MVP (Most Valuable Pastrami)

How do you bully a bully?

I used to think you confront a bully to win respect. But I was wrong. You confront a bully because it’s fun.

You don’t win respect. You earn it.

Cousin Stacey came into the deli with her son, AJ. It was Friday Afternoon and they dropped-by for a late lunch. I fixed myself a bowl of homemade tomato soup with noodles and joined them at the table.

“AJ played in the championship of his camp’s basketball tournament,” Stacey said.

“Cool,” I said. “How’d you do, AJ?”

“We lost,” he said. “I barely played. The other guys think they’re so much better. But all they do is shoot air balls. The coach is stupid.”

“That’s not nice,” Stacey shot back. “Don’t talk about your coach like that.”

“But I barely played.”

“You don’t talk about adults like that.”

“AJ happens to be right,” I replied. “His coach is stupid. Everyone on the team should play equal time. How old are you AJ?”

“8.”

“8,” I said. “Stupid.”

“Yeah,” AJ smiled. “Stupid.”

“Don’t teach him to be disrespectful,” Stacey said.

“The coach is being disrespectful to AJ. He’s not an adult. He’s not a grown-up. I don’t care how old he is. He’s not a coach. He’s not an educator. He’s a bully. And you know what? The team lost anyway. At least if he played all the kids, equal time, he could teach them how to lose with class, he could teach them how to lose with dignity, so they don’t end-up winning a championship and making a boneheaded MVP Speech like LeBron James.”

By the way, did you see the MVP Speech of LeBron James?

Boneheaded doesn’t begin to describe it. Pounding on his chest, talking about himself, talking about no one but himself.

Stupid.

I played basketball on the 7th grade team for Elm Place Junior High. I should say I sat on the bench on the 7th grade team for Elm Place Junior High.

Our coach, Dan Kornblut, would sit my ass on the bench until the last 2-minutes of the game, letting the starters, “the cool kids,” run-up the score, by at least 30-points, maybe then, and only then, if we were up, by at least 30-points, would he take me off the bench.

By the time I got in the game, all I wanted to do was pass the ball away, all I wanted to do was get out of the game, all I wanted to do was get back on the bench, where I belonged.

It was my place. I understood.

Not only was Dan Kornblut a coach, not only was Dan Kornblut a teacher, but Dan Kornblut was the vice principal.

Mostly, Dan Kornblut was a bully. I don’t blame him. I blame the parents.

Where were the parents? Where were the adults? Where were the grown-ups? How did they let this kind of nonsense pass as sportsmanship? How did they let this kind of nonsense pass as learning? When did winning become the most important thing?

I was 12.

12!

Stupid.

I finished my soup, glancing at the remaining noodles on the bottom of my bowl, stragglers. I thought about sharing my story with Stacey. But decided against it. She wasn’t interested, which is how bullies win.

Most people are so afraid to step-up. Most people are so afraid to step-in. Most people are so afraid.

By the way, here’s the secret to taking a punch. You step-in, which is counter-intuitive.

“Wanna shoot hoops?” I asked AJ.

He shook his head, defeated. I could tell he was learning the same lesson I learned, all those years ago: settle for less.

It’s no surprise, Dan Kornblut was promoted to principal.

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6 Responses to MVP (Most Valuable Pastrami)

  1. Vince says:

    I coached 7-9 year olds in basketball. Everyone gets to play at least half of the game. That’s it, period. At some point, winning becomes the ultimate goal. I’m not sure at what age that happens, but at 8, the coach is stupid if everyone doesn’t at least play half the game.

    • Gregor says:

      Everyone plays equal time. Until high school. Come on!

      Winning is supposed to be the most important thing. It’s beautiful. Ambition is is a defining characteristic.

      But teaching grace under pressure is how we raise our children to be the people they’re going to become instead of remaining greedy monsters until they clinch the Supreme Court Nomination, and beyond.

  2. Marie says:

    Greg , I agree with you…8 is too young to be set aside like a bad apple. Let all the kids enjoy a fun game of basketball. Adulthood and rejection will come soon enough…no need to hurry it up !
    Marie…from Chicagoland

    • Gregor says:

      I’m a fan of rejection, one of the great gifts of being a man is learning how to let go of rejection when you’re shot down trying to get a girl’s phone number.

      I’m a fan of adulthood, one of the great gifts of being a grown-up is stepping-in when you feel like running away.

      But I’m turned-off by what passes for parenting: allowing your child to throw a fit in a restaurant, treating little league like it’s an olympic training ground, abdicating your authority to God.

      No wonder we have 5 brats on The Supreme Court, they were raised to pound on tables, throwing tantrums with gavels.

  3. Claudia says:

    Settle for less, never. I can’t, is a bad word in my house. Educators that do not educate, need to be addressed. I do not believe in the motto that so many use “children are to be seeing and not heard.” that is why those type of coaches get away with being such boneheads.

    Respect is to be earned not to be given so lightly or just because you are an adult. Do you know how many crimes against children have been committed by this mentally. Many!

    My son played volleyball this past year his coach did the same thing to him. I being an advocate for others, why not my own son, decided to bring the issue to the table.

    I was heard but nothing changed one person can’t changed the world but I can put a dent. Maybe others can step up and step in and make it change.

    By the way, AJ is a very handsome boy. Love the pictures.

    • Gregor says:

      Lecturing is easy. Change is hard. But I’m glad you stuck-up for your son. What’s with these idiot coaches? I don’t care if it’s volleyball, foosball or badminton. The athletes are supposed to want the win more than anything in the world. But the coach is supposed to impart “world view.”

      Especially with kids!

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