Life Lessons: Bruce Springsteen Can't Play Basketball and Kobe Bryant Can't Carry a Tune
I've been practicing basketball with my son. This is the equivalent of saying that Paris Hilton is your math tutor. The chances of advancement are slim to none.
I'm not afraid to say out loud, the kid is the worst one on his team. It's six-year-olds playing in a no-score game. Being the worst one is saying a lot. They're all terrible, but he's worse. He's very good at running back and forth on the court. Other than that, it's just not his game.
It comes as no surprise to me that sports are not his thing. I'm an excellent runner, but put a racket or ball in my hand and anyone within 500 feet needs body armor and an umbrella policy. And ever since my parents put me on a soccer team but never told me how to play soccer (I still don't know why everyone was so upset I scored a goal for the other team), I've been keenly aware of what it feels like to be "Don't pick him."
About 99% of the practice is spent with me trying not to ruin my manicure. My son spends that same time screaming at me. If you've ever tried to do anything from homework to practice a sport with your kid, you know your kid would rather listen to anyone but you. But I'm determined to help my kid avoid being the lifelong winner of the "Best Effort" trophy, only given to kids who are good at nothing else.
During the remaining 1% of practice time, my kid alternates between weeping that he's "no good" and telling me he's going to play for the Lakers. I don't have the heart to tell him that his chances of being the first uncoordinated Jew to play in the NBA are slim to none, but I do have the heart to try to help him stop feeling so no good.
"You know Kobe practices for hours every day?" I tell him. "There's a lot of really tall athletes who are good at a sport, but Kobe is special because he practices longer than anyone." He stops screaming long enough to listen. "Anyone who is great at something gets there by practicing a lot." He seems interested.
"You mean they're not born good at it?" he asks.
"Usually no," I tell him. He picks up the ball and says he wants to practice. We start dribbling 10 times per hand.
We're at the next game and the kid is markedly better. Still not good, but at least this game he knows which goal is his. There's a ball hog on his team who won't pass him the ball. It's clearly intentional. I want to kill the ball hog with my own hands, but my kid has a better solution. He keeps trying.
After the game, we're driving to lunch. "Human Touch" by Bruce Springsteen comes on. I feel like everybody has to have a favorite Springsteen song and mine is "Tunnel Of Love." I can't get enough of Patty Sciafa's background vocals, which to me make the song. But for the first time, I notice what a great song "Human Touch" is.
"I like this song, Mommy," my kid says.
I tell him it's Bruce Springsteen. "He's one of the most famous American singers," I offer.
"Why is he so good?" my son responds. I'm not sure how to answer what makes Bruce Springsteen Bruce Springsteen. I tell him what I think is true. "He loves what he does and he's really good at it. He's famous for how hard he works. He never stops working," I say.
"So he plays music all the time?" he asks. I tell him that's true knowing that Bruce Springsteen, like Kobe Bryant, is a notorious perfectionist with a relentless work ethic.
"So he's not good at anything else?" my sons asks. "If he's playing music all the time, he must not be good at much else," he continues.
I'd never really thought about it like that.
Bruce Springsteen is one of the greatest American singers of all time, but he's probably a shitty basketball player. And Kobe Bryant's an amazing basketball player, but probably can't carry a tune. No one cares what you're bad at when you're good at something. And no one notices you can't dribble when you write a great song. You only have to be good at one thing. I'll tell my kid that the next time he asks. But chances are, he probably already knows.