I was a junior in high school when the movie A League of Their Own came out. (Still my favorite movie.) It just so happened that the main character was a catcher (and not a stubby-looking one either), who wore #8, batted clean-up, and led her championship team in home runs. Well, at the time, I happened to be a catcher who was tall and thin (I HATED the catcher stereotype, and resented when people told me I didn't look like a catcher), I had been wearing #8 all my life, and I was batting .462 in the clean-up spot, leading our team in home runs too. Oh, and our team won our conference championship, though we we lost the division title in the second round of play-offs. What a great year. So, needless to say, during that season, I ate, drank, and slept softball. At a time when I should have been considering what the rest of my life would be like, I could only think baseball. (Time not playing was spent watching/listening on the radio to coverage of my beloved Philadelphia Phillies, 2 years before another World Series appearance.)
Even though that was many years ago, not too much has changed in professional athletics. The more I follow sports, the more my empathetic heart bleeds for some of those guys. You might be thinking, "How can you feel bad for multi-millionaires?"
Life is about more than money, as I'm sure you know. And although these guys (yes, I am focusing on the male-dominated athletics) get to play for a living, there are many drawbacks that make me quite happy with the life I live in front of my computer. Here's why:
I don't do well with pressure. Actually, I kind of used to perform well when there was the added pressure of two strikes, two outs, a runner coming home, or a play-off game. But I never liked it (except the tag out at the plate. Always loved that). Every bus ride to away games would churn the acid in my stomach that much more. This was for games that had just a handful of spectators. Most fans just read the paper, where poor performances could possibly hide. Not having a job in the spotlight saves my stomach the many ulcers it could have had.
You can't make mistakes when you are a professional. Even though you should be allowed, since we are all usually allowed to err once or twice in our human jobs, people often use the excuse that these guys are paid to be perfect. Yikes. Go back to #1 to see how I feel about that pressure. Every flaw in your performance is seen by thousands or even millions of people. These flaws are often cursed using language you yourself might not even use, and then shown over and over on ESPN to the commentary of some really funny jokesters.
3. Other Players
First of all, everyone else in the league is pretty much as good as you are. People may complain that a certain player stinks, but really. If you are good enough to make the pros, you are better than most other people complaining about your performance. The best batting average in the MLB this year was .338. The worst (non-pitcher) was .210. Not a huge difference. That first guy got a hit a little more than 3 out of 10 times, while the other guy was just over 2 out of 10 times. Minuscule difference there.
And you are all playing for a job. Nothing more. No one else is on your side, because they want your job. Or they need to make themselves look better by making you look like a fool. Even your teammates, if it comes down to one or the other of you, will not sacrifice his job for you. It's nothing personal, just business as usual in sports.
Much like a drill sergeant, your boss's job is to yell at you. His job is on the line if you perform poorly. (I guess that's true everywhere.) But coaches yell more. I'm sure some people respond to that pretty well, but I'm not a fan of angry bosses. Of course, you answer to other "bosses" as well, including the fans. That's another tough crowd. See below.
I'm a Philly fan. I know what we're like. I am not sure if anyone else in the country is worse than we are. (Please don't bring up Santa Claus, though. That was before my time.) But we are a city frustrated with loss. With the exception of one World Series in 2008, we have not won a sports championship in more than 20 years. The buildup of disappointment is not the fault of the current players - they only get the outpouring of it from the fans. We have about zero patience for anything but perfection. (How are we even called fans, anyway?) Regardless, fans can be severe critics and people who think they know your job better than you do. Oh, and there are probably a million of them. That's a loud "boo" when you make that mistake.
Oh, I know, all this criticism is supposed to make you strive harder to make them cheer. I'm sure that works for some, but not me. The boos feel louder to me than the yeas.
Military wives have it the worst, I think. But it can't be easy for the wives of professional athletes, when your husband is away for about 6 months out of the year, every year. Even in the offseason, there are events to attend. It's never a dull life, which is exactly how some people like it! But if you are someone who thrives on consistency, professional athletics is not for you.
Yes, this is on my list of why I WOULDN'T want this job. First of all, if I am doing something where I would be making the money some of these athletes make, I would feel guilty if I weren't perfect at it. (And remember what I said about no one being perfect!) That might just be a girl thing, though. I don't think a lot of guys have that problem. But seriously, you make a lot of money over the course of your career - which may only be 10 years - and then you don't exactly have a pension. Also consider that there IS no exact time frame of your job. The average NFL player's job-span is 3.3 years. I'm sure most expect it to be longer. That can throw off your budget when you lose 7 years or so of income.
And the problem is, athletes start young and are not known for wisdom in financial planning. People who grow their fortunes watch it grow over time. I think there is more appreciation there. But, athletes signing their first big deal get it all at once. Lots of money to start, lots of money to blow. Have you seen the number of professional athletes who are broke in their 40s? Not that this speaks of all athletes, but managing that money for a rest-of-your-life income would certainly take some planning.
Is there any professional athlete, except for golfers, who has not been seriously hurt at one point or another? It's part of the game. You know that research is showing that some of these injuries are more serious than they used to appear. Many athletes wind up ending their careers early due to injuries. What's worse are those who don't stop when they should, play through pain that they shouldn't, and then can't repair the damage they've done to their bodies. I plan to be a little old lady, still going out for a run when I'm 80. Not many athletes can do that without some serious surgery. That leads us to the next point...
Early retirement may be another "perk" of professional athletics, but in what condition? (Except for golf, which you actually can start when you retire.) Doesn't it sound ideal to "settle down" at 40, having a complete career behind you? Sure, but there is always concern for the damage done to your body. Once you have been playing at a high level, it's likely hard to back up and take it easy. But considering most athletes retire because their body either can't take it anymore, or they just aren't as good as they used to be, it must be sad to have to give up and call yourself old.
You have to be "hungry" to play at a professional level. (Unless you're a golfer who is not named Happy Gilmore.) I can be competitive. I AM competitive. But when you are a professional, you have to take that competition to the next level, and feel it all the time. This will affect your physiology. When your body has to constantly secrete testosterone, it's hard to keep your emotions in check. You become impatient and easily frustrated in your daily life. Many athletes may have this under control, but I'm guessing it isn't easy and needs to be paid attention to. Those athletes involved in domestic abuse? I do not condone it one bit, but I can understand how it happens. I don't want to live an angry life.
So, what have we learned from this discussion? It takes a special person to be a professional athlete. You need to be able to control your body, emotions, and finances. It's a lot tougher than it seems. I have a real respect for those you can do it on all levels.
Also, golf is not a real athletic sport. ;)
Last week we scratched our heads over the questionable lyrics of some of our favorite Christmas carols. But there are definitely some song writers who actually thought more about truth and meaning than rhyming words. Here are 10 Christmas lyrics that ring true to me:
1. "And Mom and Dad can hardly wait for school to start again."
It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Sorry, couldn't help it. This year, my kids have 11 ½ days off from school. The novelty of the new presents wears off around day 4. I love my kids. I do. But as the song says...
2. "Even stoplights blink of bright red and green."
I'm just glad I'm not the only one who always thinks of Christmas during traffic.
*OK, let's get serious now…*
3. "Come let us adore Him"
O Come, All Ye Faithful
Enough of the whimsy, time to dig down deep now. This phrase caught my attention a few years ago because I constantly mis-sang the lyric to say, "Come let us BEHOLD Him." When I stopped and thought about it, that error completely changes the meaning. If you have followed the directions given, now you have "come" to Jesus. What are you going to do next? You can stand there and regard the baby in the manger with a "isn't that sweet?" mentality and move on, or you can choose to really commit to that Savior of yours and ADORE Him. I haven't mis-sung those words in a while now.
4. "Stay by my cradle 'til morning is nigh."
Away in a Manger
I hated this line as a child. I was not a baby! Yeah, a little too much pride there. Aren't we all the children of God? It is too assuming of us to think we have grown up, and possibly outgrown the need for our Father's care. Now, the songwriter may have been trying to be cute and have this be a song sung by a child who would have been in a cradle, but I like thinking of the idea that my Father in heaven looks at me with same adoration as one would a baby. I know I would be willing to die for my babies, just as He was.
5. "And ransom captive Israel."
O Come Emmanuel
Ooo, I just love imagery here. You really get a sense of how evil sin is - as awful and restless and uncaring as a kidnapper. We fall into its spell and can't be released until a price is paid. Jesus's birth was not cute or sweet - it was necessary for our survival!
6. "Long lay the world in sin and error pining, 'til He appeared and the soul felt its worth."
O Holy Night
Part of the inclusion here is just my love of beautiful language. But just this one sentence gives thousands of years of history and redemption. Let's extrapolate a little. The world lay in sin. It lay there because there was nothing that could be done about its sinful nature at the time. We were helpless to sin! And yet, we pined - we greatly desired - to be free of it. We only had to wait until our Savior was born, because that was the moment we had the hope of freedom. Our souls were right there waiting for Jesus, and when He arrived, it was our souls that recognized Him. That soul, given to us by God, and only redeemable by Jesus, knew when it could become whole again.
7. "How still we see thee lie."
O Little Town of Bethlehem
If you are truly familiar with the Christmas story, you know that Bethlehem was not peaceful and quiet the night Jesus was born. Because of the mandatory census decreed by Caesar Augustus, everyone whose family had originated in Bethlehem - every family who had ever come from the line of David - had to be there in that 3-day period to be counted. (And since you couldn't call ahead for reservations, it was pretty tough to find a room in an inn…) Bethlehem was bustling! So, I like to postulate that this song was referring to a different kind of stillness.
Psalm 46:10 says "Be STILL and know that I am God." Could it be this song is about the moment the earth realized that God was? They may not have known it exactly at that moment, but that was when the opportunity was born. (Remember: I didn't know the songwriter personally. This is just my guess.)
(P.S. - The same goes for "All is calm, all is bright." in Silent Night.)
8. "Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by."
O Little Town of Bethlehem
OK, I'm double dipping on O Little Town of Bethlehem. You don't mind, do you? Still going on the assumption that we are talking about something other than literal stillness, I believe the song is also referring to a different kind of sleep. Sleep in the Bible sometimes means death, and while this would not be a physical death, it is possible the song is talking about a spiritual death, how our soul could not be redeemed from sin without a Savior. Sounds morbid, I know, but the whole idea is that now that Jesus has been born (He would be the Everlasting Light that shineth in the dark street), our souls can awaken! (Our hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.)
9. "Was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay."
The First Noel
The First Noel sets the idea of the order in God's salvation. Did you ever notice that the angels did not appear to everyone in the world? (Sure, they could have done that.) Wouldn't God want everyone to come and worship Jesus when He was born? And yet, He ONLY gave the birth announcement to the shepherds. They were poor, dirty, and lowly regarded by everyone around them… kind of like Israel! But God chose them FIRST. That's not saying Jesus wasn't born for everyone. Just that the Jews have always been God's chosen race, so they get first crack at accepting the Savior. (Hopefully they will, like the shepherds did.) Next, just like the shepherds shared the news with everyone else, the Gentiles have been given the same opportunity to be saved.
10. "Peace on earth and mercy mild"
Hark the Herald Angels Sing
The words "mercy" and "mild" both struck me together. Not because of the alliteration, but the way they both describe our Lord.
Mercy- Not receiving a negative due consequence. At Christmas, we don't often think of what it is we DON'T get. We think of presents; we even think of the gift of a Savior. What a blessing that we don't even have to think about punishment for our sins, and we still are covered! The birth of Jesus was God's decision to provide with that convenience. Mercy - the gift of not getting something.
Mild - Just as meekness is often mistaken for weakness, I think the word "mild" here also could be misrepresented. Again, the word is not describing the weakness of mercy, but rather the peace that it brings. It is like a healing balm that soothes and repairs. Like an antiseptic that provides instant relief, it doesn't have to be painful to be powerful. The mercy covers your soul and brings you complete reconciliation (as noted in the next line.)
There are many more lines we could look at to give us a better look at Christmas this season. Maybe this post will inspire you to sing with a new understanding in your heart. And in case I do not write again before the holidays end, I wish you all a blessed Christmas and New Year.
There are some songs you are supposed to wonder about. When you think of "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," you don't take it seriously to start with. And then you've got the greedy bribery from "Santa Baby." (She is creative; you've gotta give her that. I have never known anyone to ask for a platinum mine.)
But then there are a few that... well, let's give the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the songwriter was really struggling for ideas. Have you really thought about some of these?
1. We Need a Little Christmas
Is there not enough stress in Christmas already as the time ticks down? But no, we need a little Christmas RIGHT THIS VERY MINUTE. So drop your shopping, wrapping, and baking, because someone is asking you to haul out holly and light candles in the window. It can't wait. And for some reason, any weather problem, such as lack of snow, is your fault too. Yikes, please change the station!
2. I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus
Remember, the child singing this song believes that Santa is an otherwise married man who lives at the North Pole, and Mommy is married to Daddy. This song is not cute, it is messing some kid up. Prepare the therapist.
3. What Child is This?
This was supposedly sung by the Wise Men. Come on, Wise Men. This is the child you have been tracking for years and spent the last year crossing the desert to find. It really shouldn't come to you as a surprise. Duh.*
4. Do You Hear What I Hear?
While we are dealing with question songs, how about finding the right answer for this one? Somehow, a shepherd gains audience with a king and convinces him that the wind told him about one of the many impoverished children in his country. The king listens. A child (a child!) shivers in the cold. What should we bring him? Bring Him a blanket? Bring Him a coat? Bring Him INSIDE? Nope. None of those rhyme with cold, so blocks of metal it is.**
5. Baby It's Cold Outside
"Say, what's in this drink?" I shouldn't need to say more, but then you realize he's seducing a woman dumb enough not to wear a coat in a blizzard.
6. Santa Claus is Comin' to Town
"He sees you when you're sleeping; he knows when you're awake." Creepy stalker. No thank you- I don't need you sneaking into my house at night.
7. We Wish You a Merry Christmas
OK, thanks for the warm greeting, but hey, watch it now, excuse you… why are these people now forcing themselves into my home demanding food? And not just, "Hey, we're a bit hungry, do you have a bite of anything to eat that you might be able to spare?" No. Figgy pudding, which apparently isn't all that quick to prepare. And not only are they making themselves at home while you cook for these intruders, they will continue to SING for you while you work, declaring their resistance to move. (That last chorus gets repeated, you know.)
8. It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
Nothing wrong with this song… until you get to the part about scary ghost stories of Christmases long, long ago. Did you catch that? What the heck happened on those Christmases? And why would you want to sing about it?
9. Little Drummer Boy
Mary Just. Had. A baby. What's the one gift you most want when you are that tired, holding a sleeping newborn? That's right. A little boy with a loud, repetitively pounding instrument. (She should have put in her order early for some Ben & Jerry's, like I did.)
10. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
It's the movie that brings the truth of this horrible song to light. Not only did the other reindeer make fun of him, no one else did anything about this situation. In the movie, you can see even his parents are mean to him. Then, Santa only notices Rudolph because he wants to use him. Not a great story.
Now that you will really be thinking about the Christmas songs you sing, keep them in mind for next week, when I write the opposite post here: 10 Christmas Song Lyrics That Really Get It. Enjoy your Christmasy week! (Unless you have some holly to haul out.)
* I never miss a chance to let people know that the Wise Men did not actually reach Jesus and his family for a year or two after the baby was born. They were not present in Bethlehem for the birth. They did not see the shepherds. They were visited by an angel, but it was not necessarily the same angel who proclaimed Jesus's birth to the shepherds. Also, in case you were wondering, there was never any mention in the Bible of there only being 3 Wise Men. If they were carrying gifts as substantial as gold & frankincense, there were more than likely many people in that company.
** A reminder that the king of the region at the time of Jesus's birth was King Herod. Herod was a paranoid man who killed his own son because he thought he might overtake him for the throne. Hearing the word of the birth of a "new king," which by the way came from the Wise Men, not a shepherd, his goal was not to worship him as he pretended. His goal was to kill the child by any means possible, which was why he issued the decree to kill all male children under the age of 2 at that time.
Special thanks for ideas from: Laurie Caruth, David Yonker, Jodi Parks, and Charity Morgan.
Because I love even numbers and lists!