Listening to: Gary Glitter
Reading: Sheet music for Alice in Chains “dirt” transcribed for the tuba.
Writing about: Sports, Band, Elitism, and Competition
Disclaimer: Sports Enthusiasts, I am not one of you.
I have always been terrible at sports.
But especially team sports.
I can’t throw, or catch.
I wore glasses and a patch.
I moved like a puppy when it’s feet and legs don’t match yet.
I can watch football, but I follow no teams.
It would shock you
and it should embarrass me
how little I know about professional players and teams
This year, I scheduled a meeting over the Super Bowl,
Because I didn’t know when the Super Bowl was.
All of that is to say, I am an outsider in the sports world, and I get that.
So when I lay out my beef, here in a minute, you can take it or leave it
I’ve got no skin in the game.
The wind up: Me and my Sousaphone.
When I got into middle school someone at the school asked about my elective hour:
“Wheel, Chorus, or Band?”
As Middle Schoolers do, I was trying things on, so I said:
“Sure, I’ll be in the band”
Band Director: What instrument do you want to play.
Me: I don’t know.
Band Director: What about the Tuba, everyone hates that one so we always need more people.
Band Director: Here, take this Tuba, and give it a shot
Me: “FFFFFFFFFFFFFFF” (into mouthpiece…tuba makes “fffffff” sound)
Band Director: That’s not how it works, try making a sound like a motorboat
Me: “PLPLPLPLPLPLPLPLPL” (Tuba makes elephant sound)
Band Director: Welcome to the band, you’re second chair.
There are not many hobbies you can pick up
With absolutely no prior knowledge
In 6th Grade.
But the Band is structured in a way that makes that possible.
Come one, come all…..
Learn to love or hate playing music.
That is a beautiful thing.
The Pitch: The problem with Competition
Team Sports do a lot of great things, when they are working:
They have the power to teach kids how to win and lose
They teach community and team building
Discipline, Physical Health, etc.
My beef isn’t with team sports,
It is with the runaway power any hobby gets
when competition becomes paramount.
There is a prevailing logic, in all team sports and many other hobbies that sounds like this:
If my kid doesn’t start when they are three they won’t be good enough when they are five
If we don’t play travel, we’ll have no chance to play in middle or high school
We have to dedicate more time as they get older, to qualify them for scholarships.
I don’t doubt that those statements are true.
But it seems unlikely to me that that sort of logic is good for kids.
The force of competition is insatiable:
More practices per week
More seasons per year
More Dollars per kid, per sport
Better equipment, better training,
More time dedicated to the hobby
All in the name of keeping up
When all that is at stake, ultimately, is the hobby itself.
Strikeout: The Legendary Yellow Jackets
When I was in College I worked with Young Life
At an Urban High School in St. Augustine.
“Our Kids” dominated the high school football team
And their football team dominated every other football team.
These kids lived and breathed football.
And they were good.
They came to our young life club and small group
They were in our houses eating our terrible 20 year old food.
Every structure of their life was built in support of their sport.
They won second place in the state tournament
Two of them got football scholarships.
Then they failed out and came home.
Some got fat.
Some are fantastic sports coaches and mentors now.
But none of them are football players.
Post Game Commentary: Priorities
I don’t think excelling in a hobby is bad.
I don’t think competition is fundamentally evil
(Though there are Christian and Jewish Theologies that think just that)
I want my kids to enjoy what they do.
I really want them to love surfing,
I’d like for them to play instruments.
Jay can throw a baseball further than me.
But all of that is just icing.
I’d like to live in a world that treats hobbies like hobbies.
* The first chair tuba player once transcribed the song Dirt By Alice in Chains
to be played on three tubas.
He was probably pretty terrible at sports too.
Now he writes articles for libertarians: