Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Shame in Victory

“This is the one”, I thought to myself. We’d been at it two hours. It was raining hard now and the sun was dipping further and further behind the mountains to the west. My shoes were soaked. My knees were scraped and bleeding. I analyzed my surroundings and stared hard into the eyes of my opponent. My Goliath. He towered over me, even as he crouched at the ready. “He’ll be expecting a juke”, I mused, “and this time I’ll take it right at him.” I smirked as I ran through the process in my head. This was the one. It had to be the one. I don’t think I could take much more abuse and failure. My body and spirit couldn’t handle it. My muscles tensed as I prepared my assault. I was David. My stone, a soccer ball. And Goliath was going down.

I sprang. My heart pounded as I dribbled the ball ever nearer to my nemesis. He deftly bounced from side to side as I approached, chest heaving, lips curled into a snarl. I faked a juke to the left. He took the bait. I instantly popped the ball back to the right with the outside of my foot and barreled straight into Goliath’s former position. “Hahaha!” I shouted, “I got y-UGH! My entire body was suddenly thrown from its feet and flung into the chain link fence to my right, sending shocks of pain through my right shoulder. Goliath was big, but he was nimble. He had caught my left hip just as I was passing and drove me into the fence. The ball lay motionless on the grass.

Goliath casually picked the ball up and rolled it back to its starting spot. “You were saying?” he said flatly. Emotionless and cool. I began to sob. The rainwater on my cheeks gave way to saline tears. I wanted to go home. I wanted this to end. I wanted nothing more than to get past my enemy so I could finally go in the house and get dry. Goliath must have sensed my despair and somehow found compassion in its monstrous black heart. “That’s probably good for tonight. Your mother has times table flash cards for you still. This is 3rd grade now…math can be a bugger.” “Ok dad”, I whimpered. He put his arm around me as we walked toward the house. “I thought you had me on that last one buddy. Good move.” He tousled my hair. I smiled through my tear-filled eyes. I was happy.

Ladies and gentlemen, I have never ever, in the history of my life, beaten my father at any reasonable sport. I have no memory of my dad taking it easy on me. None. Even at basketball, my strongest sport, my old man found ways to win. He has had multiple knee surgeries and enough ankle sprains to turn his tendons into snot inside his shoe, but the man is a competitor. He is a beast. Since I was old enough to touch a ball or hold a racket, my father has not once allowed me to win. And I’ve tried every avenue imaginable to beat him.

Our last tennis match was in 1996. I was 19 and about to leave for Europe for 2 years. Somehow, deep inside, I knew this would be the last time we would face each other. Dad was 51 years old and was running out of cartilage. I’d planned the match for weeks. I knew his weaknesses were his knees and I planned to exploit my advantage to its fullest. I ran him like a dog. Up to the net, back to the base line, side to side. Cut shots, lobs, dink serves, overheads. Somehow the bulldog managed to chase most of them down. His plan was simple…just hit the ball back to me and eventually I’d break down mentally and beat myself. His plan worked of course. He took me 4-6 7-5 6-4 in the most grueling, filthy tennis match ever played. When we were done his knees were swollen to the size of cantaloupes and I had a blister on my thumb larger than a quarter. We barely made it out of the building, but we hobbled out smiling.

Oddly enough I’m grateful for it. I am grateful that I was taught to compete. I was taught to apply myself 100% in every contest, whether it be a championship basketball game or a contest to see how many ping-pong balls I could consecutively throw into a glass jar. I am by no means as competitive as my father. I’m not sure anyone is. But I am grateful for the example I was shown. But even my father, as rabid a competitor as he is, would think that the story linked here is atrocious and foul.

A high school girl’s basketball team beat their opponent 100-0 last week. If you are thinking this happens all the time, you are wrong. NFL teams running up the score can’t be compared. The U of U doing onside kicks in the 4th quarter of play while already destroying its opponent isn’t remotely the same. These were not two teams on a level playing field. These were not two teams that belonged in the same sporting universe. The victim here has a grand total of 20 girls in its school…not necessarily a large pool to select talent from. This school is specifically for kids with learning disabilities like dyslexia and ADHD. The offending school deployed a full-court press for all but the final 4 minutes of play, essentially rocking a 45-minute layup drill. The victim school got a grand total of seven shots off. TOTAL.

The coach responsible for the blowout was almost immediately fired and the small Christian high school issued a formal apology and forfeit of the game. I think that is fair and appropriate. The coach, however, defends his decision and says the game was played with honor. I couldn’t disagree more. There is nothing honorable in blowing out a team of disabled girls by a score of 100-0. It is shameful and should be an embarrassment that follows him the rest of his life.

I hope the young ladies involved have learned a valuable lesson. There is a time for competition and there is a time for compassion, and they CAN coexist in the same contest. It is why 2nd, 3rd, and 4th stringers are brought into games. There is an aspect of sportsmanship that has nothing to do with aggressiveness and tenacity. It involves respect and fairness. I will always be grateful to my philistine father. He taught me to be a badass AND a gentleman on the court. Sometimes the gentleman surfaces slowly, or not at all, but I know he’s lurking and he’s always there to make me feel stupid when I act like an idiot.


ZAC said...

Tyler, I can see you have talent writing. I'm looking forward to reading this blog and neglecting my children to do it...hahaha!

Heather D. White said...

Your writing is always entertaining. But this one was especially meaningful AS WELL AS entertaining. I love that. The whole "junk" theory is classic. Might have to copy that one for my own blog! Fab!