and asks you for validation
I’m not a bad person.
I just don’t know what to do in certain situations.
Let me explain. I love to compete about things. Always. I’ll compete about naming the last twenty states to join the union. I’ll compete with you about who can gain weight faster. I will compete with you about something that I know nothing about simply to be competing. It’s one of the best and worst things about my personality. But it is totally unavoidable. I think it comes from when I was a kid and I played basketball in the driveway with my father. We used to play one on one for hours, and he never let me beat him when I was a kid. It wasn’t until I was 13 that I actually beat him in a game of one on one, and was not until the age of 15 that I could beat him 2 out of 3. Now, it might seem unfair to you to never let your son beat you at basketball (And I might add, he was always kind about it, not like the Great Santini or something) but it made me a better ball player. I had to spend many hours of my life dedicated to the thought of beating him and when I finally did, it was a moment that I have relished all of my life. However, I am not into “win at all costs.” I would rather have a competitive game that I lost than win in a game that was not challenging. I mean, that’s why we compete, right? To challenge ourselves?
Sometimes the desire to compete and win takes over too much.
I have always felt bad about the way I have treated people that are physically challenged (how does this relate? I will soon show you). When I was a teenager, my friend Chrissy Schnieder and I listened to a punk band called Fang who sang a song called “Destroy the Handicapped”. (Okay, okay, I know, but it was 1987. I was wearing black eyeliner for Christ’s sake). Chrissy used to joke that she did not want to destroy the handicapped, rather annoy them. Ha, ha, ha we laughed a lot at that one, until Chrissy, who was all into the homemade T-shirts, made one that said “Annoy the Handicapped” on the back. She didn’t bat an eyelash about wearing it out, and of course, we saw a poor kid who had braces on his legs. I don’t think that Chrissy saw him, but I saw him see the shirt, see us and our strong bodies and perfectly good legs and watched him be humiliated. I felt like I had just kicked the poor kid while he was down, and then kicked little his dog, too. I was mortified. What we had started as a half-assed joke had turned malicious.
After that, I decided that I was never going to treat anyone with a physical deformity any different than anyone else. I would only treat people like I would want to be treated.
Move a couple of years into the future and see Eric playing basketball in college (See, I told you it would all come around in the end). We were playing with a guy named David, a guy that I didn’t know. However, trying to win the game and competing really hard, I started to advise my teammates on how to take advantage of the other team. What their strengths and weaknesses were. Loudly. To the entire gym. Of course David was dribbling the ball and he was being defended by my friend Matt, and I yell “Matt, force him to use his left hand! He can’t dribble with his left hand! He’s got no left!”
David had been born with a crippling disease of his left arm that made it much smaller and virtually unusable.
He had lived with it so long that he had learned to disguise it, and it hardly looked abnormal at all. I honestly couldn’t tell that he was physically unable to use his arm. I just thought he was a bad basketball player.
Today, I was faced with a similar dilemma. We all play basketball at lunch on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Today we had a new guy join us. He was about my height and build so he guarded me. He also has a prosthetic leg. From his knee down, everything had been amputated. And I have to give him mad props, for a guy with a half a leg, he was damn good.
I just wanted to win really badly.
Is this wrong? I felt like if I took it easy on him, then I was patronizing him. If I scored on him, then I was the guy who took advantage of the guy with the bad leg. It was at this point I wished that my dad had let me beat him a few times.
After the game he came up to me and said, “You know, even if I had both of my legs, I still couldn’t keep up with you.”
And I felt a little better.