Moses, Colonel Sanders, and Why I Should Play Linebacker For the Raiders

I don’t discuss with people the fact that I’m an aspiring writer, unless they are close friends or one of the two people that follow my blog. But when I do talk about being a writer I am often asked why I would want to do something with little to no chance of success, little or no promise of monetary gain, and little to no chance of gaining enough fame to hit the million follower mark on Twitter.  Simply put, I want to be a writer because I’m too old to play linebacker for the Oakland Raiders.  It was never going to happen anyway, and at the age of forty it’s time to put that dream to rest.  With age comes perspective, as well as the motivation to read for something other than an English class.  In doing so you come across books like Fight Club, where Tyler Durden tells us,

“This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

That did not resonate with me at all the first time I read the book back in ’98 because I was only twenty six and felt pretty confident I would live forever and have plenty of time to be successful at whatever I decided to do that wasn’t the thing I was doing right then.  Last year I read the book again and realized that I was still doing the same thing I hated doing when I was twenty seven.  Thirteen years ago.  And now I realize that time is not infinite (at least for me) and if I harbor any illusions about not doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the last thirteen years for another thirteen I should probably get my head out and do it now.

Not that I’m complaining about my current job. It’s indoors, involves no heavy lifting, and pays well enough for what I’m asked to do.  Still, it’s not what I wanted to be when I was a kid.  My brother is a fireman and every kid wants to be a fireman and that wasn’t his dream as a kid and I’m almost certain that most of us are working in jobs right now that they didn’t dress up as on Career Day when they were in the fourth grade. Somewhere along the way we put down our dreams and decided to make money and have nice houses and cars and to put braces on our kid’s teeth and we lose sight of the fact that our lives are ending one minute at a time.  But they are, and whatever distractions we create in the meantime will not slow those minutes down one bit.

So, when I was 15 I was an aspiring linebacker for the Oakland Raiders.  At 40, I’m an aspiring writer.  When I’m 60 I’ll probably be an aspiring cliff diver.  I think you should always aspire to be something and that something should be so ridiculous that everyone will line up around the block to tell you how stupid you are for even thinking about trying it. Nursing homes are full of people who are only aspiring to live another day.  Or to fit as much Jello in their mouths as possible before the dining room closes.  They are aspiring, it’s just that there’s are pretty good chance they’ll succeed without putting forth any effort.  Kind of like watching Matlock reruns.

We just threw a big party for my grandmother’s 90th birthday.  It consisted of family and friends sitting around a church parlor eating cake and drinking punch.  Most of the revelers were in walkers and wheelchairs and even though it was a party it felt more like a wake.  And if you knew my grandmother even a little it would bother you to no end because it drove me crazy.  I remember her as being way younger than her age, fishing with us, playing ball in the park, and generally acting like she was a ten year old- except she could cook us dinner, which was always nice.  I think after my grandfather passed she quit aspiring to anything.  I hope that doesn’t happen to me.  I want to celebrate my 90th birthday by jumping off Everest in a wing suit without a parachute.  My wife wants a party in a bowling alley with strippers and bottle rockets.  We are two very different people.

I think we all have the potential to be great, it’s just that we let reality get in the way of our dreams.  Moses didn’t do anything other than tend sheep and kill overseers until he was in his 90’s.  KFC didn’t blow up until Colonel Sanders was in his 80’s.  If you have a dream then maybe you should just keep at it until you drop, age and reality be damned.

Somebody get me Al Davis’ phone number.

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One of our softball players went 3 for 3 last Saturday.  I know this happens all of the time but until Saturday she had just one hit total.  For the entire season.  Seven games.  I was out of town with our son at a football tournament and missed the game, but later on I threw out a Tweet letting her know I was proud of her.  Problem with Twitter is you only get 140 characters to say what you want to say.

Here’s what I said: “So proud of your 3 for 3.  I knew you could do it!”

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What I meant……..

You don’t realize what you’ve done. Not a clue and that’s actually a good thing. It needs to be a fundamental part of your character, this thing you’ve accomplished over the past few weeks. It is one of the true pleasures of coaching that I was able to watch it happen.  Eight weeks ago you looked like someone swinging a polo mallet and riding a pretend horse. Six weeks ago it looked like Tiger Woods coming out of the sand. Four weeks ago, Happy Gillmore’s tee shot.

Last week I noticed something. The swing was level. The timing was slow and you were juuust behind it. I thought, a few more AB’s and she’ll find it.  And you did.
But I know the rest of it too.  The hours of work in the back yard to fix that swing, Mom and brother feeding you balls and breaking it down. Daddy picking you up after every strikeout, feeding you confidence so you’d have the courage to make that trip to the plate one more time.
Remember this feeling. The weight of the bat. The ball on the sweet spot. Parents and grandparents and teammates fist pumping and hugging after you ran through first base. But remember what got you there, too. You have learned a lesson many adults haven’t figured out:

Most things in life are not going to come to you naturally.  

They will require you to work at them, and success happens when you work at something you’re passionate about. Success is not a gift. It is not a birthright. Many adults have raised their children in a sports atmosphere where we don’t keep score, we try to build self esteem instead of character, and then we act surprised when children want everything and don’t understand why they have to work for it. Then they are equally surprised when they look to someone else for validation of an unaccomplished life. How else do you explain boys barely out of their teens building bombs, high schools that need day care, and 26 year olds still on their parent’s insurance?

Softball isn’t natural for you. Whatever success you have in the sport will be because you worked for it. Because you earned it. And guess what? This won’t be the only time in your life where working at something important will pay off. Your job. Your marriage. Being a parent. Not to overdramatize it, but you are now set up to be anything you want to be because now you know what it takes- the decision that something is so important that the sacrifice is worth it.

Good game.

Everyone is famous for fifteen minutes. Or a famous brother for thirty minutes.

My brother is famous. Not the rock star, in the public eye, get caught by the prying eyes of the media stepping out of your limo in a miniskirt kind of way. But when you say his name everybody knows him. Geriatric great grandmothers whose only link to the outside world is AM radio and Matlock reruns. The Swedish Bikini Team. The Amish. Everybody.

Consequently, the world can be divided into two separate categories. One- people that know me, know my brother, and wish I was him. Two- people that know my brother, don’t know me, and think I’m him. (Hint- I’m older, fatter and don’t reek of Polo.)

The second category has actually made for a rather enjoyable, Walter Mitty kind of experience for me. I have been accused of being thrown out of bars I’ve never stepped foot in, had several ’80s movie stars profess to meeting me that I’ve only seen on Celebrity Fit Club, and had the thrill of leading a KISS tribute band in a rousing chorus of “Rock and Roll All Night.” None of this would have been possible had I not been linked genetically to everyone’s favorite neighbor/coworker/drinking buddy/fellow heavy metal music aficionado.

No, the problem is the first group. Once people realize I am not my brother they usually want to talk about him. What he likes to eat. His most recent tatoo. His views on the United Nations Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. But often they just want to know what it was like to grow up with him.

Below is an excerpt from a day of Twitter back-and-forth. Before Twitter and text messages we would have these conversations on the phone or even face to face if work, spouse, child, or house arrest obligations allowed. It is fairly indicative of our relationship as adults. As children the vocabulary wasn’t as colorful and whatever arguments we initiated tended to end with cartoon like violence involving plastic wiffle ball bats and Atari controllers. But you’ll get the idea.

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