Some Suburban Temptations Come in Unusual Wrappers
By Dave L. Goetz, author of Death by Suburb
July 1st, 2011 by admin
Several years ago I volunteered to coach my third-grade son’s Park District basketball team. I had no business coaching basketball, given my skill level, coaching experience, and slight paunch.
Sure enough, we lost the first two games, and not by small margins. The lack of “parent support” was deafening: “This is a wasted season for my son.”
Out of my league, I asked my wife’s uncle for help. He was ninety at the time. He spent his life as a college basketball coach, even winning an NCAA national championship in 1957.
“How old are the kids?” he asked.
“Kids at that age can’t pass the ball. You lose the game to turnovers. I recommend that you limit your passing. Just get the ball down the floor and shoot it.”
That made sense, but it felt wrong. I mean, how would I explain to the parents that we wouldn’t be passing the ball?
The next practice I implemented a one-pass strategy.
I huddled the boys together: “Guys, I never want to see more than one pass on offense. Ever. I don’t care if you are thirty feet from the basket. Shoot the ball. If we lose, we’re going to lose by missing shots at the basket. Not by turning the ball over to the other team.”
Ergo, run and gun. Just shoot the ball!
Sure enough, the strategy worked. We never lost another game that season. Suddenly, I was a coach with a winning record! Parents loved me! Said their son had his best year ever playing basketball: “Will you be coaching in the spring?”
I thought, How shallow of you. Where were you when we were losing?
I forgot to tell the parents, though, about another strategy that I had implemented at the same time as the one-pass strategy. I told the boys that I wanted them to foul out of every game. I felt they were too timid. I said something to the effect that “You have five fouls to give, so you have my blessing to give all of them. Get physical!”
Sure enough, several of our kids got booted from some games for intentional fouls. I had words with a couple of the coaches, and the refs started to watch us more closely. But we were winning.
In Death by Suburb, I write about immortality symbols, which confer glory on me in the here and now. I don’t have to wait for heaven for immortality! An immortality symbol may be my child’s admission to an Ivy League school, a second home in Colorado, a corporate job—or, in my case, a winning record. Immortality symbols, especially in the suburbs, help me manage meaning in my jejune life. They help me achieve god-like status with my peers. There’s nothing like being able to say in an off-hand way and with a wave of my hand at a summer party, “I feel so blessed to coach this year. I do it for the kids. And by the way, we are tops in the league.”
Immortality symbols, though, as Thomas Merton might say, simply reveal to the world my naked false self. It’s still all about me.