Competitive. To A Fault?

I grabbed the basketball and swiftly kicked it into the rafters. It struck a light, knocking decades of dust to the floor.

This act of petulance was a result of losing a pick-up basketball game – where the average age was 45, and my age certainly brought it down that low – due to a poor defensive assignment by yours truly.

Do you understand the irony of this? Defense. In a pick-up basketball game.

And here I was, completely upset we lost. Enough that I kicked a ball 40 feet into the ceiling.

It’s often been like that for me. Competitive to a fault. Growing up, I’d probably average a 2-for-4 day in Little League. Imagine that – batting .500 for at least three straight years, maybe more. Yet, I’d be ticked off about the two outs I made. When other kids would enjoy the post-game pizza or sno-cones, I’d be wanting to immediately play again, trying to squeeze out the two hits I missed out on.

When I was older, playing in an adult baseball league, some 40-ish guy stepped to the plate. He was easily the oldest guy on the field, while the rest of us were college-aged. Some of us didn’t quite make the Division 1 level; others were from the university team, playing ball in their offseason. It was highly competitive and full of young male testosterone.

For specific reasons, I don’t remember, this old man started jawing at me when he’s in the batter’s box. Our pitcher had a wicked slider that even some of the D-1 athletes couldn’t hit. So, I don’t know why he threw him a fastball. The old guy got a base hit, probably surprising himself.

Problem was, I didn’t put down the index finger for a fastball. I put down my middle finger so our pitcher would bean this jackass. The pitcher just misread it.

Here I am, so competitive that in a Sunday adult league, I’m trying to have the old guy drilled.

Here is my 5-year-old, upset and pouting after a recent loss in a card game vs. me.

So, it’s without surprise that I find my daughter uber competitive. My wife is competitive, too. In a different way than I am, though, since she doesn’t try to turn everything into a game where there’s winners and losers like I do.

My daughter does this, however.

First one upstairs is the winner! she’ll shout.

As I chase behind her, sometimes I’ll pick her up and then beat her up the stairs. Tears have been had because of this small act of goofing around.

We recently bought her some board games as she’s getting to the age to play and use reasoning, etc. to understand. Whenever she loses – and I do mean whenever – there is pouting. Sometimes crying. Certainly an extended bottom lip.

I actually don’t mind a lot of this behavior. I think it’s good to an extent. It builds character and soon enough she’ll understand how to win with grace – something I’m good at – and lose with grace – something I am still working on.

This shows to me that she cares. That she takes things seriously. That she wants to be better.

These are all qualities I try to embody in myself. My wife, too.

I’m of the belief that you shouldn’t stop learning. Whether it’s about a subject, or about yourself, it keeps your mind moving and fresh. So, hopefully the kiddo will take this on, as well, and learn how to curtail some of this competitiveness while still having that fire burn inside her heart.

Last night she was lamenting that she lost consecutive Hungry, Hungry Hippos games to grandma. We’re talking serious business.

Daddy, I only got three both times and Grandma got six! That’s not fair!

My grandfather was one of the smartest men I ever met. A former FBI agent and Wall Street professional, he would play checkers with me while sitting on the floor of his house. He would routinely kick the snot out of me.

But, I learned from it. I learned how to better set myself up on the board, to try and think ahead of what he may be thinking. One time I legitimately beat him. (Sometimes, his grandfather-ness would allow the little ginger kid a pity victory. Even at around 8 or so, I knew he was doing it.) It was one of the best feelings.

That’s one of the reasons that I do defeat my daughter at some of these games. She’ll keep learning, keep getting better, and then soon enough will flip the script on me.

And, ideally, she’ll keep moving forward, attacking the next mountain with a strong mind and without an extended lower lip.


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