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Thursday
May042017

You Win Some, You Lose Some

We’re in the midst of baseball season, and I hate to tell you, but I must: it’s not going all that well.  We’re having a losing season.  The boys have won a few games, glory be, but our losses dominate.  In one game we blew a ten-run lead; we’ve had hitting slumps and pitching slumps; we’ve had mistakes and overthrows and have watched a ground ball roll into the outfield through the legs of – not one, not two – three boys.  At one game the kids were chanting this inane rhyme that concludes with “we are the best team in his-to-ry,” and I slid off the bleachers and I gave my kids the universal sign for ZIP IT.  I later told them you don’t chant that when your record is 4-9. 

This season, I’ve discovered that baseball parents are insane.  And when I refer to parents, I also mean me.  It takes me about 3.6 seconds to go from sweetly cheering for my children to glaring at the opposing coach and cursing the day he was born.  Baseball season has reminded me that I have a cold, black heart (first discovered at Disneyland in 2013).  I find myself sitting in the bleachers muttering incantations when my kid hits a pop fly, praying that little Johnny in the outfield will totally blow his big chance and drop that ball like a hot potato.  I know virtually nothing about baseball, and yet I say things like, “That looked like a strike to me,” although I keep it quiet so I don’t get kicked out for heckling the underage umpires.  Who wants to hassle a twelve-year-old who’s just trying to get some money for a new skateboard?  Me, apparently.  When, in the midst of a post-loss self-esteem crisis, I asked Mando if I was becoming an annoying baseball mom, he very gently informed me that when the ball is hit, I should not stand up and scream, “CATCH IT CATCH IT CATCH IT!”  He said this “might be a little stressful” for the kids and “doesn’t really help.”  Seeing as I REQUESTED this constructive criticism, I spent the rest of the night glaring at him and saying things like, “Why are you always evaluating me?  Why can’t you just accept me for who I AM?”  He likes this.

When we left the game this past weekend (another loss, sigh) we were hot and tired and discouraged.  In addition to the team’s record, the boys have had their individual ups and downs; it’s tough to hide out in a baseball game.  There’s enough time for the crowd’s attention to shift, so one second you’re doing nothing and then, a second later, you better be doing precisely the right something because now everyone is watching (don’t screw it up).  We all know, on a reasonable, cognitive, sane parent level, that kids’ sports aren’t merely about winning, and that it’s just a game, and that no scholarships are being handed out this week.  But still: I prefer winning, because I simply find it to be more pleasant.  The boys have said as much: “I’m tired of losing.”  And there’s no adequate response, except to say it like it is: sometimes life is like that.  Sometimes it’s just a losing season. 

Effort and results don’t always correlate.  You can work hard and hit the gym and still come up woefully short.  You can practice and practice and still strike out at every game.  You can eat the kale and still get sick.  You can lecture until you’re blue in the face and your children will still insist on making that idiotic choice.  No matter what, some people will never want to be your friend.  So little, it turns out, is under your control. 

In a losing season, the only way forward is through.  And a losing season doesn’t have to be a total loss.  If we let go, we’ll find that a losing season offers wisdom: empathy and patience and grit.  We’re given the opportunity to become more resilient, more focused; as we do, we find the courage to burn away the chaff of our identity.  What we do, what we achieve, our roles and titles and accomplishments: it’s all precarious and temporary.  And as the chaff burns away (as it was meant to, since it burns so readily), we’re left with a truer, more solid version of our self: less illusion, more truth; less weight, more freedom; less ego, more soul. 

But, sadly, the baseball team doesn’t appreciate this philosophy of mine, because it has no impact on the amount of Big League Chew they can jam into their mouths.  For now, we’ll stick with the elementary school drill down: you win some, you lose some. 

So go down swinging (but NOT at the high ones, for Pete’s sake).