A Conversation With My Father About “The Game [of Love]”

 

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A picture my father took of his son playing in the Little League Coach's Game

Having conversations with my father are like dialog with an older version of myself; but we both have a mutually vested interest in making the younger version better than the older.  As a child, I didn’t get my dad.  Matriculating into and through adulthood, he began to make more and more sense.  At thirty years old and a father, myself, I listen to a lot of things he tells me and think to myself “In many ways, I am just like you.”

Growing up, most of our disagreements were typical father/son disputes.  Like minds often butt heads.  Very rarely-if at all-do we have heated moments.  There are times when he has said some very real shit and it has hurt my feelings; but he almost always calls after to soften the blow and that does mean a lot.  Neither of us like conflict and when there is, we want to resolve it quickly.  Even in these rare instances, I know that the reason for a departure from his laid-back demeanor is because he is passionate about me being better than him; so he isn’t speaking out of anger but with conviction.

I called my dad yesterday afternoon to chat and tell him a fairly hilarious interaction between a woman I met and myself.  Maybe without consciously thinking about it, I was reaching out for advice and I knew that no one else would know what to say better than he.  A few months ago, we talked about someone I was dating and he said to me at thirty years old, I’m way too young to be as cynical and jaded as I am.  That statement resonated with me.  It was something that I had been thinking; but hearing it from the source of all sources that I respect was the first step in me trying to approach life differently.  With age and experience he was saying that at my age, I’m supposed to still be “with the shits” in the name of love because when I’m his age, the pickings get slim, and I don’t want to be that.  So the story was more or less a report to his challenge.

He gave the nonchalant chuckle that I know comes out of the side of his mouth-because I do it too-and because of his experience, was able to quickly articulate something I was thinking to myself; but was still an abstract thought.  Slowly, but surely, the conversation shifted from me to someone that we both know.  He said that they’re batting 0-for-90 in the dating department.  “No matter how much I try to teach [them], coach how to swing, and the mechanics that come along with playing the game, they still do what they’re going to do…but just because they keep striking out, that doesn’t mean they can’t get a hit,” he said like an OG.

My dad went on, “We all need a good team.  A good player can become great by having a good team.  Without the right coaching, players get hurt, and take themselves out of the game before they fully develop.  So they learn improper techniques and keep getting hurt.”

I replied “Yo.  That’s some real shit.  I need to write that down!”  My father said “No.”

I responded with “No…I’m gonna write this down in my notebook, write the post, and then get paid for it.”  In a tone that could only be described as a coach who is always hard on his star player but had to give him props, the man I call Trav-Murdah said “Exactly.”

That metaphor was a word.  Plainly spoken, yet vague enough for one to ponder on and its allegory hitting the nail on the head.  I know a lot of people who take themselves out of the game.  They got hit once or twice by the proverbial pitches life throws.  Or they got on base, made it all the way around, the catcher blocked the plate as they were running home at full speed, got tagged out, and they got injured in the process.  When it was time to bat again, they started crowding the plate, playing afraid, got hit by another pitch and said “Eff playing…I just want to watch from the bench or the stands and make commentary on what everyone else is doing wrong,” not realizing they were always playing the game wrong.

Then there are those who do get hurt from the game and are never the same.  They want to change the game completely when the rules of the sport have existed long before them.  Those are the people that want to just want to play baseball with a major league swing in which they’re using a tennis racquet, the pitcher gotta throw a beach ball, then the basemen have to wear gloves but can only kick the ball to each other to tag someone out.  That’s the “I just want things to happen organically” squad.  Nah fam, that ain’t how the game goes and no one wants to or will play by your dumb rules.  They find themselves in the bleachers; wondering why all your peers are in the major leagues-married or happily committed-and upset they not seeing that MLB money…and they’re way more talented than their friends.

People never get taken out the game; they take themselves out.  People just want love to happen; but don’t put the proper energy into it.  It is something one must work on with the same energy and passion they do their careers.  Maintain the hunger, find a good team with the right coach, and they’ll be on their way.  I tell the kids I coach in little league who get upset when they strike out “Look, the best players in baseball only hit the ball 3-out-of-10 times.  Shake it off, relax, and play your game like you’ve been taught, and you’ll be fine.”  It’s really that simple.  We just make it more complicated than it is.

My father and my friend may be batting 0-for-90.  But they keep batting like the last time never happened.  That in itself is commendable.

 

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