It’s a game.
It’s a game.
It’s a game.
Truly, it is only a game. Not that you can’t take the game seriously. Not that you can’t work you buttocks to the bare bone to prepare to compete. Not that you can’t compete with the very marrow of your human existence. All of those things are good. But, in the end, it is only a game.
I am a competitor. I will scrape and scrap for any victory, no matter how insignificant the victory or the competition can be. If there is a contest to be had, my game face sits constantly at the ready. Whether organized sports, recreational sports, family game night or kicking/blocking 32 oz plastic cup field goals through my president’s room door off the living room of the fraternity house, it is game on. But, it always remains a game. No crying, no whining, no takeover of one’s life…It’s a game.
After my eighth grade year, we had a very good summer baseball team. We were too cool for school in the late 1970’s. As recent graduates of Catholic school, we were good and we had uniforms fashioned after the old rainbows style of the Houston Astros, only with a blue spot on the front of jersey instead of a star. Our head coach worked as a salesman for our team sponsor, Spotbilt (hence the blue spot) and with his job it meant he was out of town sometimes for games. When he was gone, our gruff assistant, Ray, would take over. Ray was a much-older brother of one of my teammate friends and a friend of my oldest brother. He was a mountain of a man, with a hippie inclination, who loved music and sports. He was a great influence on me while I was growing up, needless to say.
One night, right before the championship game of the end of season tournament, Ray said one of the damnedest things I had every heard. His wisdom that night has stuck in a prominent place in my brain all these years. It is the perfect thought for a rant on perspective and sports.
Before our games, our very Catholic head coach would do the very Catholic sports thing of praying for the quick and bloodless domination of our upcoming opponent. It was always one of those awkward moments in which newly minted teenage boys found difficult to keep from giggling and laughing, but the head coach made us do it with religious purpose and consistency. The championship game rolls around and, lo and behold, the head coach is out of town on a sales trip. We warm up, take pregame infield and meet down the first base line for the usual “biggest game of your life, now let’s pray an Our Father for the complete vanquishing of our opponent” speech our head coach always gave. Coach Ray fills in for the head coach. Ray talks about how much fun it is to play a championship game, how hard we have worked to get here and how we need to go out, relax and have a good time. But, when we all put a hand in the team circle to say the prayer, Ray turns and walks away toward the dugout.
We look in confusion to each other. After a few seconds, one of our real smart asses on the team (one of many smart asses on that team, I assure you.) says, “Hey Ray Ray, aren’t we going to say a prayer?”
Ray stops dead in his 6’ 4” 280 lb. tracks, pauses for a moment of thought, then returns to the team huddle. The look in Ray’s eyes spelt doom for the young smartass who had the nerve to speak up and say what we were all thinking, but with the “Ray Ray” thrown in. Ray stops, looks each of us squarely in the eye and says,
“Boys, this game tonight is important. This sport of baseball is a great game, it is important. But, if God gives a shit about the outcome of this baseball game, we are all in a hell of a bad way. Now go out and play goddamn baseball while you still can.”
Perspective and sports. Not always an easy marriage. But, it is just a game…