4.15.2012

Winning and Losing

Halfway through Aaron's first baseball game yesterday, I sidled up to his coach and asked what the score was.  He smiled and winked at me and said, "It's 5-5 . . . and it'll be 10-10 at the end of the game."  It took me a while to figure out what he meant, but only because the thought never occurred to me that no one cared what the score was except me. 
 
When the "tie" was officially announced at the conclusion of the requisite four innings, everyone cheered.  Aaron squealed, "A tie!  A tie!"  I asked Aaron what that meant, and he very eloquently and sweetly replied, "It's when both teams win at the same time." 

Some parents and educators may cheer such a statement, and I don't begrudge Aaron for his perspective or anyone who has taught it to him.  But, call me old-fashioned and backwards, but it's not for no reason that ties are described as "like kissing your sister."  Baseball, of all sports, is great for learning the great life lessons of success and failure and winning and losing. 

I had ample opportunity to experience the pain of failing as a young Little Leaguer.  I'm not saying I wasn't good - I made two All-Star teams - but that only amplified the pain because the stakes were higher.  I made the last out of the game that eliminated my first All-Star team from the tournament, and it was on a strikeout in which I wasn't even close.  I recall crying inconsolably over the failure. 

Some may call me a masochist, but I hope Aaron has the same kinds of experiences.  Failure that is public (with a large crowd cheering you on) and final (it doesn't get much more final than making the last out) is part of life.  And it's good for you to taste some of its bitterness as a wee lad, than to inoculate yourself from the possibility and therefore from the opportunity to fight through the pain, deal with the loss, and figure out how to learn from it. 

Again, baseball is good for such experiences.  A colleague of mine who is quite good at basketball always tells me he likes basketball because when you mess up, it's not long until you have another chance to redeem yourself.  Whereas in baseball, it's not uncommon to fail spectacularly - strike out in a big moment, or drop a lazy fly ball - and not be able to make atonement for a long, long time.  (Ask Ryan Howard.) 

In life, there are "basketball" moments - you mess up, but right around the corner, there's a chance to succeed - but there are also "baseball" moments -  you mess up, and that mess-up just lays out there for an uncomfortably long time.  As hard as it is for a parent to see their kid fail in a public and final way, I hope Aaron will have such experiences, and that I can help him get through them and be better for it.  For all their worth in forging character, I sure as heck don't wish to numb Aaron from them.

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