Competition’s Ups and Downs

I believe in competition. I believe that competition ultimately benefits the competitors and society as a whole.

No, I am not running for political office in November (though if I were, I would hope I could count on your support). The competition I am referring to now is the Olympics. I only know of a handful of the athletes representing America. While I hope the American team does great, I am only mildly interested in watching.

Last night was the first of the Olympic competition that I have watched. The event I saw was women’s gymnastics. A little background if I may. My wife loves gymnastics. Her first Olympic experience – viewing that is – was watching Nadia Comaneci. She was enthralled and still talks of watching Nadia. Anyway, my wife knows the sport, the athletes, and even understands the scoring system. So, yesterday while we were watching, I was badgering her with questions, so I could catch up on the who, why, and how.

As I was watching these world class athletes, I was struck by some things. Firstly, they are so young and look like they have been pulled from their SAT prep classes. Secondly, their body shapes are odd. These mighty mites are generally short with the necks of offensive lineman and horse-like thighs. Of course, this comes from hours of training in the gym. These young girls always seem to be the darlings of the Summer Olympics from Retton, to Strug, to Miller, to Dawes, etc.

This year’s little darling was already crowned before the Olympics began. I think I was the only person in America who had never heard of Jordyn Wieber. The 17-year-old, 5’2’, 104-pound gymnastics queen was to be crowned in London as a matter of course. Well, she lost. She failed to qualify for the individual all-around finals. And she was a mess.

This sad little girl crying was one of the first things I saw of the 2012 Olympic Games. She has probably sacrificed her childhood all in the hopes of being an Olympic Champion, and dreamed of this moment through hour upon hour of practice time. She has basked in the media attention and felt proud of being the face of the American team. Now her team could win the gold medal and she can win the gold medal for some individual events, but she will not be the all-around champion.

Of course, the cameras were there to document every moment of Wieber’s disappointment and her teammates’ ascension. I recognize this is news, and the viewing public wants to hear from Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman, her teammates who made it to the all-around finals. But Wieber was just a couple of feet behind where the victors were being interviewed. She was barely holding in what seemed like a waterfall. I wish they did not make her wait there for an interview, although she seemed fairly composed when she finally talked. Yes, she is the 2011 world champion and veteran leader of the team, but at that moment, she was just an incredibly sad and disappointed kid.

Yes, I do believe in competiton. Competition means someone loses, and that can be sad. Well, you can now count me as Jordyn Wieber fan. I hope that kid kicks butt throughout the rest of the Olympics.

Gross: Read with Caution

I’ve said this before. My boys have bad aim. I don’t mean in darts. I don’t mean at a shooting range. I don’t mean at bowling. I think you know what I mean. My wife blames me. The woman who takes responsibility for everything refuses to touch this one. “They’re boys – you’re supposed to teach them,” she lectures me.

“It’s not my fault,” I try to plead.

But she ain’t hearing any of that. “Well, you need to figure something out, because I am sick of this.” “This” is a smelly, soggy bathroom. Seriously, when one of my boys has to pee in the middle of the night, it is ugly. I imagine turning on the light when they are going and it being like rookie firemen trying to control a hose for the first time. Seriously. Anyway, walking into the bathroom the next morning – I can understand what Washington went through when he forged the Delaware.

I’ve tried yelling at them. “This is disgusting. It smells in here. Don’t you smell it?”

I’ve tried cajoling them through reason. “This is our house. You have to care about our house. Don’t you want you our house to smell nice?”

I’ve tried forcing them to do all the clean up. “Bend down and wipe this up!”

Nothing has worked!

Maybe, it is time to be evil. They love Apple Juice. This could be a mixer. Naah, who am I kidding? That is too disgusting. Besides, I’m not that evil.

Truth is I got nothing. I guess at this point I am putting it in the category of they will do better as they get older.

However, I look to you dear reader. Can you please help me with your suggestions? In the meantime, I will keep buying Renuzit in bulk.

On the Binder

Do you recall having loose leaf binders in school? I remember having a blue cloth loose leaf binder. I got my first one in 4th grade. I liked the different sections, the yellow dividers, and the inevitable reinforcements. However, what I liked most about having a loose leaf was that I could doodle on the cover. Whether its flowers and hearts or monsters and trucks, I think you can learn a lot about someone if you look at their doodles.

Well, if somehow my old loose leaf binders could be resurrected, they would confirm that I was a sports lunatic. I used to draw these rectangles which I envisioned as banners hanging from the rafters. This is where the elite athletes would have their names one day. However, the day came a little early for those I chose from among the stars of the Philadelphia teams of my youth – Clarke, Barber, Montgomery, Carmichael, Erving, Toney, Carlton, and Schmidt.

I put these players and many others on a pedestal. I looked up to them and imagined what it would be like to meet them. They were more than athletes I saw on television. I felt as if I knew them. I see my high school students do the same thing today. They are completely obsessed with particular players – Lebron James could have a thriving fan club just comprising the students I had last year.

In the years since my early ‘doodles’, I’ve realized that I did not know where to ‘draw the line’ – pun intended. Being a professional athlete means that an individual has been blessed with great skill which he or she has honed through hours upon hours of practice. It does not mean the athlete is a good person. It does not mean that I know the athlete because I have seen them perform their sport. I do not know them, and I have no true understanding of the type of person he/she is.

I want my boys to enjoy sports. Enjoying and partaking in sports is good exercise and a great way for children to bond. However, I do not want my boys to obsess over sports and blur the lines between a star on the field of play and a wonderful person in the game of life.

Respecting and admiring the athlete for his/her talents is fine. However, I also want my children to respect the policeman who puts his life on the line, the fireman who saves others, the military man who protects the country, the teacher who enables children, the entrepreneur who seeks to make things better, the scientist who tries to find a cure, the doctor who helps people to feel better, the religious figure who gives guidance, etc.

The point is everyone who works hard, shows care for others, strives to better himself/herself is deserving of respect. No one – particularly someone you don’t know – should be idolized. When it comes to worship, you should look above for inspiration and not around.

When my children get their first loose leaf binder, they will surely come to doodle on it at some point. As they consider what to doodle on their book, I hope that they will go beyond my options.

PS. I wrote a newspaper article about the Penn State situation that is related to this. Here’s the link:

Appropriate for Children

The news is bombarding us, the public, from every angle in the aftermath of the tragic and heinous Colorado shooting. There is discussion of many topics: what made this man go on a rampage, gun control, how people and neighbors need to be aware of the unstable signs of those around them, what security measures can be taken to ensure this does not happen again in the future, etc. However, while I have paid attention to the news regarding the topic, one angle that has particularly caught my attention is how to talk to your children about a tragedy. This aroused my interest because I have no intention of talking to my children about this tragedy.

Children are born innocent – a blank slate if you will. As parents, we have many jobs including deciding what to expose our children to – whether it be movies or tragedies and everything in between. Of course, each child is different and maturity does not occur in some predetermined linear fashion. What about parents? What role do we parents play in our children’s maturation process? I have not done nor is this the place for a formal researched paper. However, I am quite certain parents and environment play at least some role in the development of a child’s maturity.

I am a protector. As such, I do not want my children (5 & 8 year-old boys)  watching the news, for the most part. My children are exposed to all forms of media; the internet, radio, and television. They read, hear, and see things that I think children their age should not. While I try to monitor what they read, listen to and watch, I can’t protect them from everything nor do I even want too. They will see both the good and the bad in the world – it is inevitable and necessary to be a functioning, thoughtful, and sensitive adult. I do want them to grow up and be mature. However, their development should come in time and naturally with the guidance of my wife and I and not be based on the news cycle.

The Colorado massacre is a terribly sad and horrific event. I grieve for those who lost family members and friends. I am concerned what this means for public safety. I wonder what, if anything, can be done to help ensure such a tragedy never occurs again. However for my children, let them watch Nickelodeon — even Nick Jr. — as long as they can.