Let’s Just Have Some Fun


Now Playing: Nothing, splitting headache this morning.

My son, Garrett, had a rough soccer practice last night. Before it even started, he got knocked down by his coach, who’s about 6-3, 280 or so (conservatively). He was shaken up a little but basically all right. But the night got worse for him.

Coach Matt, who is a really good guy whom I admire a lot for the time he spends coaching youth sports, is generally a levelheaded guy. He likes to win but doesn’t go overboard in basketball or flag football, other sports Garrett has played. He’s different when it comes to soccer, though. That’s his sport. Anyway, last night he had the kids run laps … and laps … and laps … and laps, all before the drills even started. I thought it was excessive, even dangerous given the high pollen counts (Garrett has a slight case of asthma and doesn’t breathe too well, anyway. It was particularly tough on him.) It’s a tough spot to be in. I like Matt, I’ve helped him coach before and I don’t want to second-guess him. But as the weather gets warmer, I might have to.

At any rate, it got me thinking about my days in Jacksonville coaching basketball (ages 10-12) and baseball (the coach-pitch variety, for ages 7-9). My goal for both the kids and me was to have fun. As it turned out, I had good players and was pretty successful, too. In basketball, that is. Baseball, not so much (disclaimer here: I was one of the worst baseball players of all time growing up. I took the coaching gig because the league director, a good friend, was in a bind).

During my years, five in basketball and two in baseball, I was fortunate to have the best parents in the world. Never had a complaint. Not even so much as a cross word. Part of that was by design. When I scouted kids for the draft, I looked for good kids, even if they weren’t as talented as some of the players. As it turned out, I got talented players, too. But I figured good kids meant good parents, and I was right. Nobody ever complained about playing time – I split it as fairly as possible, going beyond the league rules for participation.

The only bad experience I had was with an assistant coach. I actually had to fire my baseball assistant the first year I coached that sport. He was really hard on his son, and he started sniping at other players, too. Couldn’t abide it. Told him he had to go, even though I knew it meant he’d probably pull his son – by far my best player – off the team, too. But the other kids had a much better time that season and the next year, when we added some more players, we were pretty good.

I finally quit youth coaching after my fifth year in basketball when I became convinced that the refs had cheated us in the final game. The other team had a player who had recovered from a brain tumor. He was bigger and stronger than my guys and never got a foul called on him. (This wasn’t the beginning of my dook paranoia. It was well under way by then.)

Once the season was over, I realized I had gotten too competitive. It was all about me – not the kids. Not the right formula. I hadn’t had fun that season, and I don’t think the kids did, either. That’s the ultimate sin.

“There are blondes and blondes and it is almost a joke word nowadays. All blondes have their points, except perhaps the metallic ones who are as blond as a Zulu under the bleach and as to disposition as soft as a sidewalk. There is the small cute blond who cheeps and twitters, and the big statuesque blonde who straight-arms you with an ice-blue glare. There is the blonde who gives you the up-from-under look and smells lovely and shimmers and hangs on your arm and is always very very tired when you take her home. … There is the soft and willing and alcoholic blonde who doesn’t care what she wears as long as it is mink or where she goes as long as it is the Starlight Roof and plenty of dry champagne. There is the small perky blonde who is a little pal and wants to pay her own way and is full of sunshine and common sense and knows judo from the ground up and can toss a  truck driver over her shoulder without missing more than one sentence out of the editorial in the Saturday Review. There is the pale, pale blonde with anemia of some non-fatal but incurable type. She is very languid and very shadowy and she speaks softly out of nowhere and you can’t lay a finger on her because in the first place you don’t want to and in the second place she is reading The Waste Land or Dante in the original, or Kafka or Kierkegaard or studying Provencal. …And lastly there is the gorgeous show piece who will outlast three kingpin racketeers and then marry a couple of millionaires at a million a head and end up with a pale rose villa at Cap d’Antibes, an Alfa-Romeo town car complete with pilot and co-pilot, and a stable of shopworn aristocrats, all of whom she will treat with the affectionate absent-mindedness of an elderly duke saying goodnight to his butler.”
– The Long Goodbye
, Raymond Chandler

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