That question was posed to me in an email I received this morning from some conservative political group.
It’s a simple question.
Channeling then-candidate Ronald Reagan’s devastating quip from the 1980 Presidential Debates, 11 simple words which effectively ended Jimmy Carter’s political career, has pretty much become the It’s a Wonderful Life of every election cycle. The cozy campaign chestnut is replayed and parroted so frequently (usually by the challenger) that just as soon as the first couple of words are pronounced, a hundred million listeners can complete the sentence on their own. It’s almost like Name that Tune.
Hey, I can name that tune in three notes. All Mitt Romney has to do is cue up the intro, “Are you better…….?”
We all know the rest.
The question is effective because it’s thought provoking.
Writer’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series. This blog is contributed by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. All names of those in this story have been changed at the author’s request. Please take the time to read this. It’s beautifully written — and a wonderful inspiration to kids and adults alike.
If you’re a kid playing baseball, there is nothing that causes more disappointment than striking out.
You walk up to the plate and every eye in the stadium is focused on you. Regardless of what the statistics indicate about your potential for success, the level of expectation is still high. When a pitcher gives up a home run, it is certainly a disappointment for him. But everyone knows that in order to be effective in his role a pitcher must throw strikes. Pitches in the strike zone are, for the most part, hittable and sometimes they are hit out of the park.
When you’ve struck out however, you have either missed the pitches that were in the strike zone, or swung at pitches that were not. Sometimes both. You were given multiple opportunities and you wasted them. To make matters worse you must now take a long, lonely stroll back to the dugout, which affords you ample opportunity to contemplate your recent failure.
But you are certainly NOT a failure — for in the battle between pitcher and hitter, a significant advantage belongs to the pitcher in almost every case.
It has been said that hitting a round ball with a round bat is the hardest fundamental task in all of sports and yet each time you come up to the plate, you expect to and are expected by others to, hit the ball.
When a player makes an error, he may be given the opportunity to redeem himself on the very next pitch. A diving catch or a perfect throw results in a stadium full of cheering fans, and the dejection that was felt mere seconds ago has now been drastically reduced if not completely eliminated and replaced by a sense of joy and accomplishment. Strike out however, and several innings will likely pass before you get another chance to bat. You will carry that sense of failure with you from the batter’s box to the dugout and when you take your position on the field, that sense of failure will continue to haunt you. It will likely persist even as you take your next turn at bat. Striking out can be horrible. Indeed, the disposition of the entire town was adversely affected — their hopes gone, their dreams crushed — by one single example of missed opportunity when The Mighty Casey struck out.
Every summer there are kids on diamonds all across America striking out. They walk back to their dugouts with their heads hung low while their parents either sink in their seats trying to hide, or scream at them to keep their eye on the ball, or worse yet, telling them they suck. Right, as if that beer-bellied dad could hit a 65-mph fastball on the inside corner thrown by a 11 year old from just 45 feet away.
Pick any team, on any summer day, on any diamond in America and I guarantee you’ll see it — unless by some miraculous improbability the team you pick happens to be one that I coach.
When coaching youth sports, I believe that it’s important to be as positive as possible. Emphasize successes, not failures and look for opportunities to promote success in difficult or disappointing situations. Give the athlete something specific to focus on improving rather than dwelling on the negative result.
NOLAN DALLA: 2012 POSTED SEASON RECORD 4-8-0 —– (minus 8.8 units)
STARTING BANKROLL: $10,000
CURRENT BANKROLL: $9,120
1 UNIT = $100
Bad start with wrong side of New Orleans-Washington game, which killed three big teasers. Coming back this week with some bigger weapons, making the NY Giants the key team in the wheel of multiple teasers.
Writer’s Note: The next two blog entries are follow-up to a controversial column posted two weeks ago on former NFL coach Vince Lombardi’s famous creed — winning is everything. I received some interesting e-mails in response.
One reader was emotionally affected by the discussion. He was kind enough to share his perspectives with me about his own experiences as an amateur baseball coach. I was so impressed with his outlook on what coaching and teaching really means, that I requested permission to reprint his email. He graciously agreed. His thoughts are posted in Part II. The title is “The Dropped Third-Strike Drill” — coming tomorrow.
Part I (below) recounts my experience several years ago as a little league soccer coach.
On ball fields all across America, millions of kids and parents of those kids will be cheering and having fun. But there will also be a lot of ugliness.
You know what kind of ugliness I’m referring to. You’ve seen it. You’ve experienced it. It may have even crept into your own team or family. It is the ugliness that comes from the twisted mantra — winning is everything.
No. In fact, winning is not everything. In many cases, it’s not even that big a thing. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.
Many years ago, I coached a boys soccer team. I took the voluntary position because I had been a licensed USSF soccer referee for about five years. Refereeing kids soccer games subjected me to some serious abuse. But I loved the game and therefore was determined to get more involved as a head coach. I also played a few seasons in an adult league as a goalkeeper. Believe it or not, I was on the local Catholic Church team. We were called the Crusaders. And we sucked.
I lasted two seasons as a head coach. We were known as the Zavala Vikings. I enjoyed working with those kids, so much. They must all be grown up now. I wonder what happened to some of them. Occasionally, I also wonder if the things I did and said on the field helped them in some small way.
Writer’s Note: The World Series of Poker Circuit is currently taking place at Horseshoe Bossier City. So, I’m staying in Shreveport, Louisiana during the next two weeks. Today, I’ll share with you two things that have impressed me most so far about my visit.
It sounded like a screech. A deafening, high-pitched screech. Almost like the scream in a horror movie.
I looked up into the sky. There it was.
A giant B-52 bomber.
If you’ve never seen the breathtaking sight of a B-52 in flight, I must say — even from the ground — the visual is awe-inspiring. Conjoined with its high-pitched eardrum-shattering 120 decibels, the image of the B-52 plowing overhead with it’s beastly eight engines barreling out thick black smoke is a momentous assault on the senses.
Barksdale Air Force Base is located on Bossier City’s east side. Years ago, I remember well the sight and sound of B-52s regularly hoovering over the Louisiana Downs Racetrack off in the distance, which I frequently visited. It’s been a long, long time since I saw this aircraft up close. I had forgotten how intimidating the sight is. Earlier today looking up into the sky, I rekindled that double-edged love affair with darker forces and was once again reminded of mankind’s inherent aptitude for creating marvels of self-destruction.
It was horribly beautiful.
The B-52 is an astonishing image of national power. The fleet carries payloads of nuclear weapons. These are B-52s on high alert — always ready to strike. Prepared for its target like wolves catching the scent of a bunny, B-52s are always swilring around up in the air somewhere, defending the nation. This is intentionally so, as a sort of Orwellian flip-flop of logic manifested by explaining the madness as a “deterrent.”
Never mind that their constant presence was one of the things which triggered an arms race and ignited the fuse for a lot of bad guys in the world who came to accelerate their own ambitions for nuclear weapons. Even with the Cold War long over, B-52 missions continue around the clock, every day and night of the year. I had just witnessed the conclusion of one of these missions, landing at Barksdale AFB.
But what’s really most impressive about the B-52 is longevity. This year marks the aircraft’s 60-year anniversary. That’s right. America’s nuclear arsenal is hauled around in a fleet of planes that were designed when Eisenhower was President and most the country was tuned into “I Love Lucy.” I’m not sure if that’s more astonishing, or horrifying.
That’s how incredible these planes are. That they have stood the test of time for six long decades and remain just as frighteningly effective as the day they first rolled off the Boeing assembly line as the most powerful fighting machine perhaps that’s ever been designed. Think of all the advances in technology and changes in aircraft design since that time. And yet, the most destructive instruments in the history of mankind are hauled around in the equivalent of a 1952 Chevy.