Saturday, April 02, 2011

Survival of the Nicest

Driving her to her game, parking the car, then walking behind my daughter as she hurried to her soccer game this afternoon, I could sense her tension. It was palpable. Today her team was playing a team of girls who on average were two years older, and therefore that much bigger and more experienced.

Also, a number of those opponents were eighth-graders who go to her school, and it turns out there has been a bunch of "trash-talking" this week, with the older girls telling the younger ones, "We are going to crush you."

Hmmm. This is where I have to slow down, look inside, and consider how I really feel about the idea of competition.

This, of course, goes beyond sports, as competition fuels our capitalist economy, and on many other levels, triggers primeval fears inside a species of hairless monkeys with big brains always alert for threats to our survival.

So, yes, it cuts deep.


You know something? When I am on the sideline, watching a game in which one of my kids is playing, I do hope their team wins. Very much. But I also hope that my child plays well, regardless of the score.

And many times, I hope that my player feels that she or he played well more than anything else.

This is an emotional world.

I have the privilege of being the parent of kids who do relatively well in things like sports and academics, so I am always proud of how well they have done, but I also have to admit that there is also something else going on inside me as I cheer for them.

And that is as a man.

As a man, I want only to win, only to be the best. I want to be the most successful, the most powerful and the kindest, sweetest, most generous, and feared human on the planet.

Why is this so?


My little girl's team was not crushed today, but they did lose, 0-3. She was exhausted afterward, whether from the heat or the defeat, who can say.

But she played hard and she played well.

In this life all you can do is the best that you can do. If you encounter someone able and willing to beat you or lie to you and screw you over, you probably will lose that fight.

But their "wins" are pyrrhic in nature.

I continue to believe that the decent and kind and true will prevail, not the cheaters, liars, betrayers, etc. Especially in emotional terms, it is and has never been about winning or losing; it is and always has been about how you play the game.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Opening Nights

What was a very brief "heat wave" turned into a night with a cutting wind as I watched out at the side of the pitch.

Lots of anticipation as the boys team from Manchester, UK, comes to play our guys this Sunday night. Big opportunity for this still inexperienced team with lots of raw talent to face players who grew up on soccer, morning, noon and night. It probably will be a lopsided contest, but who knows?

Picked up my youngest son from Virgin America today after his visit down at Cal Tech in Pasadena with my oldest son. What a great spring break for this academically oriented young man.

Fantasy baseball is back along with the real thing and this year I'm in two leagues -- the second one with all three of my boys. Now that my favorite sport is back, for real and in fantasy, and the spring soccer seasons are underway, I will once again be able to distract myself as I did last year from July until November.

Math homework with my daughter, cooking the kids meals, babysitting my grandkids, and driving all over the city and the Bay Area keeps me from having much time to reflect about all of the unpleasant things.

They're still there, still mystifying, illogical, maddening, disgusting, and capable of inducing hopelessness in a moment's notice, but I'm less likely to stay in those moments now.

Maybe the key to happiness is distracting yourself from reality to such an extent that you know longer know or care about all the crappy things that happen in life. The people who disappoint you, or worse; the work opportunities you do not get; the friendships lost; the lives of people you cared for, now gone; the relentless financial pressures in a recession without end; the worries of a parent, a single person unskilled at being single, a man aging who doesn't want to age at all.

There's nothing "graceful" about any of this; it may be in most ways a sordid mess, but being distracted by the better things makes you the last person to notice -- or care -- any longer.

After all, the brutality of a lonely, cold, winter of despair has passed now. There are flowers everywhere. New friendships blossom. The birds sing. Jasmine, wisteria, rosemary scents fill the house.

Best of all -- Go Giants!


Thursday, March 31, 2011

Opening Days

Unless you are a baseball fan, it's extremely hard to understand Americans -- our history, our dreams, and our passions. This is our national game because it reflects who we are in numbers, pace, strategy and -- most importantly -- in our dreams.

The Major League Baseball season started today, and for fans of the defending World Champion Giants, it was a sad outcome, losing 1-2 to the hated Dodgers.

But there are still 161 other regular season games -- a long time for the best team to prevail.

I'll say it here clearly -- the Giants will win their division, and probably the National League pennant, and appear again in the World Series.

But that will all become clear half a year from now, when everything about all of our lives will have changed in ways none of us can imagine.

A year ago, if you had told me what I would face in the second half of last year, I would have laughed in your face.

As it turned out, I was a fool, a know-nothing. My entire world got rocked in ways both good and bad, and I'm still not able to explain any of it to myself in logical terms.

But I do know this much. The Giants won the World Series. They were winners.

Even as I celebrated their victory, I found out that for every winner there is a loser.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Report Cards

It's spring-break week for the public schools here, and a chance for my two high school students to check out various colleges. It's hard to believe how soon they will be waving good-bye and heading off to begin their adult lives, though I've still got a bit of time to get used to that idea.

My 16-year-old sophomore toured U-C, Santa Cruz, today. Of course, his college choices will be based not only on academics, but also on his soccer skills.

Meanwhile, my fourteen-year-old freshman is down at Cal Tech tonight with his oldest brother, a PhD candidate, learning what a neuroscience lab looks like.

I remember my visit to that same lab a couple years back, part of a very fun road trip.


Of course, I still have one younger child who is not thinking about college yet but about high school. Tomorrow she presents her science project -- melting chocolate. She has been working for days to get her poster just right.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Welcome Sophia!