Take Two and
Call Me In The Morning…

There were about three minutes left in my daughter’s AAU basketball tournament game last Sunday, and things were not looking good. Her California Ballaz were in the middle of a Los Angeles Laker-esque collapse, getting absolutely pummeled by the Solano Elite squad looking every bit like a bunch of 5th grade Boston Celtics. It had seemed like an eternity since her team had scored, let alone advanced the ball past half court. The groans from our coaches sounded like those of someone being burned at the stake. The parents in our rooting section, having driven all over the Bay Area for the 2nd weekend in a row, hitting the highways at the crack of dawn, and who had once been cheering our girls on like warrior poets, were now begging for mercy.

“Mercy, William…Mercy.” – Braveheart

As the little Lisa Leslie in training repeatedly stole the ball from our guards at half-court and drove the other way for lay-ups, you could see the faces of our girls growing as long as the line at Baskin-Robbins on free-scoop day. The referees knew it too. Just to keep from prolonging the agony any further, they swallowed their whistles, letting minor infractions like traveling or stepping on the sideline go unchecked. The score was so lopsided that no one even complained anymore. “It’s going to be a long ride home,” I said to myself as the buzzer sounded.

As is customary, the coach gave a post game speech (more like a post mortem), telling the girls to hold their heads high and that they displayed great character in playing hard all the way to the end. None of her words seemed to be resonating with the kids, as their dejected faces told a tale that the accumulation of such character comes at a great cost.

This was definitely one of those times that as a parent, I am called into action. I was reminded of something that Rick Reilly, one of my favorite writers, once wrote when asked ‘Why are we here?” He said, “We’re here to be there when our kid has three goals and an assist. And especially when he doesn’t.”

This 45-7 drubbing definitely qualified as the latter, so I was there waiting to give her a big hug before we embarked on that long ride home. But then something amazing happened.

After the coach finished telling them when the next practice would be, the team mom showed up with a cooler full of snacks and suddenly, all was right with the world. Their faces went from “the – principal – just – called – and – said – that – you – and – your – friends – were – seen – writing – your – names – on – the – tables – in – the - cafeteria” to “guess what? I just got you front row tickets to the Cheetah Girls AND Hannah Montana!” It was like Christmas, their birthdays and the last day of school all rolled into one.

If they hadn’t still been in their little grey and red uniforms, you wouldn’t have known that these were the same girls that had just been spanked all over the court by Lady K.G. and pint-sized Paulette Pierce. I don’t know why I was so amazed at this phenomenon on this particular day, because I had seen it happen dozens of times over the past few years. Maybe it’s because it was basketball. Perhaps it was me projecting my emotions on to them, remembering that I was a pretty competitive kid that took losing a game about as hard as some might take losing a loved one. Whatever it was, it got me to thinking. Kids have Ho-Ho’s and Capri Suns to wipe away all of the pain and make things all better. What do adults have?

I took a poll of some of my friends and I got some amusing, if not predictable responses.

ME: You just got singled out at the staff meeting and raked over the coals for the poor performance of the group that you manage, as they lowered the bar further than was previously believed to be possible.

Friend #1: Let’s get Hennessy crackin’ and I’ll be good as new.

ME: You just got caught doing 97 on I-10 on the way home from work, which will surely send your insurance premium soaring.

Friend #2: Sex! As long as my man “breaks me off some” when I get home, it’s all good. I’ll feel better.

ME: Your best friend just ran off to Turks and Caicos with your fiancé.

Friend #3: Haagen Daz AND Hennessy…and sex with the next person I see.

As I listened to their responses, I was still not convinced. Somehow, the innocence of youth allows us to wipe the slate clean with a Hostess cupcake. Unfortunately, the complicated adult world does not seem to allow us to settle the score so succinctly.

What do you think?