From the mid to late 1980s, I participated in various sports programs with groups unaffiliated with any one school. Some weekday afternoons, and Saturdays, we would play baseball, basketball, touch football, soccer, etc. During the week, we would usually learn fundamentals, practice, or scrimmage. Weekends, in the mornings, we would practice, and sometimes play against other teams in the afternoon. At the end of the season, the counselors would give out awards. This was before every participant got one. I remember, during the baseball season, they gave out a particular trophy which was a Silver Cup for “Hustle.” I was determined to win that award. So, every opportunity I would demonstrate my enthusiasm. What did that entail you wonder? Well, while most kids would walk to their positions at the change of an inning or the start of practice, I would sprint. I had hoped this display would convince the counselor in charge that I alone should get this award. At the time, I believed the winner would be decided in a fair and objective manner based on merit. Of course, this is how a child perceives the world; adults of any age are infallible. Simone De Beauvoir wrote an in-depth analysis of this stage in “The Ethics of Ambiguity.”
Here’s another example of how I did not quite yet grasp how things truly worked. When I was seven, and my mother was pregnant with my brother, my parents had a baby pool for friends to guess the sex, date of birth, and weight. The doctor had said the due date would be April 12th. I was amazed other people were picking different days in the pool. I remember thinking they were idiots. THE DOCTOR said it would be April the 12th. Of course, that’s the date I selected, and the fact my brother was born on the 12th only confirmed my initial suspicions. It would be a long time before I understood due dates were an estimate rather than a certainty. I don’t remember when I had this realization, but I’m pretty certain it was much later in life than it should have been.
In the end, I had picked that my sibling would be a boy, born on April the 12th, and weigh 8 lbs. and 3 oz. I was off by an ounce, but everything else was the same; he was 8 lbs. and 4 oz. I wonder whether this reinforced my enthusiasm to gamble later in life.
As a child, I still had an idealistic and solipsistic view of the world. Now, of course, thirty-plus years later, I have a better understanding of how things work. (Debatable). Looking back on it, the counselor probably gave the Silver Cup to the kid who was the most athletic, had an easy-to-remember name, or whose parents had tipped the counselor well at the end of the year. Perhaps, the name had been picked randomly five minutes before the ceremony. Any of these situations are possible.
It’s probably summed up best in this exchange between Ty Cobb and Al Stump in the movie Cobb. Stump is a sportswriter who has been hired to write the biography of Cobb. Of course, Cobb wants it to focus exclusively on his baseball acumen, while Stump wants to include personal details from Cobb’s life.
“Who gives a good God damn about the opinions of Al Stump?! What people want to know about is Ty Cobb! And they don’t want to know who he hates ’cause everybody hates somebody! They don’t wanna know if he had two wives or ten! They don’t wanna know if he hit women or if they hit him!” said Cobb
“You think they wanna know how to steal second base?” said Stump
Andrew Davie has worked in theater, finance, and education. He taught English in Macau on a Fulbright Grant and has survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. He has published short stories at various places, a chapbook with The Daily Drunk, crime fiction novellas with All Due Respect and Close to the Bone, and an upcoming memoir. His other work can be found in links on his website https://andrew-davie.com/