P was a kid from another neighborhood but who’d we bump into from time to time in sports. THere were a million such kids who were long ago forgotten but P was memorable because he was a plus-sized kid (had metabolic issues) who was a fantastic athlete. He scored every point on his basketball team because of a deadly shot and hit long home runs in little-league baseball. When we were adults we played softball with him; he was still plus-sized and still a great athlete – he was a great infielder and hit long towering home runs once or twice every game. Later, he helped lead another team to a state softball championship… He wasn’t a happy-go-lucky guy, but *was* easy going and pleasant to be around, and I never remember him being angry or frustrated, not once… Just learned he is battling cancer that is likely terminal. Bleh. And double bleh.
Mom, Dad and I played in our first Texas Hold ‘Em tournament(s) last weekend.
When dad announced it was his first tournament, everyone laughed and called him a card hustler, but the reality is, it really was his first tournament. After his experience, I decided to keep my mouth shut 🙂 Anyway, dad won the first tournament (inviting more comments from onlookers that he was a ringer) and mom won the second and third tournaments. Mom won the second two tournaments on the strength of three flushes and a straight that wiped out people with good hands (3-of-a-kind, two pair, etc.), including two flushes that were won on the flop (first five cards), which should happen less than 1% of the time but she did it twice in two games. Me? I placed third in two tournaments and fourth in the other, and perhaps my best play was placing fourth when I went an entire game with not a single hand to play (e.g. 2 and 7 of different suits) so had to play strong (i.e. bluff) as the game progressed and my pile of chips dwindled. The one time I had a chance of winning, I drew two pair early but my opponent drew a straight on the final card, wiping out my chances late in the game. In the final game, I was 5th but running low on chips as the blinds increased, so bet aggressively to climb back into it, but finished third.
After the third game, dad commented it was too bad that I hadn’t won so that all three of us had won at least once. But here is the thing: just like in softball where I’d rather bat .800 with bunches of doubles instead of .400 with bunches of home runs, I’d rather place third consistently than finish last one game and first the next. Winning isn’t important to me in these things – respect is.
The only time I was devastated when I didn’t win was in my 4th grade school spelling bee when I placed fourth but knew I could’ve won (I didn’t study a single word so probably didn’t deserve to win :)), when my 12 year old baseball team lost the championship game (the only time I cried in sports) and when my arm gave out and I was placed as an alternate on the All-Star team. Otherwise, I generally feel pretty good finishing second, unless it is sales where winning is the only thing that pays the bills 🙂
To win? Or to be consistently respectable? I like respectable. It’s more fun to play well consistently.
It has been five years since illness forced my retirement from sports, but this time of year is the time I miss playing centerfield in softball (baseball was too boring to me, but I loved the faster pace of softball). And before my arm gave out that last year, there were few things more satisfying then playing centerfield on a sunny summer evening, and getting a favorable bounce on a grounder as the runner rounded second or third base – for a split moment, the world stopped and everything that ever was only existed in my wind up and throw. Few things in sports gave me more of a rush then throwing a runner out from the outfield – the wind up, the throw, the sizzle of the ball as it flew towards the bag, the moment of waiting and watching, then the pop of the ball in the glove and the ump’s throwing his fist up in the air to signal the out, and the cheering from the team sometimes and occassional euphoria of the team in a close game. I loved it. Five years later, I can still feel the rush. I don’t as much regret that I can’t anymore as much as I appreciate the thrilling memories.