THE GAME OF LIFE
“The game of life has two participants: spectators and players. Pick one.” –Unknown
Yesterday, Gail and I and some of our family members were spectators, warming the benches as Gail’s son played volleyball on the men’s club team at Kansas State University.
Wyatt is #15, blocking the spike.
Wyatt has played on this team for the last two years, having received expert instruction from his big sister, who was also present.
Lucky for me I actually understand this game, unlike most sports. I get it; it’s relatively simple. Back and forth, above the net and inside the boundaries, three hits or less on each volley. I played for several years in high school, with an ugly crooked finger as a permanent memento of the game and the fun I had. Sometimes, the price we pay for having had fun in our younger years is worth the memories.
I just got off the phone with a friend. She was frazzled, making treats to take to her high-school aged son’s sports banquet.
“I’m having anxiety about this,” she said. I should have known, knowing her as well as I do, that she was not concerned about measuring up against the other mother’s contributions. She is so far beyond caring about that.
“No, it’s just stupid,” she responded, when I asked her if she was fearful of the comparison trap. “I’m over this shit.”
The idea is a good one, the intention is to celebrate the achievements of high school athletes. The downside, as she sees it, is that sports are the priority in the high school culture.
And, as Sunday NFL football will illustrate on my television today, it seems to be the priority in our culture in general. But here I go on my soapbox again. I continue to try to make peace with my perception that it has been elevated to an unmerited religious level in our society.
My soapbox is built on a poor understanding of the rules of the game, a lack of comprehension as to how the gladiator-like competition can be enjoyable for the spectator, let alone the athlete. Mooring up this soapbox are the memories of the many patients I have treated with head injuries.
When I step back and examine it, however, I realize that my lack of understanding as to how the aspect of fierce competition can be sanctioned in our society, I remember that when it comes to spelling bees, I’m in it for blood. (Under Our Spell, September 1st 2019). My hunger for victory is no different, so I have no room to talk.
But back to the love of the game.
Wyatt plays with his body, heart and soul, and took the second-place team finish in the tournament yesterday in stride, as did his teammates. Their mission was to play their best, champions or not. For us, it was a day of spectating, cheering, and enjoying time with family.
Gail’s daughters Kate and Lydia, Gail, Wyatt, and her husband, Terry.
My husband and I got to spend a few hours with our son who will complete his degree from KSU in a few weeks.
These young men are strong and coordinated. Just like the team-building mantra in business, there is no ‘I’ in team. Neither is there a ‘U/you’ in “team,” but they function as if it is all about the other guy. They bump-set-spike, communicating by their looks, shouts, moves and familiarity with the game and with each other, knowing they can’t do it alone.
I don’t spectate much when it comes to sports. My boys played baseball in junior high and high school, and I enjoyed spectating. Like volleyball, I actually understand the game.
In life, however, I would prefer to participate rather than spectate. Each of us has the opportunity to play the game in whatever way we choose, and at whatever level of engagement. Like in sports, there are rules. Just like in volleyball and other most other sports, there are boundaries. There is teamwork. We all need each other, and playing together and playing nice always works better in the end than being in it just for ourselves, even if its harder than thinking about only ourselves.
The biggest difference between sports and real life, as I see it, is that real life should never be a competition with anyone but yourself. It’s up to you to determine when you should stop competing with yourself and call it good enough.
In volleyball, I remembered that if the ball hit the net on a serve, it was dead. Now, it is considered fair play. That rule changed, and sometimes in life, rules change, too.
Rules, however, are sometimes made–and changed–to protect the powerful, and perhaps they should be bent, if not completely broken. This is your call, but for me, I like to remember this:
Again, its your call. Remembering our mom’s suggestion also helps: If it feels good, and it doesn’t break any of The Ten Commandments, Do It!
“The game of life is not so much in holding a good hand as playing a poor hand well.” –H.T. Leslie