CHOG #19 - HOW DOES SPORTS PLAY INTO YOUR LIFE?
Updated: Oct 18, 2022
I love sports! I will sit by myself and watch a sporting event. I have heard all my life – it’s just a game – but is that right? I’ve said it, but did I really mean it? Have you ever been involved, I mean really involved in sports (either yourself or through someone you love) and thought, it’s just a game? Probably not.
My son William played baseball from the age of 5, was on the best of elite baseball teams throughout his youth, earned a college baseball scholarship, and I enjoyed every single minute of it. He’s now a professional baseball umpire and I love hearing the stories (now from the "other" side of the game!) from him. “William has a game” is now back in our family’s language!
But let’s really take a look at ourselves on our sporting life…..our competitive spirit…..and maybe our ultimate life story….
I’m pretty much going to depend on Fredrik Backman to help me through this Giggle Chog. His novels, Beartown and Us Against You explore the competitive spirit and how much some of us (but maybe really all of us but we might not know it) are affected by sports, by competition. This is illustrated in both these books. I have also linked these books on my website tab - Kay's Book Club….enjoy these books even if you aren’t a sports fan, the commentary on the human condition is just as explored and prevalent in these novels as the sports stories are. In a nutshell, these books force a small town to look at themselves in the aftermath of an alleged rape claim of a young woman by a revered athlete. In Us Against You, the statement is made that “if the girl was lying, our lives could carry on as normal”. So, this is not a “me too” blog, even though that topic has been extremely relevant in the past couple of years; what this statement is trying to examine (my opinion) is that a large segment of society does not want to believe the worst (or really anything bad) about someone that we look up to, those that society has elevated into the embodiment of what we all would like to think of ourselves. In this case, an athlete, but could be anyone – maybe yourself or someone you love.
An athlete is different than other celebrities, my opinion. Musicians, actors, artists, these people are certainly revered and elevated in society as well. However, most of these people have their talents and nurture them, themselves. In athletes, their “talents” involve their entire family and a large part of society as well. There is not a day, pretty much, that society does not have access to sports – baseball, football, soccer, basketball, etc., I mean, just between baseball and basketball they have almost the whole year sewed up, they play so many games. We are trying to enjoy the play-offs and World Series in baseball (after watching since early Spring), when we are really all charged up about college and pro football! Our competitive spirit is in adrenaline overload! Stadiums fill, households are engrossed, restaurants and bars are packed, bets are made, rivalries are mapped out and aligned, the workplace is rife with chatter and analysis, and we all “sport” our team’s attire on ourselves, in our homes, on our cars, everywhere! As individuals as well as teams, I do not think any other “celebrity” or “events” are discussed among the general population as much as sports and sport figures.
Put on top of that, these athletes, every single one of them, spent their childhood competing in team sports. Some enjoyed it and thrived, and unfortunately, some were forced, and still wear scars, in a mental health way, in the pursuit of successful competition. The NCAA for years has put out commercials, and wonderful they are, noting that of all collegiate athletes, only about 1% go on to make a living in professional sports. These commercials show these athletes excelling in such wonderful ways as adults, much as they did as children and young adults in their athletic pursuits. Supposedly this is geared to show how important college actually is and that the “sport” participated in in college, is just a fun thing to pass the time. Bah! How many people deep down in their soul doesn’t think, just maybe, they will be the one to be plucked out of the crowd to play their beloved sports as their actual “job”….and a fabulously lucrative one at that? A whole lot more than 1% I can guarantee that, and maybe more of a societal comment, the parents of these athletes certainly think it….that’s another blog (insert giggle giggle!).
A funny aside: We once arrived at a baseball youth sports field when William was quite young and there was an actual sign posted on the fencing that said: “Your child is not playing for the Atlanta Braves”. How embarrassing it is to watch a lot of parents’ behavior in front of these young children during competitive sports.
“It’s only a game. It can only change people’s lives.” “And there are no winners without losers, no stars are born without others in the collective being sacrificed.” Two more quotes from Beartown. During my years of owning my preschool, the philosophy of competition was to embrace the “everyone is a winner” ideology. This went against everything I believe, but I had to acquiesce in order to be practicing politically correct parenting (as well as educational practices). At our annual Easter Egg Hunt, for instance, some teachers would either sit a child down when they had found their quota(?) of eggs so others would have a chance or some teachers would “even out” the eggs throughout the baskets while the children slept. Is this productive to anyone? Does it instead teach a child that embraces their competitive spirit to not try so hard, you’re going to get praise and a trophy anyway and does it teach the child that maybe slacks off that’s it’s okay to do so, you are going to get praise and a trophy anyway.
In my book, INSERT GIGGLE GIGGLE, Laughing Your Way through Raising Kids and Running a Business, I have a chapter about entitlement, and I give the example about an NFL player making his child give back his trophy that he received by the community organized youth sports association because his team did not deserve a trophy ~ he didn’t deserve a trophy. He explained to his son that when he deserves a trophy, that knowledge is even more valuable than the trophy. That is so right. When we know, with certainty, that we have prepared and achieve, that we have not left “anything on the field”, that is (almost) the reward itself (insert giggle giggle). And, of course, we want the trophy heralding that to everyone else (who wouldn’t?)…(insert giggle giggle).
But let's go back to that athlete that doesn’t achieve the ultimate…the team-player that has experienced the joy of winning and the agony of defeat. “We’re a team. We give each other power. When one man falls, another steps up.” Yep, Beartown. Competitive sports, and especially team sports, create such brain connections of team-work (for lack of a better word), cooperation and partnerships that athletes will search out for the remainder of their lives. “He’s a team player. And the starting point for that is always understanding your own role, and its limitations.” Yep, Beartown again. Athletes understand the beauty and the necessity of a team, of a group of people with a common goal and a strategic plan on how to get there. This is a wonderful thing to know when you aren’t in that 1% that goes on to play your chosen sport forever. This knowledge and attitude “plays” out in your personal and in your professional life in all sorts of ways. You know how to delegate, you know how to encourage, you know how to lick your wounds and quickly move on, you know how to motivate yourself and others. It’s why so many amateur athletes go on to coach their child in sports, or maybe make coaching a career at the high school, college, or even at the professional level, or maybe even other sports-associated careers that still connects them to the magic of being part of a team. It’s not so much that they don’t want to give up their own limelight, but it’s because they want their child or other young people to have that same brain development of what it means to be accountable to a team, to be prepared for the challenge when it comes, and to know that others you count on are prepared as well. What a rewarding life mission....march into battle together, experience the same highs and lows. Then be sure to get your snack afterwards, win or lose (insert giggle giggle). I talk about a philosophy of accountability that I had with my faculty at the preschool that I coined, “Catching the Ball”, in my book……give it a read.
Life, as in sports, is defined not “only by what happens but just as much by what doesn’t”. That’s Backman’s sequel to Beartown, Us Against You. In this sequel, we are left to examine and to see what happened to this small town and to the athletes involved “after”. It’s so eye-opening into society, it will knock your socks off. In my book, I have a chapter that was inspired by the final game in my son, William’s, “baseball life” when his college team lost their chance to advance to the NAIA Baseball World Series his senior year. Heartbreaking for every single one of us doesn’t begin to capture the emotions we were left to deal with after that loss. But most of the aftermath dealt with the “what ifs”. I think that is where so many of us dwell when we face a loss in our sports-absorbed life or really in a lot of life situations. I have remarked throughout my sports observing life, “Why can’t the smart coach on the field see what every single person in the stands seems to be saying?!”. We can also say that about ourselves and people around us in real life situations. Why can't we/they see what needs to be done - the "right" things to do? But I bet if anyone expressed some of these “what if” scenarios to the person we have as our target for the disappointment, they could outline the exact reasoning and the “what ifs” they were dealing with at the time, again in sports and in life. Backman has the answer to that too, “It’s always so easy to say what everyone should have done when you know what they actually did didn’t work.”
Again, just a game?.….doesn’t that sports attitude and analogy apply to almost everything in life. We can lament, why didn’t the quarterback throw the ball down the field on 3rd down instead of running up the middle, why didn’t the shortstop throw the ball to second for the easy out instead of trying, unsuccessfully, to cut down the runner at home plate? Why? What if? It can plague you into despair – until the next game – that’s the beauty in sports, but not always in life.
So, what would have happened if William’s team had won and advanced to the World Series? What would have happened if you had gotten that job that you wanted? What if you had married someone different? Who knows – but what we do know is that it would be something entirely different than where you find yourself today - and would you like that? You know, the butterfly effect, no matter how small the initial event, it has a consequence, sometimes life altering. Have you ever watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” at Christmas ~ mind-blowing to think about the “what if” consequences in life.
Nothing in your life happens in isolation, sports or otherwise. If you let yourself live in the “what ifs”, you will literally drive yourself crazy.
To end this Giggle Chog, Fredrik Backman lets us know, “Our fantasy worlds always have consequences for other people’s realities”. Sit back and think on that for a minute. Winning/losing, your actions big and small, every decision you make, affects not just you.
Next up…..Are You “That” Person? Oops…I think I am!
Always remember to insert a giggle giggle~ Cheers to your team ! Kay 😊