Friday, May 14, 2010

Cardboard cutouts

Maybe Facebook isn't the best place to let your guard down. Keep it simple. Stay close to the surface. Most people are happier if expectations are kept to a minimum. The more savvy among us do something like this: they trot out cardboard cutouts of themselves, with seemingly endless supplies of shallow status updates and photo albums highlighting the stuff they've consumed. They spotlight solely on their lifestyle, never revealing a single insight into what makes them tick or what makes them feel vulnerable.

Try it. This will be best for everyone. Here's how:
  • Old friends will conclude you've done well for yourself, and be happy for your success in life. This is ideal because, as it turns out, you'll probably never (ever) be in the same room with any of these friends again.
  • New friends will bask in the glow of your awesomeness, and feel that little extra euphoria from knowing they chose wisely when they chose you. And further, this is the shiny surface with which you can explore the shallow depths together. You'll have new best friends in no time.
  • Former friends of a wide and varying ilk will envy your sparkly awesomeness when confronted with its magnitude. They already hated you; no biggie. Now, with very little effort on your part, you've confirmed all over again why they hate you.
This is one way to treat your friends. It's not your fault Facebook took what essentially amounts to a one or a zero in a database field and concluded friendship. They could've went with "associate" or "acquaintance" or "chum" or "well-wisher" or "cohort" or "buddy."

But they chose "friend."

And it's clear, the cardboard cutout route isn't cutout for friendship.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Put me in coach

My son's new tee ball coach is me. I'm not really sure how it happened. An old teammate called last week and asked if I'd be interested in helping out. My son was with a group of unplaced players in the downtown area. Without much thought I said yes.

We play a lot of catch at my house, and hit the ball across the road, and generally have fun. It's not too long before other kids from around the neighborhood are gathered around participating too. So, it can't be too much different from that, right?

That was Friday. After mulling it over a few days and nights I'm not so sure anymore. This is Tee Ball. The kids are 5-6 years old. The skill levels are all over the map, from zero to barely more than zero. Attention spans not withstanding, this will be their very first exposure to organized baseball -- America's favorite pastime.

It's not really a matter of knowing the game and building fundamentals. I know baseball like the back of my hand, having spent my entire youth playing every spring and summer.

This is coaching. This is important. Like the baseball gods of Cooperstown saw fit to entrust me with the very essence of the game: not the doing, not the greatness, not the achievement, nor the legacy. No. I'm talking about the soul of the game. That which ignites in young kids, turns to love or hatred in an instant, and burns for a lifetime.

And then... parents. Their trust is bigger than baseball or any other sport. They trust that a simple decision to sign their kids up for a fun activity like tee ball won't result in permanent scarring -- not only of precious, delicate young minds but the kind of scarring that occurs after a little bleeding. That the coach won't be a total jackass. Or that he won't hurt their kid's feelings. Or that he won't yell at them and make them cry.

I need a frame of reference, to draw from my own experiences.

My coaches were all great, from the time I started to the time I stopped playing: Mr. Clauser, Mr. Lyons, Mr. Murphy, Mr. Bradford, Mr. Blacketter, my dad, the Bloom brothers, Mr. Carpenter, Coach Vasser and Coach Church.

They all left impressions, about baseball, teaching me the game, and about the kind of men they were. Respectable human beings. Men I looked up to. A lot. They were instructors (better than my school teachers). They were motivators (better than my parents). They were cheerleaders who corrected mistakes and encouraged play-making: hitting well, fielding well and throwing well. They drove home the practice of being a good teammate and always being a good sport.

My son is thrilled beyond words. Every last relative and friend knows that his dad is his coach. I've never seen him more excited than when he found out.

The pressure is palpable for this first timer.