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By Mike Leidemann
Advertiser Staff Writer
If there's one thing I've learned from a lifetime interest in sports, it's that there are no lessons to be learned from sports.
Being a football player doesn't make you a better man. Playing tennis won't help you succeed in business. Running a marathon doesn't prepare you for dealing with old age.
Anybody who says different is probably a coach.
I got to thinking about stuff like that one Saturday recently when I spent some time talking with people at youth baseball games in Kailua. In the course of a couple of hours, I heard parents say over and over again that their sons and daughters were learning important life lessons on the field.
You could almost see the joy of the game being drained from the kids from where we sat.
"This is where they start to learn that you can't always win in life," one coach of 8-year-olds said. "This is where the ones who aren't really dedicated start to drop out," said another coach, talking about 13-year-olds.
As we talked, I could feel myself going back 35 years to my own days as a bench-warming high-school football lineman on a team that won only one game in my senior year.
We had one of those coaches you still see around sometimes, who honestly believed that he was teaching us lessons that would last a lifetime. He believed that you ran till you dropped and then you got up and ran some more. He believed that you banged each other till somebody drew blood. And he believed that you should do it all for hours on end without water breaks.
I learned to hate him. I should have learned enough to quit, but I didn't because I was still young and stupid.
Even years later, when he went on to be a head coach of a major college team, I would pick up the paper every Sunday morning and hope his team had lost.
I guess we were supposed to learn that perseverance beyond all reason is a virtue. We were supposed to discover some inner grit that would serve us well in marriage, divorce, bankruptcy, jobs or illness. We were supposed to learn to be pensively quiet and sad on the bus after each loss.
Only life isn't always like that.
Sometimes, it's OK to laugh in the face of defeat. (Smile, and the world smiles with you.) Sometimes, it's OK to give 75 percent. (It will help you avoid an ulcer.) Sometimes, it's OK to be mediocre. (Everyone can't be above average, except in Lake Wobegon.) Sometimes, it's OK to back down from a fight. (Live to fight another day.)
Of course, sports are still valuable. They offer diversion and entertainment. They give us some of our best villains and heroes. They provide us the building blocks for analogy and metaphor.
Just don't try to tell me that anything you learn on the field counts for much in the game of life.
Reach Mike Leidemann at 525-5460 or email@example.com.