Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Winners and Losers

"Dad can we play a game?" This question comes my way routinely. My daughter loves to play games or maybe I should change that to, my daughter loves to win games. Hey don't we all? Winning is what made this country great but it's also what makes this country kind of bad sometimes. We are taught from very early on that we must compete, we must win, we must demolish the opponent until there is nothing left for them to do but cry in the corner.

You go to youth soccer games or baseball and you see it in the parents. They're all intense and yelling at the officials about a blown call or a score that shouldn't have been. We tend to lose perspective don't we? Shouldn't playing be about playing and having fun? Now when my son was playing baseball, I did want his team to win. The reason why, is different than you might think.

When I was a kid, my dad coached our basketball team one year - the Blue Aces. We went 0 - 10 that season. That's right, zero wins, nada, zilch-a-rooski. And yes, ouch, it was painful! We didn't have the greatest talent, but each kid got better throughout the season. Kids who couldn't dribble a basketball before the season, were able to afterwards. But still, I didn't want my son to have to go through that rough time like I did. Thankfully, his team won 2 games, albeit 1 by forfeit.

It would have been nice for his team to win a couple more games, just so he would feel competitive with the other teams. Like he was on equal standing with the other kids. I think that's important to kids and parents alike. We want to know that we can hang in there with the other folks. We don't want to embarrass ourselves or appear like we don't know how to do something.

Well, the other day my kids were playing a board game. It all started with fun and giggles, but quickly turned into what amounted to a stern disagreement over the rules of the game and conduct of the opposing player. Neither child was happy with the other. Arms were folded and sounds like "humpf" could be heard across the house.

With a little hesitation I dared to ask what was going on. Simultaneously, they both began talking about how the other wasn't playing the game right and how the rules said one thing and how they weren't ever going to play this game again - or something to that affect. So I finally asked them why they were playing the game? Were they playing for a grand prize like a gold medal? Were they playing for a huge payout so their parents could retire? There answer was simply, "No". So I asked them why they were playing again and the answer came back as clear as crystal. They were playing to have fun.

They lost sight of that little fact, as most kids do. The innate competitive nature and the cultural pull to come out on top, was driving them to a point where they want to annihilate the other person, in the game that is. I quickly reminded them of how playing games is for fun, not to see who can bury who. Then, it was like a light bulb illuminated above their little craniums. They uncrossed their arms, started giggling again and resumed their game. It eventually turned into a pretend game where the game board was a house and the game pieces were something to be avoided like the plague.

So what can we learn from this? I'm not sure. As adults, we don't really play games for real and we understand that we'll sometimes lose. But what about the game of life? No, not the one by Milton-Bradley, the one you're living right now. Are you obsessed with winning at everything, so much that you've pushed people away? Are you so obsessed with how you play the game that you're missing the fun along the way? Are you too worried what people will think of you if decide to pass on buying Park Place and buy Continental Avenue instead? Just something to think about before the kiddos go back to school in a couple of weeks.

Sorry, I veered off the course I started on the previous blog, but I'll return to it next time. Until then, just remember to make it fun whenever you can.

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