field of Streams", where Cleveland (who was p a star athlete in high-school) wants his son, Cleveland Jr., to join the baseball team and carry his legacy but the latter is more invested in joining the Math Club.
  • One The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror episode 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 go that way.
  • Aaahh!!! Real Monsters had Slickis, 'this Academy's most esteemed graduate', a world-renowned top athlete and professional scarer. His son Ickis is 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 rockstar, 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. In the physical sense, Rock has a muscular build while Willy is a scrawny nerd.
  • 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 (1991) 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. When Chas was a kid, Marvin used to toughen him up, beginning on Chas' first birthday, when Chas was tossed into Lake Michigan with a life preserver and some dry toast.
  • 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.
  • Inverted in The Dragon Prince with Viren and Soren. Harrow and Callum could be considered a straightforward step-parent version, with Harrow as the archetypal Knight in Shining Armor and Callum as the artist and mage-in-training. Unlike Viren and Soren, there's no friction between Harrow and Callum over their differences.
  • In the DuckTales (2017) episode "The Dangerous Chemistry of Gandra Dee," after Mark Beaks uses nanobots to bulk himself up, he catches a projectile with ease, causing him to comment that he's never actually caught a ball before, and then retorting "Well, who's the loser now, Coach Dad?!"

    Real Life 
  • British comedian and TV presenter Alan Carr is an extremely Camp Gay. His father was a professional footballer and later the manager of a pro football team. Suffice to say - as Alan does at great length in his stage act- that Mr Carr did not get the pro footballer son he hoped for.


Video Example(s):


The Clades

The opening introduces us to both Jaeger & Searcher Clade. The dad is shown to be a well-known, daring, and prideful adventurer in search of what's beyond the mountains. His son Searcher meanwhile is shown to be much less adventurous and bold, more interested in plants and knowledge than his father, which eventually leads to a falling out.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / LikeFatherUnlikeSon

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