Weekly St. Helena Star Column

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

 

FAJITA FEST

This town has more auctions than Nancy Pelosi has ways to pass legislation where she might not have the votes.

Barely a week goes by that someone isn’t holding a wine auction for some “worthwhile event or charity.” Don’t get me wrong. They are all worthwhile. We go to our share. And they raise, literally millions. Not bad for a town of 6,000.

But my favorite is the Fajita Fest . This year it jives with May Day. It’s put on by the Saints Athletic association. No airs. Very informal—held at Native Sons Hall. They raise some dough for athletics, but it’s not cut throat. Many are fans who care about kids. Mostly its parents. It’s really a time for us to wink at each other and acknowledge a common bond.

We all know what each has gone through—-and we don’t mean driving hours on end to games. It’s the tears after strike outs, the missed free throws; the failure to make the squad; the double faults; the fumbles and interceptions—-all the minor defeats that even the best athletes deal with daily.

Parenting an athlete is not easy. Especially, because none of us have ever done it before. We can see the obvious. Why can’t the coach? Clearly our kid is the best at her position. It must be personal. That’s why she’s not playing.

We heap praise on good plays. We’re pretty lousy at comforting after a loss. The kids want to win. Saying, “It’s only a game,” is stupid. If it were a game no one would be keeping score—-and no parents would be watching.

Kids want their bodies to perform the way their minds think they should. They’re trying their best. But athletics isn’t about successes. It’s about failures—-and dealing with them—-daily, after each game. Remember, each play called in the huddle is designed to score a touchdown. When it doesn’t --someone didn’t do his job.

Take baseball. If a hitter fails 70% of the time, he makes the Hall of Fame. Getting a hit one out of three times gets you there. That means a lot of failures.

Most shots in a basketball game don’t go in. But our kids think they should. It’s our job to deal with them when they don’t.

“Be supportive,” folks say. Sounds nice, but kids find “being supportive” patronizing. On the other hand, they don’t want to be criticized either.

There’s a marvelous tension between parent and child during sporting events. I don’t think anyone has quite figured it out. That’s why we parents like to get together at the Fajita Fest.

It’s not what’s said amongst us that counts. It’s what goes unsaid that makes all the difference. We just like being around each other knowing that we either played the games ourselves, or watched our kids play and underwent the same agony and ecstasy that every parent has ever undergone while watching his kid perform, from the beginning of time.

None of us has the right answer. I, personally, know mean, tough fathers who have raised world class athletes. I know mean, tough fathers who have driven their kids off the fields and into drugs. There is no set formula.

Yet, intuitively, we all know that sport is good. We know that it builds character and allows for hard work and grit to pay off. We know that it allows each kid to reach heights she didn’t know she was capable of, and also tests one’s mettle to see if one chokes when on the free throw line in the closing seconds.

We’re not tribes, like the Aedui or Helvetti before Caesar subdued them. We don’t have daily “do or die” tribal combats which test our manhood and survival skills.

But we love competing and testing ourselves under pressure. It’s in our DNA. And as long as young boys and girls want to test themselves in those arenas, there will always be parents who are left sitting in the stands, wondering what to say when the competition is over, and the kid has failed—or even, on occasion—won.

Not one of us at Native Sons will have the answer. But, a secret, special fraternity, we will bask in each others’ company—-like earthquake survivors who have something in common that others can only guess at but never quite know.

Parents of athletes. We are a lost tribe with no answers. But there’s no place else we’d rather be come May 1st.



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