Sunday, December 4, 2011

Think Before You Speak: A Cautionary Tale

When I was babysitting my nephews last weekend, I spent a lot of time talking with my older nephew, Daniel.  We talked about all kinds of stuff, from music to pro sports, to all the sports with which he’s been involved.  He especially enjoys hearing stories about his father’s childhood as well as my own stories.

As we were talking about his burgeoning floor hockey career, I told him this cautionary tale.

I’ve written before about the 4 years I played in a co-ed pick-up hockey league, back in the 90s.  There were about 20 of us in the “league” (mostly hockey parents) and we would divide up into teams each week. 

Sometimes we would be short on numbers and some of the parents’ kids would join in.  It was especially important that we had two goalies.  Not just anyone can throw on the pads and try to stop pucks, without hurting themselves.  Such was the case one night when Ellen, one of our usual goalies and founder of the group, couldn’t make it.  In her place, she sent a boy that played goalie on her kids’ team.  The boy was 15 or 16, I’d say.

It’s often said that goalies are the “characters” of the team and that certainly held true with this kid.  He came in the locker room and as we were changing into our gear, proclaimed loudly how he was going to slam the door on us old people and pitch a shutout.

No way you geezers are scoring on me,” he said.  “I’m younger and faster; this ought to be an easy night.

Robert, our other goalie and an attorney in real life, tried to advise the kid that he probably shouldn’t be running his mouth, lest he provoke an unpleasant response.  But the kid wouldn’t stop.  He continued to crow about how we wouldn’t be able to score on him.

The kid should have listened to Robert, because all of us that ended up on the kid’s opposing team vowed that we were going to provide a little educational opportunity. 

We went out there and won the game 8-0.  Everyone that scored took the opportunity to emphasize the lesson to the kid.  I scored two goals myself, and after each one, screamed at him, “Shutout, huh?  Shutting the door on us, huh?  How’s that for a buncha old people?  Try shutting your yap next time.”

It’s hard to be subtle when you’re teaching a life lesson. 

Later, back in the locker room, I saw Robert talking to the boy again.  He had his arm around him, saying, “Repeat after me.

I’m just going to come out and do my best.
“I’m glad to be here and hope I can give everyone a good game.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to skate with everyone here tonight.”

It was like that scene in Bull Durham where Crash Davis teaches Nuke LaLoosh all the classic interview clichés.

This time, the boy was soaking it up like a sponge.  I hope my nephew did as well.
Bluz, after a hard night on the ice. (OK, it was a Halloween get-up, but I had my real gear on…)

The Mojo Boogie
The Steelers game is not on TV here this week, so it’s another day at the sports bar for me.  The last 3 times I went to the bar, I wore the same thing and we won, so I won’t be breaking the streak today.
Black Steelers polo w/ white piping, yellow-fronted hat with Steelers socks.

13 comments:

  1. Trash,
    Streak unbroken, but I can't say the same for the Bengals. They got their asses kicked 35-7. A good time was had by all (that weren't Ratbird fans).

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  2. Good life lesson, and great mojo. Eat your wheaties, it's a short week.

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  3. I love it when people get what's coming to them.

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  4. DG,
    I'm right out of Wheaties this week. How about Diet Coke and Snickers bars?

    I'm taking next Friday off, so the late night won't be an issue. I just hope that the Brownies put up as feeble a fight as they did against the Ratbirds today.

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  5. Jessica,
    Yeah, we were highly motivated to provide a life lesson for the little punk.

    You know, all this time later, I wonder if it sunk in?

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  6. I'm a terrible trash-talker and also a terrible winner. "I'm really sorry I beat you; I know how much this meant to you." So I kind of admire this kid, although obviously I'd think to make sure I had actual skillz before spewing shutout talk.

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  7. Mundane
    Yeah, the kid talked a good game, but didn’t quite have the skills to back it up. Back in the day, we used to call that “writing checks with your mouth that your ass can’t cash.”

    I was never one to trash talk; I much preferred to let the game to the talking and let the chips fall where they may.

    This one game was an anomaly and not just because I actually scored two goals. I was rarely lavish in my post-goal celebrations. I’d usually just emit a simple guttural howl and then bump gloves with my teammates. I never involved the goalie. But in this instance I felt it necessary to highlight the boy’s short-sightedness in evaluating his opponents that night. Loudly. ‘Cuz I’m all about the education of our young.

    Didn’t matter if I scored or someone else did. I’d skate around him going, ”Nice reflexes boy! Where’s all that speed you were telling us about? How ‘bout that shot? Not bad for old men, huh? Better go get your mama; you need some help in that cage.”

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  8. Age is a number, says the woman who just turned 40 today. :-) I can't tell you how many times I have outrun and outstretched kids while subbing for gym class. Ha is all I can say, even though it is not so nice.

    Great game yesterday. We sat behind Andy Dalton's parents. Super nice people. Before I knew who they were and after we scored for the second time, I told them not to worry, that the Steelers would give up a few scores towards the end. Once the Steelers were at 35, I told them to forget what I said. I think the drubbing has been the best part of my birthday weekend (followed closely by the free beer and free parking).

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  9. Facie,
    Happy Birthday to you then. Just think of 40 as "30 plus hard-won experience."

    Free beer and parking? What section were YOU sitting in? "I want to go to there."

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  10. Thinking before I speak is a lesson I have yet to learn. At this point, I'm pretty sure it's hopeless.

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  11. After having my ass handed to me a number of times, I've learned not to get cocky and to never underestimate ANYONE. Let's hope the kid has had the same experience.

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  12. Kernut,
    It doesn't matter as much if you're not talking nonsense in the first place.

    Mrs. Bachelor Girl,
    Always best to save the talking for AFTER the game.

    I wonder if this problem originates with parents letting their kids win at everything. Next thing you know, the kid goes out to compete for real and expects to dominate and then finds out that the world doesn't always work like it does back home.

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