Get some DAD-itude on the field

By Tom Kersten (adapted from a blog article July 17, 2016)

As any clinical psychologist will tell you… and I’ve spoken with many, do with that what you will… “the best indicator of future behavior is past behavior”. They then spend the next 20 minutes citing examples of how this isn’t always true… a behavior in its own right, so predictable it very nearly proves the point. Though inversely, as any analyst on Wall Street will be quick to point out, in the highly paid world of cover-your-ass finance, “past results are not indicative of future returns.” These two statements would appear to be at-odds with one another, similar to my own nearly perpetual bi-polar behavior… as I require constant instruction and yet I do not like to be told what to do… a perplexing conundrum, I admit. My default setting in situations such as these… and they come up with remarkable frequency, is to defer to any number of “advisors” among my circle of compatriots who will offer their musings, on a plethora of topics (see what I did there?)… most often unsolicited, slightly inebriated and in front of a TV, while playing a six-hour poker game. In this case – on the subject of the addictive nature of smoking – among my panel of unqualified “experts”, it was once suggested that, “quitting smoking is easy… I’ve done it 7 times”… a proclamation reminiscent of the movie Better Off Dead with the immortal words, “I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy.”

What does any of this have to do with baseball? Funny you should ask. In our league, containing players ranging in age from 18 to 78, bracketed into 5 age divisions…  the one with the most consistency, both in attendance and performance, 35+ on Friday nights, is also the one with the most “dads”, some with still young children in tow. Stick with me now, I’m bringing it around. While the older guys can play down with the younger guys, it does not work the other way around… leading to interesting and insightful comments that can be overheard – by those of us that move between divisions – during any pre-game warm-up. The younger guys, with their healthy nights out, tend to have “young” guy conversations like, “DUDE we got so wasted Friday night and then the stripper did this thing…” and so forth. The 45+ & 52+ guys, who tend to know their way around a tube of BenGay and a bottle of IcyHot (props to each of you for still getting on the field and doing the deed)… tend to have more “mature” conversations, like “my doctor started me on Lipitor and said I needed to lose 25 pounds… smart move man, my brother did that, made a world of difference… have you seen what my 401k is doing?… That’s awesome for you, trust me, retirement is great!”

Contrast these comments with the 35+ guys, playing on Friday night because Sundays are “family” days and we hear things like, “I won’t make it next week cuz I’m coaching my son’s travel team in a tournament… We’ll be out of town for the weekend camping… we’re gonna be in the Dells, hitting the water park with the kids next week… my arm hurts from throwing batting practice to 12-year-olds… Yeah? Well, try doing grown-ass men for 3 hours”… wait… What? This last one actually was spoken during a poker game, but I think you see where I’m going with this. These are the elusive chirpings of the American Male Dad in his natural habitat and as such, they’re not always going to come out coherently. The odd thing is this, even with all the obstacles facing these players… the time commitments of family, the stress of work and the injury rate over the course of the season… the Friday night teams are rarely short on players, argue infrequently with each other or umpires, play at an extremely high level and manage to do all this, often with kids in tow. Why should this be so? For your consideration, I submit… the word DAD-itude and the proper use of the “big piece of chicken.”

SIDENOTE: The video link here explains the average American household dynamic as put forth by one of today’s foremost marital philosophers, Chris Rock.

Now, I don’t know if DAD-itude is a new word or not… seems like any jackhole with a Wiki-account can create a new word these days… but it definitely isn’t a new idea. This term just refers to that positive, can-do attitude that a father brings to the table whenever he gets a bug-up-his-ass to get something done. When I was young… and yes it feels like a long time ago… my father was fond of saying, “there is a perfect tool for every job… but I don’t own any of them, so we’re gonna do it like this.” Which was invariably followed in close succession by, “now don’t ever try this yourself,” (he was rewiring an electrical outlet, without turning off the power) and “pay close attention cuz the doctor’s gonna want to know what happened,” (he was hanging a 12-point buck from the garage rafters using one pulley and an old set of my bicycle handlebars). Whenever I might venture to point out the inherent danger of said situation, he would always answer the same way… “relax, its gonna be fine”. Carrying sheets of drywall down the basement stairs at 13, “I don’t have much grip here, Dad”… “relax, its gonna be fine”. Wheelbarrowing rock from the driveway to the backyard at 15, “this handle feels like its gonna break, Dad”… “relax, its gonna be fine”. Cutting down a tree by pulling on a rope tied 40 feet up while he cuts the base with a chainsaw at 17, “you really think it’ll hit the open gate and miss the fence on either side, Dad?” … “relax, its gonna be fine” and… it was. In every one of these potential cluster&@#%$, the final outcome was exactly what my father had predicted. Now, there were some miscues… and those childhood memories almost always ended the same way as well, with some version of, “so… let’s not tell your mother about this, okay?” … And I never did, at least until recent years when the gray hairs and sore backs indicated that the statue of limitations had probably expired on our collective stupidity and letting some of these sneak out could be both healthy and bonding, running the risk of little more than eye rolls and a slow head shake from my mother in her easy chair.

SIDENOTE: This video link here is Bat Dad, a suburban father who embraced life in the car pool lane with grace and style… and a cheap Batman mask… truly inspirational DAD-itude.

I believe this is the attitude that gets players to the field and keeps us winning. Players who have the desire to compete, but have the wisdom to know that there is much more to life than winning the game at all costs. This insight and perspective are what sets teams apart from any I have known before. Now don’t hear what I’m not saying… if you take ball four and then pull your calf muscle in a slow jog to first base… there is literally, no limit to the amount of shit that will be heaped on you… right, Keith? And that is an enormous part of the camaraderie of a baseball team at its best… laughter as a bonding agent. Baseball is a sport built, not just for competition, but for contemplation and self-deprecation. Coach John Wooden said, “The best competition I have is against myself to become better”… and I would submit that he wasn’t just talking about sports when he said that.

SIDENOTE: This video link is comedian Heywood Banks and I dont know why, but every time my children and I watch this, we cant stop laughing and yes, that is a toaster he is playing.