By Dom Cioffi
Like most people, I live under the false sense that I’m actually in control of my life.
Even though I’ve spent countless hours reading and contemplating the idea that free will and control are illusionary, I still manage to approach my day-to-day life under the perception that I’m directing the show.
This miscalculation about life became acutely evident this past weekend.
My ten-year-old son is a baseball player and serious enough about the sport to have joined a fall baseball league, which means he gets twice as much playing time as your average kid.
I grew up watching my father play softball, which subsequently had me playing baseball as a youth and in my younger adult years, as part of several men’s softball teams. Because of this, I have a good grasp of the sport – good enough to coach at the younger levels, at least.
My son is a solid ballplayer, but it didn’t come easy. While he is naturally athletic, he’s also naturally laid back and as such, many times would be just as happy laying on the couch with his iPad rather than practicing baseball.
So being the pushy father, I am constantly harping on him to come outside after work to play catch with me. And on the weekends I’m apt to grab a bucket of balls and coerce him into batting or fielding practice.
He’ll bitch and moan initially, but by the time we’re through, he’s usually pretty jazzed about the experience.
Now, of the countless things that my father imparted to me concerning athletics, one of the most significant was the idea that if you were going to play a sport seriously, you better look the part. I never neglected this fact when I was an athlete and I make sure to impart it to my players as a coach.
As a parent and a coach, I am constantly mortified when I see youngsters show up for a game wearing either the wrong clothing components or an improperly prepared uniform. In my mind, breaking one or both of these rules is as bad as missing a sign or forgetting a play.
Whether it’s baseball, basketball, football or the debate team, every child is given a full uniform at the beginning of the season. They are not only expected to have that uniform cleaned and ready for each contest, but they should also wear it in such a way that they look like a serious competitor.
So, substituting day-glo green socks in place of your team’s navy blue socks is not only disrespectful, but it makes you look ridiculous. And parents, I don’t care how big of a stink your kid puts up, you should never allow him or her to make ill-conceived substitutions with team apparel. Kid’s don’t get this fact naturally – they have to be taught.
Now, I may go a bit over the top, but I’m very serious about my son’s uniform and the way it’s prepared for each game. I want him to look the part so he can play the part.
I wash everything immediately following each game and use bleach to make sure all the stains are removed. I then fold his entire uniform and on game day I lay it out with his hat, cleats, matching belt, and sunglasses (if it’s sunny). He’s also got matching batting gloves and a carry bag to complete the look.
I admittedly still help him get dressed prior to each game, making sure his socks are pulled up high with his game pants tucked up just below the knee (we opt for the old school look rather than the now-popular pants-to-the-ankles, look preferred by many of today’s MLB players).
I then tuck in his jersey and thread his belt, making sure the jersey is not too loose or too tucked in.
I do all of this so when he walks out onto the field at game time, he looks like a serious competitor.
So imagine my dismay this past weekend when I suddenly realized that his Saturday game was at 11:30 a.m. and not 2:30 p.m. as I had previously thought. I immediately went into panic mode since my realization came at 11:10 a.m. and I was 10 miles away from home.
I frantically called my wife and told her to get him ready ASAP and to meet me at the field.
My mood got worse when my wife told me that I had neglected to wash his uniform, telling me that she had to yank it out of the dirty laundry all musty, wrinkly and stained from top to bottom.
I wanted to crawl inside a hole when I got to the field and saw him: his belt was missing, he had on the wrong socks, his shirt was hanging out, his pants were uneven down his legs, and his cleats were barely tied. Not to mention how dirty he looked.
I was mortified. Every rule I had ever followed had been broken. He looked like a pathetic mess.
And the result: He went 3-for-3, threw a guy out from third and pitched a scoreless inning in relief.
So much for imparting control!
This week’s feature, “Skeleton Twins,” also features a story about control, except in this case it involves a brother and sister who lost control after the death of their father.
Starring comedians Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader, “Skeleton Twins” is a dark story about how unresolved issues can crop up later in life.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a poignant little story about the hardships of middle age. Just don’t go in expecting many laughs.
An unbridled “C+” for “Skeleton Twins.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Dom Cioffi