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,” I said. “Stupid.”
“Yeah,” AJ smiled. “Stupid.”
“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.
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.
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.
“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.