Everett’s first-ever travel baseball tournament game starts in 30 minutes. He’s been to this particular complex in Sunnyvale a couple dozen times. All as a spectator. Watching his big brother, who lives to be watched.
Everett does not live to be watched. He’s happiest when the spotlight is on someone else.
On the car ride down here this morning, he offered up an out-of-the blue observation about the merits of low expectations. If this were my older son, Max, I may have launched into a tirade, possibly laced with expletives, and likely including ample references to data points like the 5:50am wakeup call, the $50 “baseball bag” with neoprene bat sleeves purchased just yesterday, and the fact that I got along just fine with cut-off long underwear when I played and didn’t need high end “sliding shorts.”
But Ev isn’t Max, as I’m learning still, so I had to follow a different approach altogether. And it’s not one that comes naturally. Not to me, at least.
I paused for a beat or two, checked again the distance until our exit off 101 according to Waze, and rolled the dice, keenly aware that if I blew this, Ev would refuse to get out of the car when we pulled into the parking lot.
“Well, if we all settled for low expectations, think of all the things that would never have been accomplished. No one would have invented cars. There would be no Internet. No Olympic Games. No man on the moon. So it’s actually good to have high expectations, to challenge yourself, because that’s how you grow, how you learn what you’re made of, how you find the best in yourself, and maybe you’ll find that you can do things you didn’t think you could do.”
Pretty good, right? And I think this is basically verbatim. As if I pulled the “Low Expectations Talk” index card out of the Fatherly Advice packet and read from it after clearing my throat (and of course without lowering the quality of my freeway driving).
And from the backseat? Crickets. Nothing. I half-expected a gasp, maybe a gasp plus applause and a “Bravo!” shouted by my red-faced and profoundly inspired 8 year-old.
Um, yeah. No.
I soldiered on, kept my legs moving, shucked and jived. Instead of high-minded inspiration about the evolution of mankind, I went for something more visceral.
I suspected (correctly) that Ev was perseverating about getting plunked on the back at last night’s practice by an errant throw from catcher to first base while Ev was running to 1st base himself. No doubt the bruise on his right shoulder blade still smarted, pressed as he was into the backseat. I needed a strong visual to capture Everett’s attention, snap him out of this pre-game funk, pull him back from dangling over the precipice by his fingertips.
Enter Tony C.
I pulled up the famously grotesque Tony Conigliaro Sports Illustrated cover. Then I handed my iPhone and Tony’s bulging, purple eye socket over my shoulder to Everett.
“Woah, look at that black eye! Wow!”
Everett was now recalibrated and ready to go. His memory banks wiped clean. Not a care in the world. All it took was a little blood and gore. Whatever works.
Thanks for reading.