- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"So how's the team look?" I asked my 11-year-old son when he got home from his first basketball practice.
"Well," Michael answered, "the good news is that we're small and slow and we can't shoot for beans. The bad news is that our coach quit and we've got a game on Saturday."
That sounded ominous. My intuition proved accurate when I received a phone call from someone in the Concord Recreation Department League office later that evening. "I understand," said a cheerful voice, "that you've done a little coaching."
I wondered if it was my wife who had betrayed me. "A little," I said. "A long time ago. High school kids."
"Well, your son's team seems to be without a coach and we were wondering...."
I vowed a long time ago that I would never coach a team of which one of my kids was a member. I'd seen what happened to others. Loving fathers, well-intentioned men oozing goodwill and community spirit, became transformed into screaming and pouting tyrants. They exulted in victory and alibied in defeat. They abused officials, kept mediocre players on the bench, and taught fancy plays instead of fundamentals. They embarrassed and humiliated their players—especially their own kids, who usually played quarterback or pitched and batted cleanup. I could understand it. It was a seductive trap. I wanted none of it. I didn't trust myself.
But I'm a pushover for salesmen. People sell me light bulbs over the phone. Lifetime supplies. Every year. I've bought subscriptions to magazines' I'll never read in order to help kids I don't know earn their way through colleges I've never heard of. I once paid a guy who called himself the Stork Man $698 sight unseen for a contraption that theoretically could be converted from a high chair to a stroller to a crib. Nothing but the best for my unborn child.
A friend of mine who sells encyclopedias once explained to me that the key to selling is to prey on the guilt of the prospective buyer. Good causes deserve public support. Less fortunate people need our help. Noblesse oblige. And everyone wants the very best for their own children, of course, and should therefore buy lots of encyclopedias, not to mention convertible high chairs.
"I understand how you feel," said the guy on the phone. "But these poor kids are really in a bind, you know?"
So I sighed and succumbed. Still a pushover.