My sister Kathy, of 1982 Big East Tournament fame, is a life-long Syracuse basketball fan who is currently on a hiatus. She lives far away from local media, in the wrong time zone to conveniently watch games (right, west coasters?), doesn’t own a TV, and has generally fallen out of the loop when it comes to our current teams. However, for this post-season, she found some local, questionable bar and watched a few games, all the while texting me questions. Towards the ends of games, the inquiries strayed away from "Who goes in when he’s in foul trouble?" and veered towards, "My body feels funny. I think I’m going to have a heart attack. How do you handle this stress every game?"
At the start of Saturday’s game, she texted the same type of anxious question, and I told her that I’m prepared to lose. I’d come to terms with the fact that we were up against a big team, we had broken the Sweet 16 barrier, we weren’t the first one seed to lose (thanks Michigan State), and we were playing a two seed. She replied, shocked, "I didn’t know you were such a pessimist!"
Am I really a pessimist? I have to admit that every glass in my life is half full (have you checked out my cancer blog yet?), except my glass of Orange juice. And I know I’m not alone due to discussions here earlier this year. So I began to think, "Should I raise my Little Oranges as optimists or pessimists?"
Reasons for raising optimists:
Athletic possibilities – I have no idea what kind of potential my girls have when it comes to athletics. If you base it on genetics, they’re screwed, but I’m not going to stop there. If my girls want to try a sport, I will encourage them. Now, to be among the best in a sport, you actually do need to be an optimist. As you stand at a free-throw line or on the starting block at a swimming pool, your mind must be thinking, "I can do this." If I train my Little Oranges otherwise, I will be doing them a terrible disservice.
Enjoyment – Whether it’s as an athletic spectator or in a classroom, optimists will have more fun. Who gets the CBS camera time after the commercials, the face-painted, cheering, woot-wooter or the grumpy-pants in her seat waiting for the sky to fall? The happy, fun people will have more fun in sports and in life.
Family Unity – As a teenager, I was still an optimist. Therefore, my much more Orange seasoned father would annoy the crap out of me by sitting in the room saying, "I give up. We’re never going to win this game. No chance," when we were still up by four. So I used to sneak away in to the basement or my parents’ room to watch the game in privacy, where I could be free from the negativity. In fact, our house growing up had four tv’s, and every single one was on during SU games so that we could all watch in our own style. If I can turn my views back to the, "We’ve got this, no problem" point of view, then my girls may stay in the room with me as teenagers. (Every mom can dream, right?)
Teaching Life Lessons – Life can be stressful. Sometimes we get disappointed. Kids need to learn how to deal with it, right? Is there a better place to learn life lessons than through March Madness? I don’t think so.
Reasons for raising pessimists:
Health – We could all feel it during the Wisconsin game. With our stress levels, blood pressures, anxieties, etc, we certainly weren’t going to pass any physicals that evening. Paul was pacing the room and throwing his hat and I was curled up in a ball on the couch biting my nails. However, after we discussed the above reasons to be a pessimist against Ohio State, we handled the game much more calmly. We both remained in upright sitting positions and neither of our Little Oranges woke up to any agonizing screams. Then we went to bed calmly, albeit sadly, after our loss. Kathy says she may have taken 10 years off of her life while watching basketball these past few weeks. If only she were a pessimist.
Surprises – If we never expect to win, it’s all that more joyful when we do. Everyone always mentions that the 2003 team wasn’t even ranked at the beginning of the season. How great was it to turn those low expectations around during the season? Low expectations may lead to memorable surprises.
Safety – When one is disappointed with the Orange during a game, especially as a teenager who may not know her strength, she could hit or throw items and hurt someone or something. If we teach our Little Oranges to expect nothing, they won’t be angry when they get nothing.
While writing this, I think I have realized that what Kathy and I initially called pessimism is not a life outlook, but just a defense mechanism. It is not something I can teach, but something they may have to learn. So as a parent, I will teach my children to love the Orange and defend their team to no end. I will not raise fair-weather fans and I will make sure they cheer their hearts out for every play. I will do my best to make sure they know how to bounce back after disappointment. They will celebrate victories and still show sportsmanship to the losing team. And hopefully they will experience the joy of winning as well as the heartache of losing.
Parenting is such an easy job.