Typical of my family’s summer evenings, I had opportunity to watch another youth baseball game yesterday… (actually, I watched about 4 games yesterday.) Good thing I love that sport. While yes, the pace can seemingly eke along at times, all the strategic nuances of the game can be fascinating… well, not always as fascinating as the fans. Yesterday, I decided to observe the fans…
… the yellers… the screamers… the strong, silent types… the knowledgable… the casual observer… the college scholarship hoper… the sibling who’d prefer to be elsewhere… the devoted family… the team mom… the always encouraging… the discouraged… the focusers on the positive…
Before my son began playing, I observed the loyalists at the game on the field before us. The red team was to my left — the blue team to my right. Note that these kids were 13 years old… competitive baseball, but 13 nonetheless.
The red team’s parents cheered only for their team. The blue team’s parents likewise cheered only for their own. On a side note, my observant younger son and I enjoyed cheering on the good plays regardless of team color.
As the game progressed with the score remaining close, the intensity also evolved. I noticed a little more enthusiasm. A little louder cheer. And a little more dramatic disappointment when the diamond’s circumstances didn’t match the fans’ desires.
These fans weren’t unique. They didn’t seem different than any of the fans gracing the sidelines of the 31 other fields in this tournament. Truthfully, they didn’t seem much different than you and me. Still, one thing bothered me most…
When the first baseman dropped a foul ball, the opposing fans cheered.
When the shortstop made an error, the hoopin’ and hollerin’ continued.
When a pitch went wild that allowed all runners to advance, screams of delight went shrieking through the stands.
In other words, the cheers were no less in enthusiasm and volume than when a great play was made.
The fans cheered just as loudly when their sons did well as they did when the other teams’ sons messed up. In other words, it mattered not how their own sons succeeded. The means justified the end. If someone else erred, it was irrelevant if their own son benefitted. All they seemed to want was for their kid to win. Truth be told, I’m not sure those parents are any different than you and me.
Previously this week I had a conversation with a friend who suggested the means didn’t matter. It was fascinating to me. He recognized that while the means may not “look good” or be saturated with obvious integrity, sometimes that was necessary to get the desired end result. We were talking current events — not even baseball.
Cheering on the errors was nowhere more evident than on the game immediately preceding my son’s initial playoff game later in the day…
Ahead 12-3 going into the top of the last inning, the Elks’ defense suddenly gave up 10 runs, changing pitchers 4 times in less than 3 outs — attempting to somehow stop the so-called baseball bleeding. With each run and pitcher alteration, the intensity ratcheted up another notch. In the game. In the stands.
Going into the bottom half of the inning now down by 1, the Elks first play was a slow dribbler toward second — a seemingly easy play. The ball then went methodically right through the second baseman’s legs. The crowd, no less, went wild! Cheers (and jeers, of course — not from the strong, silent type) were dependent on the color of your team.
Question: do we celebrate the error of another if we stand to benefit? Does it matter to us if someone else screwed up? Do we even care about those people? Or do we simply cheer if something good happens for us?
Many seem to cheer — socially and politically and even at baseball — because of what they personally receive — because of how they personally perceive the benefit. I feel at times like often that’s more important that what’s fiscally responsible, constitutional, or even what is good. I’m reminded of the 20-something I overheard talking about the new healthcare law. She didn’t care what was in it; she was just happy that she didn’t have to pay for insurance any more. In her words, she could “blow it on something else.”
Often, it seems, we’re solely focused on our own benefit. On winning. On us.
I wonder if we do that in far more places than youth sports…