May 14, 2011

The C Team

arsenal.JPG
back in the day



Monday was the 8-11 girls' soccer ("you know, it's really called football") tryouts for the A and B teams.

Her father had watched the practices.  She was good, but was she A team good? It  depended on the day.  Precise and aggressive one day, distracted and chatty the next day.  Some days she owned the ball.  Other days she had to pee.  And she was picking her fingers a lot.

He had given her some helpful advice: dribble up the right sideline because those right footed girls will have a harder time getting the ball away from you.  Also when you kick on goal kick knee height, force the goalie to have to bend down.

He also told her that Hannah Montana ("Dad, that's not her name")  was the evidently the dominant player on the other team, and when it looked like Hannah was going to go after the ball her teammates would hang back and out of her way, but that meant the ball was unguarded.   That was a good time to go after it.

It was the kind of advice he wished someone had given him back when it was his turn.


II.


Ok.  There were four obvious A teamers, leaving seven spots.  Call it 6.  If Jane and Sue made A team, she'd definitely make it.  Kathy and Claire were older and if they got picked because of seniority then there'd be only two or three open spots left.  Tight. 

The Dad said this: whatever team you make, you have to earn it everyday.  You make A but don't keep up, they'll send you down to B.  Make B but work hard, and they'll move you to A.  (That's life, he thought.  That's what this is all about anyway.)

Besides, they're not going to let someone too good be on B for very long because they'd dominate the game.  The coaches want everyone to get a chance to play.  (Sophistry in the service of the ego.  That's life, too, but it's not a lesson he wanted her to have to learn.)

III.

Tuesday: no call.  But Kathy heard: A team.  Wednesday came: no call.  Claire got A team.  Wednesday night: Hannah Montana found out she was B.  That made no sense.    Other mothers checked in, they heard A team was filled. "I guess she made B," they apologized in advance.

Then there was the news: there were too many girls.  Or plenty of girls.  So the coaches created a C team.  Uh oh.

Thursday came.

Then Friday.

Then Saturday. 

Then Sunday. 

Then Monday.

She went into school: everyone else had heard.  "What'd you get?" Claire asked.

"I don't know." 

"Oh. My. God.  That means you got C team!"  

She picked her fingers a lot that day.  If she made at least B, she promised herself she wouldn't buy a soft pretzel with the milk money and wouldn't throw out more than five of her grape unless... unless she finished all her carrots.  And she would stop trying to control everything.

When she got home her Dad was already coping with the news. "I'm so sorry.  They said you made the C team." 

She started not to cry.  "That's okay," she said.  It wasn't.


IV.


This is another one of those times you make it as a parent or you move out because your presence is a biotoxin to everyone in the family.  So: as terrible as it was, he could use it to  make her into a better person.  First the obvious lesson: failure happens, nothing is guaranteed.  Life is competition.  Parents and the government can't bail you out of everything.

Ok-- facing her classmates and having to tell them that she was C while still maintaining her dignity-- without hiding behind  "we're all special in our own way"--- there was value in that.  "What should I tell everybody at school?" she asked. "(Can I lie?)"   No.   "Just tell them: 'I made C team.  I don't know how it happened, I feel pretty awful about it, but I'm going to make the most of it.'  Whenever you talk, be straight."

And of course she could get better.  Let's face it, she hadn't worked that hard.  It's not like she drilled every day in her yard.  Getting on A with only Saturday practice could easily make you think you're better than you are, more deserving than you are, and when the inevitable failure comes from boys or grades or lotteries it crushes you right through your paper foundation.  Next thing you know you're 15 and one of your friends has an older brother who knows where to get some pot and how to have sex without getting pregnant. 

Starting from C and and getting to A is the biggest accomplishment, it's what makes you a man.  Or woman in a man's world.


V.


"You have lots of potential.  Nothing is set in stone. You're still young.  Practice, practice, practice.  You can be anything you want."  He had plenty of advice, quite practical.  Keep it coming.  In this way he might avoid the thought: this is another thing at which she will not be exceptional.  The thought came anyway.

He had never wanted to be a soccer star, he hadn't even played very much, but at 50 it was inevitable that he would never become a soccer star.  Now his daughter wasn't going to be a soccer star either which meant that he had failed at soccer twice.  Another closed door just got boarded up.

One by one his daughter failed or lost interest in the things he had never done.  There was no time left for him to be exceptional at anything though his daughter represented a wide open future with millions of open doors.  But she spent the first years of her life closing them.  "How would vous like to go to un Francais immersion camp?" he had once asked.  "French?" she had replied, reaching for a door, "I don't know..."  Slam.

The only thing left for him was to become father of.  "My daughter is a soccer star, " he wouldn't have to say, everyone would just know it about them.  And he'd sit at the practices and give her advice and then afterwards a quick snack and off to violin, because she had the potential to get to Julliard if she practiced, and, crazy passing daydream, one day People would do a story about him.

But it wasn't going like he had imagined it would.  Somewhere in his brain he had thought that maybe his daughter's success would keep him from getting old.  He had never been able to get off C Team, and the last thing left that he might be excel at, fatherhood, he was proving to be as mediocre as in everything else.

When you are a narcissist, children, even the good ones, are a narcissistic injury.  That story almost never has a happy ending, but it does end.

VI.


There is no redemption for him because the point isn't his redemption, it's hers, and you either get that or you don't.  Most people don't, which is why there's a C team at all.

When she said, "that's okay," of course it wasn't, and something in his brain shorted and he was able to resist all of his best impulses and instead just hugged her and said, "there's not much I can say to make this better, but I love you all the time, all the time.  So there's this."  And he opened a bag and pulled out the next Harry Potter movie which she had been begging for every day, ("please please PLEASE!")  but at those times he had pretended to be the Dad that People would one day profile, "you have to finish the book first because I want you to learn that the books are always better."  Shut it, old man.

Sometimes when a little girl is sad you just... fix it.  And this time it made her smile so much and for so many reasons and after dinner they sat down together and watched it.  That was all.  It was about a boy who didn't have a mom or a dad, and he had to make it all by himself, and he did.

Soccer wasn't going anywhere.  But she was.







Comments

I'm not going to have any c... (Below threshold)

May 14, 2011 8:50 PM | Posted by MarcusB: | Reply

I'm not going to have any chilren.

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Thanks to you... (Below threshold)

May 14, 2011 8:53 PM | Posted, in reply to MarcusB's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

Thanks to you

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Alone, how are you going to... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 1:53 AM | Posted by The Devastator: | Reply

Alone, how are you going to tell your kids you're The Last Psychiatrist? I'm picturing it like Batman Begins.

"Hey Dad, check out this blog I found. This guy is a psychiatrist too. What do you think?"

"If you're reading it, it's for you." Jumps off roof.

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Bang on. This was beautiful... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 2:13 AM | Posted by eqv: | Reply

Bang on. This was beautiful. I used to play high school soccer and there would always be a few of these kinds of dads sweating on the sideline, sidling up to the coach, offering their advice... they were almost always overweight, and they'd yell at their kids for the duration of the game... full of criticism but never offering any kind of solid solution.

I was cringing the whole way through this piece. Fuck ever, ever becoming that dad. Fuck that.

Thank you.

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I don't know how many short... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 2:18 AM | Posted by derKapitalist: | Reply

I don't know how many short stories you have in you, or how many things you can put in that form. But they always leave me with more. Why? I want to know why. If it's because you're better at writing them, then you should write more of them. And if it's because stories, by their nature, are better at incepting us with ideas... then you should write more of them.

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I am 26 and don't want to h... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 4:27 AM | Posted by DGS: | Reply

I am 26 and don't want to have kids for awhile, and I don't get this post. I get the not forcing your kids to do things you want recognition for (or in part)

Kids are not going to turn out the way YOU want them to, so stop trying to live through them. Is that it?


"There is no redemption for him because the point isn't his redemption, it's hers, and you either get that or you don't. Most people don't, which is why there's a C team at all. "

I don't get this, her redemption to his ego?

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I love you.... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 6:18 AM | Posted by Nights: | Reply

I love you.

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You're a phenomenal writer,... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 9:46 AM | Posted by don cesara: | Reply

You're a phenomenal writer, man. I want to know who you are just so I could buy you scotch after scotch at the bar. I figure the conversation would be well worth the expense.


There's another side to this, the side that makes the dad compassionate in the end. My dad acted like this on occasion, but only certain things. He played basketball in his teen years, and was excited when I played a bit in middle school. But he only pushed me to give it my best effort. The same with school. He expected good grades because I had no trouble earning them. He just wanted to make sure I stayed on course. I went to an excellent college, just like he wanted. I never felt like it wasn't my choice.

But after graduation, he started to press me a bit more. When are you going to go to grad school? When are you going to get that excellent job (I'm a software developer, comfortably)? He wanted more from me, because he hadn't had the chance to experience that. He grew up poor, black, and with loving but erratic parents. He saw others with opportunity, and it depressed him.

So his behavior is a bit narcissistic, because he wants to imagine that he has succeeded without those opportunities by giving me them so I could succeed. Maybe I'm off base, but that drive comes from his image of himself as the father he wishes he had had. It's about his regrets, sure, but it's also about his expectations for himself in the role of a parent.

I think it's that kind of complication that leads to the last scene in the story.

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This blog is usually the mo... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 10:13 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This blog is usually the most complex, difficult thing I read all week.

Thanks.

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u might have missed the poi... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 11:04 AM | Posted, in reply to MarcusB's comment, by Anonymous: | Reply

u might have missed the point

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She started not to cry.... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 11:23 AM | Posted by Jack Coupal: | Reply

She started not to cry.

That's clinical poetry.

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Oh snap, I think I understo... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 12:54 PM | Posted, in reply to DGS's comment, by DG: | Reply

Oh snap, I think I understood "that's why there is the C team at all" - because everyone thought their kids are going to be soccer stars.

I will additionally add, I played on a sort of C team myself - it wasn't because of my parents, it was because I wanted to play soccer and wasn't good enough.

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F--- man. I don't have any... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 3:05 PM | Posted by I'm alone too: | Reply

F--- man. I don't have any kids yet but I've already had these exact same thoughts about my kids.

How do you get out of this spiral? you'd probably say, "just stop." But if I read your last paragraph correctly, it's about seeing the other person and what they need from you, rather than the other way around.Being at their disposal. Am I right?

Please publish your short stories in a book so I can give them to people. I have a hard time getting people to take blogs seriously.

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It means that you should gi... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 3:15 PM | Posted, in reply to DGS's comment, by Cliche: | Reply

It means that you should give your children a framework for success, and be proud of them when they succeed.
As opposed to laying out a life plan for them, and being proud of yourself if it works out.

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u might have missed the jok... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 3:32 PM | Posted, in reply to Anonymous's comment, by MarcusB: | Reply

u might have missed the joke

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Fair enough, but what if th... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 5:01 PM | Posted, in reply to Cliche's comment, by DG: | Reply

Fair enough, but what if the kid asks you "What should I be?" Is the right answer "Well, let's go try all sorts of things and see what you like" Because that's how I am seeing it.

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More parenting stuff? ... (Below threshold)

May 15, 2011 8:17 PM | Posted by Rooster: | Reply

More parenting stuff?

Bring back the biochem!

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My father always loved to o... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 2:44 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

My father always loved to offer me practical, sensible advice. He told me while golfing to hold the club a certain way. You gotta keep your back straight. I thought he looked stupid when he stood that way. I felt stupid when I stood that way. Eventually I learned to tune out what he said. Be at peace with yourself and let your body figure it out. The ball still hooks almost every time. I'm fine with that. I like the way it looks as it sails through the air. Mr. Woods probably does too, but I hated golf from the day my dad said "now son, you're supposed to..."

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Starting from C and and ... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 4:40 AM | Posted by Ohman: | Reply

Starting from C and and getting to A is the biggest accomplishment, it's what makes you a man.

That's so true. I was one of those who got "on A with only Saturday practice" and I turned out to be a Class A Loser.

Luckily my kid has to struggle for everything.

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My dad was the opposite. Ne... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 9:12 AM | Posted by AlsoAlone: | Reply

My dad was the opposite. Never really gave a damn about what I did at school, just as long as my grades were good. The one rugby game he came out to watch was my worst ever and I ended up having to go to hospital with a concussion. He never understood why I kept playing and never came to see the games I played later on in better teams.

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As a parent educating your ... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 10:55 AM | Posted by Avadoro Worden: | Reply

As a parent educating your children, you are fighting with the ambient popular culture, TLP tends not take this into account. The current popular culture is radically different to how it was 20 years ago and different to how it was 40 years ago. How can your children even perceive their future, understand the shift in cultural perspective, nothing is constant so long as your child is watching more TV. The prison psychiatrist Theodore Dalrymple is one of the few to understand this comprehensively, TLP is still stuck in the suburban fishbowl of American culture and can't perceive of a world and time outside of that.

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I was really moved by this.... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 11:58 AM | Posted by Susannah F-C: | Reply

I was really moved by this. I think it's hit me in a spot I might not previously have been aware of. It feels fresh. And painful. But that means I've learnt something. Thank you.

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Epic comment. I've wondered... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 12:00 PM | Posted, in reply to The Devastator's comment, by Susannah F-C: | Reply

Epic comment. I've wondered the same, but never in this context! :)

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And it's beautiful, isn't i... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 12:05 PM | Posted, in reply to Jack Coupal's comment, by Susannah F-C: | Reply

And it's beautiful, isn't it? Those little snippets of genius wrapped in eloquence are why I love TLP so much. :)

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In school, I was always the... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 12:19 PM | Posted by wisegirl: | Reply

In school, I was always the last one chosen for team sports. Makes sense being that I was completely unathletic. The thing is, it never bothered me for more than a fleeting moment. I would rationalize it in my head by telling myself you are just very feminine. I had that ability to comfort myself by turning it around and focusing on the positive. I guess if I had crazy parents who put a lot of empasis on excelling in sports, it may have worked out differently.

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Hey TLP, if you're ever in ... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 2:23 PM | Posted by ByrontheBulb: | Reply

Hey TLP, if you're ever in the market for an interesting and cerebral read, assuming you haven't read it, you should check out Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow.

"What if there is no Vacuum? Or if there is---what if They're using it on you? What if They find it convenient to preach an island of life surrounded by a void? Not just Earth in space, but your own individual life in time? What if it's in Their interest to have you believing that?" -Thomas Pynchon

I'd love to read your opinions on Pynchon's ideas of Paranoia.

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More I read you more I thin... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 4:08 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

More I read you more I think that you must be a California gyopo Alone.

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I don't get it.... (Below threshold)

May 16, 2011 6:00 PM | Posted by GT: | Reply

I don't get it.

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Possible California gyopo..... (Below threshold)

May 17, 2011 11:05 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Possible California gyopo... the plot thickens.

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that father is obviously bi... (Below threshold)

May 18, 2011 11:42 AM | Posted by noob: | Reply

that father is obviously bi-polar 2 he had an epileptic seizure for christ's sake, somebody get him some depakote

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I find your articles about ... (Below threshold)

May 18, 2011 12:23 PM | Posted by Bruce N. Stein.: | Reply

I find your articles about children, especially parent/child interaction, to be the most poignant. Thank you very much.

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That's the beauty of disapp... (Below threshold)

May 19, 2011 8:45 AM | Posted by Jess: | Reply

That's the beauty of disappointment. There's always plenty to pass around to people that already have more than they want. Usually, if you're trained right, you can carry this spare baggage for most of your life.

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Or maybe there's a C team b... (Below threshold)

May 20, 2011 4:22 PM | Posted by DensityDuck: | Reply

Or maybe there's a C team because some parents want their kids to do more than sit on the couch playing Nintendo for twelve years.

Maybe the narcisissm doesn't give us the C team, but rather the B team--the team for the kids who aren't good enough to actually be competitive, but whose parents would scream like hell if their kid were not on a team that was "special", lifted above the herd, exalted beyond the rest. B team is the consolation prize. C team is the equivalent of kids playing in a vacant lot, only with adult supervision.

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I am reminded of the Far si... (Below threshold)

May 20, 2011 5:14 PM | Posted, in reply to ByrontheBulb's comment, by izrik: | Reply

I am reminded of the Far side comic: "The Bozone Layer - protecting the rest of the universe from earth's harmful effects"

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Wow. Almost no cynicism. I'... (Below threshold)

May 23, 2011 1:28 PM | Posted by Matt: | Reply

Wow. Almost no cynicism. I'm wondering if someone has hijacked the blog.

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Thank you. Thank you thank ... (Below threshold)

May 24, 2011 12:03 AM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

Thank you. Thank you thank you thank you.

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Thanks.... (Below threshold)

June 6, 2011 3:51 PM | Posted by BND: | Reply

Thanks.

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Enjoyable... (Below threshold)

June 18, 2011 1:08 PM | Posted by The Baller: | Reply

Enjoyable

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TLP ignoring the influence ... (Below threshold)

July 3, 2011 12:00 PM | Posted, in reply to Avadoro Worden's comment, by Greg Morrison: | Reply

TLP ignoring the influence of popular culture? Have you ever read this blog?

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TLP, has some quite clever ... (Below threshold)

July 10, 2011 5:54 PM | Posted by Avadoro Worden: | Reply

TLP, has some quite clever ideas. However he doesn't believe in such a thing as an objective culture, that can be common amongst its people. His analysis relies on shifting subjective perspectives, hence there can be no culture, only atomized individuals. He doesn't talk in terms of traditions, which is cultural DNA passed through generations, but in fragmented individual narratives, which is why he is a product of his deconstructive methods. C team or B team doesn't matter, the problem happened 100 years ago.

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This was exactly the point ... (Below threshold)

February 28, 2012 10:37 PM | Posted by Anonymous: | Reply

This was exactly the point I was trying to make to my dad the other day, so he'd maybe treat his granddaughter better than he treated me. It helps that at least somebody is sane in the world.

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<a href="http://www.youtube... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2014 6:48 PM | Posted by Dynoise: | Reply

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5RbdReBMLE

transcript:

Herman Blume: You guys have it real easy. I never had it like this where I grew up. But I send my kids here because the fact is you go to one of the best schools in the country: Rushmore. Now, for some of you it doesn't matter. You were born rich and you're going to stay rich. But here's my advice to the rest of you: Take dead aim on the rich boys. Get them in the crosshairs and take them down. Just remember, they can buy anything but they can't buy backbone. Don't let them forget it. Thank you.

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So don't buy a Nintendo. Go... (Below threshold)

February 13, 2014 10:18 PM | Posted, in reply to DensityDuck's comment, by Unsaintly Nicholas: | Reply

So don't buy a Nintendo. Goddamn.

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