I’m about to say something that may surprise some. Or even deeply disappoint others. Considering the fact that I am a wife of a college coach and the mother of two boys that play baseball and a member of a family perpetually tuned into ESPN, this might actually come across as disloyal. You could even call me a traitor. But, here I go anyway.
I don’t really like sports.
I know. HOW DARE I.
Athletic competition is what makes the world go round for at least two out of the three men in my life. They live, sleep and breathe wins and losses. You’d think I’d find a way to make my way on board, right?
I’m trying. But let me state my case first.
Please don’t assume that I don’t like sports because I’m female. Enjoying sports has zero to do with anyone’s gender. In fact, I can barely count on one hand the women in my life who DON’T love sports as much as the men in my family. My closest friends played in college and are wildly competitive about their home teams. They roll their eyes at my disinterest. This post is as much for them as anyone else, actually.
Competition for the sake of competition doesn’t excite me.
I get why competition is important. I do. I understand why winning and earning rewards builds self-esteem and work-ethic. I get why we have to lose sometimes to check our egos and clearly establish where we fall in the world’s pecking order. I get it. And I know we all have to fight for our places and spaces and do whatever we can to prove our worth. So, why would someone want to fight one another recreationally? At the risk of further eye-rolling, I just have to say it: Can’t we all just get along? Just sometimes? Fighting to win is STRESSFUL. The wins never last long. The losses suck out loud. I recognize that my distaste of harsh competition is a symptom of my own, bleeding-heart personality. But being aware of that doesn’t make me like it anymore.
Sports breaks the hearts of those I love.
But this… THIS is the real reason I get so frustrated with sports.
Far too many evenings this spring, I stood there besides the dug out. Dirt kicked into my heels and my work shirt binding uncomfortably. There I stood, far far out of my element, staring into my tear-streaked son’s face.
“What am I doing wrong? Why can’t I hit the ball?”
He was asking ME. He wanted me to HELP him. And I couldn’t. I had no advice to give. Hugging him would certainly not help with his peers just out of ear shot, watching us. So I told him to keep trying, to get back in there. I repeated stuff I heard other parents say, “Watch the ball. Choke up on the bat.” (What the hell does that mean?) And he would look at me, hoping that was the answer, get back out there… and miss again.
And then there were wins and amazing plays and big runs, of course. And it was very exciting. In that moment. It certainly seemed worth it to him. But I just prepared myself for the next game or the next time I saw my son pulling his baseball cap down so that no one would see his choking heartache when he missed that last out.
It’s not just about my son, either. I’ve sat in the bleachers of countless Lacrosse games, staring my husband down. For some reason, watching the players run and carry out his instructions is far more stressful than watching him. Why? Because, no matter how much he prepares them, they don’t always listen, they get it wrong and, I know, a game loss is a reflection on my husband directly. So, I ignore those kids and focus instead on him. I’ve come to learn that there are “good” losses and “bad” wins. So, what those kids are doing doesn’t really matter in my world. His responses to what they do does. Regardless of how they do, his state of mind and level of stress is my only concern. Wins are great, but bad losses carry on for days. They shroud the house in dark disappointment. Wins never make the losses worth it, in my mind.
I suppose this post was finally inspired by the end of my son’s baseball season last week. He has played so well and learned so much. But NONE of that mattered at the bottom of the last inning of that playoff game. We were down 4-2, there was a kid on first, a kid on second, we had two outs and MY kid was up. He swung once, twice, three times… and struck out. Game over. Season over.
He was utterly destroyed.
I know this loss will stick with him possibly forever. He cried himself to sleep three nights in a row.
All of you out there who insist this is teaching him some mighty and important life lesson can suck it, honestly. Good, then, I hope so. But sports brought pain to our home YET AGAIN.
Running after a ball for hours and hours, night after night, for months, MADE MY KID CRY.
Running after a ball for hours and hours, night after night, for months can make my husband toss and turn for that entire season. Or not sleep at all.
I can watch and support and be at every single game they need me to be at — but no one can make me like it.
No 50% chance of a win is ever enough when the hearts of those I love hang in the balance.