The Fire Within
By Kelly Crigger
My first reaction is to punch the opposing coach in the face, but I know that’s generally frowned upon and would eternally embarrass my son, so I refrain.
My second reaction is to climb into the rafters and shoot the ball with a hunting rifle and every other replacement ball that the refs bring in to stop the game, but I don’t have a scope powerful enough for that just yet.
My third reaction (and the one I eventually execute) is to shut up and take it. But the game seems to last a fucking eternity and as mature and rational as I am, every second is a moment in hell as my child falls deeper and deeper into self-loathing that I will have to build back up with standard parental phrases like “you did your best” and “it’s just a game.”
But it’s not and we all know it.
Sports are the very essence of who we are as Americans. We’re competitive as hell and a loss is always bitter whether it’s the NFL, an Under-9 Youth Soccer League, or the Retired Fucks Bocce Club of Farmville. Competition is one of the biggest building blocks of the red-blooded American and without it, our military would still be a third rate Boy Scout troop like we were in 1916 as World War I devastated Europe and we were too weak (and too indifferent) to get involved.
The rage I feel makes me understand how legendary competitors like Michael Jordan, Randy Couture, and Rocky keep retiring from their sport only to don their uniforms one more time to mount a failed comeback. They’re wired to compete long after their bodies have lost a step and their sports have passed them by. I’m 43 years old, but completely convinced I can grapple with Tim Kennedy on any given day and not only hold my own, but submit him and beat him at his own game.
The reality? No, I can’t.As disturbing as it might be to get upset over a kids game, it’s also comforting to realize that the competitive spirit never goes away…that a part of you still harbors the visceral, animalistic urge to win no matter what. The fire inside me to get down there and show those kids how to beat the living crap out of their competition is a gift that reminds me I’m still passionate about something – not losing. If we were comfortable with being second rate, we’d have no standards and by now would be goose stepping, singing Das Kapital, and eating Borscht. I’m not going to say being competitive is an American thing, but never settling for second best has been a core element of the American Spirit since Bunker Hill.
In the words of another smart, dead guy – “If you have nothing for which you’re willing to fight and care for nothing more than your own personal safety, then you’ll never be free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than yourself.”