The Big Little League (part 1)

In my town there was nothing to do. That sentiment was not only from rebellious teenagers. Even the kids and adults felt that way about our town. The community heads tried their best. They sponsored new events that always ended with rain and the same people showing up. We as a collective town had nothing. The only slight joy the town provided was the park in the middle of town,and in the middle of the park, the baseball fields.
For whatever reason, the fields were nicer than the middle and high school fields. The town’s little league program was nowhere near the best in the state let alone the country, but man did everyone care about it. Adults coming home from work would sometimes swing by to say hi to their friends and cheer on a bunch of middle school children play baseball. To make it in my town’s league made you a pseudo-celebrity for a year or two. Kids younger than you would look up to you like a hero and adults that did not even have a kid in the league would pick up a team to support. Friday was a day to come together as a town and enjoy baseball on a fundamental level.
Everyone knew about it. Watching “the game” wasn’t our high school football team, but the little league ones. Teenagers and parents would come to watch their little kids play. Other adults would come to socialize, eat some under-cooked hot dogs, and drink enough to still be able to drive home. Even the senior citizens could would appear; out of breath from their mid-afternoon strolls. They’d plop in a seat to record the kids statistics and enjoy the next generation.
I never felt too attached to my town, but those years of baseball helped me appreciate the togetherness the town had when it came to the league. The crowd that gathered to cheer for their arbitrarily chosen team. The warm evening air that became a cool breeze as night approached and the lights turned on to illuminate players and mosquitoes alike.
Baseball was king in my town. Every boy dreamt of playing in the Major League. Not the MLB no. The oldest group the league had to offer was made up of sixth and seventh graders (though I can’t remember every detail). I just remember it was in middle school.). Even in kindergarten, the boys would be fantasizing over becoming the best the league had seen and get the celebrity status that came with it. If you were one of the pillar players for a team, you were immediately popular. Older kids would high-five you. Adults would compliment you in the streets. Homeless people would give you change. Being among the elite came with its own prestige and risks as well. You were expected to be the best in every aspect.
There was a mystique among the pillars. They were the players that had superpowers when they stepped onto the field. Coaches would have to prepare strategies around countering them. Every team had at least one and in rare instances more. If asked any player who the pillars were for that year, they’d rattle off every single one along with what made them a pillar.
It was a privilege to be in the league. It was an honor to be a pillar.
See not everyone made it into the league. The popularity of it in the town had made it so almost every sixth and seventh grader wanted to play. There were set tryouts, something unheard of at that level. On a cold early spring morning, sixth graders and the occasional seventh grader would spend a grueling 6 hours being test and analyzed. There was more running in that one day than the rest of the season combined. Fielding,batting,pitching,base-running. They were all drilled, then a small break followed by going through it again. At the end of the day, the coaches would draft their teams in private. The release of the team rosters would be out by the end of week, stapled to the side of the snack shack in the center of all three of the baseball fields. Over the course of the weekend, adults would take their children down to the fields. They would get tosee either their dreams come to fruition or get stomped down by a single piece of paper.
There were always plenty of tears.
When my class became sixth graders, the first day of school was not filled with talks about teachers, or summer activities. Who gave a crap about some old farts, the real magic was the Majors tryouts. They were in the Spring, but even in the Fall, everyone was trying to figure out who was going to be on what team. The only other time I had ever witness so many kids in my class talking about a singular topic was when a kid poured some hand sanitizer in a teacher’s coffee.
I was not one of those people.
I played baseball since the earliest possible age, but I was one of the worst players in the league. I knew it, the other kids knew it, my Dad knew it. Baseball was the first thing I’d talk about with people I met. I loved the stats, the lore, the culture, but when it came to using the bat to hit the ball, I failed each and every time. The tee-ball stand almost threw a no-hitter against me. Whatever team I was on was a stinker, blowing game after game. I don’t think any of them even made it to .500.
I was moping about what I would do with all of my free time this Spring. There was no way I made a team, unless the coaches were blind, deaf, and did not know the rules of baseball. In that scenario my chances were still not the best.
In the lower leagues, I’d always beg my Dad to stay to watch “the Majors” games. I fantasized over leading my team to a championship and being a pillar. Pillars were popular, confident, and had superpowers when they stepped onto the field. The pillar I that I idolized the most was nicknamed “Sky”. Every single ball he hit arced high and always managed to drop out of outfielders’ reach. Anytime the Reds played, I went down to the park to see him in action.

Some kids looked up to Superman, but I looked up to a kid that would go on to work at a local gas station…

While going over my plans of becoming a gas station attendant, someone grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. It was Matt, one of my oldest friends.

“You pumped for the Majors?”, Matt said grinning from ear to ear. He was always way too positive off the field, but once he got on the field he was more business than a Japanese CEO.

“It’ll be weird watchin’ from the sidelines”, I replied without looking up.

“Oh come-on, tryouts haven’t even started and you think you’re already cut.”

I looked up from my desk, “It’s a little bit different for kids who aren’t locked for a spot.”

Matt was the son of one of the coaches, the Tigers. The sons of coaches automatically made the league and almost all of them were pillars the year they got in. He was one of the fastest pitchers in our class and hitting was already second-nature to him.

Everything was coming up Matt and his Majors career hadn’t even begun.

Matt looked hurt. He sat down next to me with a large sigh, saying, ” I can think of at least 5 kids worse than you no doubt.”

“That’s a lie and you know it.”

Matt shrugged,” Who knows maybe my dad picks you so we can witness your destruction of the league”.

At that moment, my mind raced to being one of the pillars with my first friend and dominating the league. Looking back now, that was a load of cow manure for plenty of reasons. Matt was not only destined to be a pillar from the start, but he was put on one of the top teams too. Though the turnover of coaches was biennial by nature, cultures of teams were carried down as a form of adding more variety and tradition. The annual contenders were the Tigers, Athletics, and Rockies. Those three of the eight were always the best, placing victory above all else in their cultures with slight variations. All teams wanted to win, but only those three were successful. They attracted the most competitive coaches, who in turn drafted the best kids, and continued the dominance. When you fantasized about being in the league, it was wearing one of those colors.

I was still in my daze of glory when class began, and my off season preparations began.

 

 

Exceptionalism

Exceptionalism is something everyone tries to attain. What this exceptional attribute is may differ from person to person,but that desire for mastery and becoming the top in one’s field is across the board. No child wants to be a bench warmer in the pros. No writer wants to simply publish one book and be done with it.

It is a predisposition  to want to be the very best. Our hopes and dreams place us on the top tier of humanity, being adored for the rest of our lives and being etched into humanity’s records for all future generations to revere you. There is a desire to be something far larger than one is.

For almost 100% of the population that is simply not possible to attain. If everyone was exceptional then no one would be. For there to be Bill Gates, there were thousands of people who invested in coding,but could never get it right or just could not quite figure it out before him.

For every Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth there were countless athletes who spent the majority of their lives practicing and training to not even be drafted. Hours devoted to a goal never achieved.

You can probably point out the people from your high school class who everyone knew was going to be exceptional at what they did. They were exceptional among their peers at your school, but once you all were released to the general public how well did they fare? Almost every time the question arises, no one wants to know how far they fell short.

Now the obvious counterpoint is that there are more levels to anything than professional and failure. That is completely true. There are plenty of positions between never being an elected official and president. However, if one is not the groundbreaking leader in their field, they are often left to follow the cream of the crop that is, which leads to two questions.

First, was it set in stone from the very beginning? Was a combination of genetics, environment, and luck provide the only means of becoming exceptional? Are all star athletes and A-list actors born to be like that from the very beginning? Were all of the most exceptional people in the world God-given a trait that pushes and drives them upward? That would both be a relief and a curse to find out. There would be no pressure if you knew you weren’t going to be the one in a billion person to save the world. That’s crushing to have live up to unreal expectations.

The second would be for those who did not become the top in their fields, what are their purposes in the grander scheme? Every leader had their followers. Every celebrity had their fans. Without the less exceptional people, the exceptional people would have a lot less power in what they did. They would still be exceptional, but without constituents they would still be just one person. Would they not be able to have done what they did without the others to push them forward? How do you separate the person from the people? Surely us common folk are more than just building blocks to build up a leader.

Exceptionalism falls into that nature versus nurture question and the answer likely lies somewhere in the middle. Knowing that exact scale may not yield the results we want in the slightest.

You spend your childhood being told how smart you are, how fast, how talented, how handsome. Then as the world starts opening up to you, the occasional person smarter than you appears. Soon you’re not the straight A student, but B+ and a B student. Then you go to college or move to another town and you really start to see how average you really are. You’re not even top 10% in your class by this point, but you still consider yourself one of the smartest people you know. The farther out your scope pulls, the more you fade into the background. You once could coast with what you had, until you reached the point where those behind you worked their way past you.

Its a shock, but its a necessary one.

Even with those variations from birth, after a certain point you can’t just coast and attain the 1% status you want. Sure some roads are bumpier than others. It would not hurt if I had good eyesight, soft hair, and was at least 6′ 2″, but it would only get me so far with how atrocious my diet is.

Exceptionalism is not born, but perfected. Sure some people have the inside track, but to truly become what one aspires to be, they have to put as much time and effort as possible without wavering. If exceptionalism was easy to attain, everyone would be exceptional. Then nobody would be exceptional and a new cycle would start. By seeing how average we are, you can appreciate that at some level everyone is coming from the same beginnings. As a child, your world view is pretty much just you and a handful of people. You were maybe the funniest one or the fastest one, maybe even the cool one. Everyone was there at some point. It humanizes others.

Maybe people like us are just pawns to the handful of kings. Maybe we are just disposable to the larger picture. All we can really do is accomplish as much as we can and be content with what we did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exceptionalism

Exceptionalism is something everyone tries to attain. What this exceptional attribute may differ from person to person,but that desire for mastery and becoming the top in one’s field is across the board. No child wants to be a bench warmer in the pros. No writer wants to just write in a blog once in a while.

It is a predisposition for us to want to be the very best. Our hopes and dreams put us on the top of humanity, being adored for the rest of your life and being etched into humanity’s records for all future generations to revere you. There is a desire to be something far larger than one is.

For almost 100% of the population that is simply not possible for them to attain. If everyone was exceptional then no one would be. For there to be Bill Gates, there were thousands of people who invested in coding,but could never get it right or simply were not lucky to be exposed with their findings.

For every Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth had countless failures, but only some people persisted. Is it blind optimism? Possibly.

Am I talking out my ass? Certainly, but hey I like writing about whatever.

We want all the benefits of benefits from being the best, but man the process sucks. Its almost impossible to find cases of people succeeding at the first chance they get. Sure some are more predisposed to excelling at certain things. If I ever become a seven foot tall behemoth you’ll definitely see me on the court some day. I have a friend who is 6 foot four and he is bombarded with questions about trying to go pro. Too bad he’s the most uncoordinated person the world has ever decided to spawn. Even with these advantages there’s still no guarantee of success. Yet even then there are still other people fighting with you to get to that same goal. Fighting to be a famous writer is a bloodbath while being the number one chainsaw juggler is a bit less broad in scope (not to say it isn’t impressive).

How much of this are we in control of? People love the underdog story and of the self-made man (or woman), but how attainable is it? It happens for sure, but how much is circumstance and genetics and what is the hard work portion. If you’ve seen any of those gym site its always showing these fit models sweating their asses off. They’re not showing the scrawny version that they were for the majority of the time. The gym is more packed in January than Time Square is during New Year’s Eve, ” This is the year I lose the baby fat and pick up that chick on the treadmill with the firmest ass I’ve ever stared at for too long”. The difference is that that girl has been going for 4 years and has been ogled her entire gym career. She’s been running on that same damn treadmill everyday at the same time after eating the same meals for before you knew what leg day was.

I always felt I was one who would strive for goodness, but not greatness. I was an A- student. I went to the gym fairly regularly and ate healthy 4 outta the 7 days of the week. Motivation was a fleeting concept with the occasional appearance in my life. There was a general feeling to be decent at everything I did. That was it though. I never felt like I had to be number one in anything growing up. The top was good, but the very top was too much work.

Was I born to be meh or was it a lifestyle choice? I hold the (rather optimistic) belief that enough effort can alter your life. There is a level though that can’t be attained without some help.

You see the type of person I’m talking about everywhere. They give all they got in everything they do and it shows. Did the effort cause the exceptionalism or did the exceptionalism spawn even more effort to be called upon?

I’m not sure anymore man, my head hurts from thinking about this too much. My fault for trying.

Chew With Your Mouth Shut

One of the most annoying sounds I often hear is people eating food loudly. I’m not talking about the clinking of silverware or the slight simmering of the food fresh out of the bowl. No I have no problem with that. Its the person chewing the food. Their open-mouthed chomping mixed with their struggled breath in between mouthfuls of food.

The food can not help it. It was made to be consumed. All it did was sit in a grocery store aisle, looking slightly appealing. I’m sure if food could talk it would apologize for its transgression. The fact that it dared to interrupt my peace of mind. Disgraceful. If it weren’t for foods need to be consumed, my realm of almost complete silence would be intact.

How dare the person put that food in this horrible scenario.  If they just shut their mouths all of this could be avoided. The need for them to keep opening their face holes and never quite closing them seems like too much to ask. Their stupid faces being stuffed just because they never want to stop their attack on their plate.

Why should I be troubled with telling them how to behave? I’m sitting with another adult that has not the slightest idea that they’re irritating me. Wheeze. Pick up bite of food. Wheeze. Shove food down mouth. Wheeze. Close mouth enough to make food mushy,but not enough to actually close mouth. What an abhorrent cycle.

It is a tragedy that I must bare this burden in silence. Could you imagine the fallout of telling someone to shut their annoying faces for a single second. Is the slight discomfort of telling someone to close their mouths greater than the annoyance that it causes? This is the type of question that Greek scholars would ponder while watching their emperor stuff their mouth. Is execution worse than loud chewing? I’m starting to think not.

So instead of enjoying my meal with a friend I must keep my mouth closed while they keep their’s wide open.

Woe is me.