Friday, October 21, 2016

Won Loss

We have as yet to reach halftime in this, the 2016 professional football season here in the lower forty-eight. That has not stopped the rush to judgement that is every spectator's right, informed or not. There are teams rushing about for trades and deals to shore up their injury or talent-depleted ranks. There are so many coaches on the proverbial "hot seat" that decorum prohibits listing them here. In terms of the National Football League, I suppose this makes a modicum of sense. These aren't just grown men playing a game, these are grown men playing a game for a living. Many college teams allow a grace period, one they refer to politely as "a rebuilding year." This happens when a prodigy or two passes through and moves on via graduation or an opportunity to go and play a game for a living. It also happens when a coach transcends the earthly bounds of the college ranks and finds himself in the heady and somewhat more fractious world of professional football. If you're a professional, that "rebuilding year" takes place on the fly. Winning is everything and everything is important right now.
Which brings me to the part of this essay in which I am grateful that this mindset does not exist everywhere in all facets of our lives. This is the part where I hope my younger brother hasn't switched off because of that first paragraph about football, but if he stuck with me this far, the reward would be this: The lesson we take away from this is not how sports imitate life outside of sports, but rather how pleased I am that we all seem to get more than that one chance. Everyone has a bad day, and even when happenstance drops a string of them in your path, it is nice not to have to look over your shoulder, fearing that always dreaded "vote of confidence from the owner." And maybe we can take solace in the idea that this is not a peculiarly American concept either. When your job is winning games and you don't win, it probably means that you are on your way out as soon as you start losing. As a teacher, I know that there is a point at which the test scores of my students might figure into my continued employment, but not in the same way having a group that fails to score touchdowns will put me on the dole. Circumstances for most of us who are not putting on a weekly show of just how clever we are allow us to find excuses and ways to beg for more time.
And yet we all struggle with that "what have you done for me lately" mentality because it is 2016, and we are not getting any younger and the universe is expanding and the sun will go supernova before we know it and if we don't have that trophy in our case before the next meeting we will have to make some changes. The goal, as Billy Beane put it in Moneyball, is to win that last game. If you don't, the rest of the season doesn't really matter.
And we all start over again from the beginning.

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