Friday, March 4, 2016

Participation Trophies for All My Friends!

All this outrage over participation trophies in youth sports has me puzzled. They're not new, you know? I collected a few all the way back in the 1970s -- when parents were all supposedly hard asses who wouldn't dream of coddling their kids -- and in backwards-ass West Virginia, no less, where political correctness and worrying about hurting someone's feelings are about as popular as the EPA or gun control.

If we had 'em, I know you civilized folks from Connecticut and Michigan and Kansas had them too. They weren't as big or flashy as the championship trophies, but they existed and no one seemed to mind.  But boy are they ever the devil's handiwork these days.

I really laugh when I hear some lifter dude rant about them. The irony is that the objector is usually the same sort of dick weed who enters every damned division at the local power meet and "wins" them all. Never mind he was the only goddamn entrant in the Dave's Gym Sanctioned by Dave Backyard Power Wars age 38 to 38.5 sub-sub-masters women's novice raw except not raw because they allow a belt, knee wraps, wrist wraps and a tourniquet and you don't have to walk it out division.

Wait? Novice? Pretty sure we've been competing in the same meets since '94.  

Well... yeah... but I've never won the open division so I'm still considered a novice.  

Have you ever entered the open division?  

Umm, no, but that's beside the point.  

Fine. Whatever. Congrats on your big win. Um, I mean wins. My head hurts. See ya.

That's right, bitches! A war chest full of trophies for me!
See that one in his left hand? Your other left. I have an identical copy. Won it in '97 in York. We only got seven attempts for the entire meet instead of the usual nine and you could use them any way you wanted as long as you spent at least one on each lift. I might have taken five attempts to get in one deadlift, but I earned that shit that day.

I used to store my car keys in it, but every once in a while I'd have a couple drinks too many, fill it up, bellow something about being the Bull God or King Fucking Kong, and take a big swig without remembering to remove them. I hid it from myself so that wouldn't happen anymore and now I don't know where it is.

This guy guzzled one too many drinks from his Best Actor trophy.
At any rate, I love all of my brethren who compete, but if most powerlifting awards aren't fucking participation trophies, then I don't know what the hell they are. And yet the hatred is real.

There was even a commercial during the Super Bowl denouncing them. This dad and his kid get in the car after the big baseball game the kid's team won. Dad takes the kid's trophy, rips the participation moniker off, writes "champs" while muttering something about winning every game, and smugly hands the trophy back to his kid.

Apparently, that commercial was a smash hit. The only thing I thought about smashing when I saw it was my TV screen.

It's a car commercial, and I guess the theme is excellence or something like that. And it's for Kia. That's right, fucking Kia. I'm not saying they're bad cars. Hey, I know it's not just the Big Three anymore. I was around in the 1970s when Datsun sucked. Then they learned how to build cars and became Nissan, which I understand is half decent. So while I've never driven or even ridden in a Kia, I'm sure they're alright.

The point is, if I was giving out trophies to car companies, Kia would get the participation trophy, not the excellence trophy. In no way, shape, form, or fashion do I associate Kia with anything other than being a player in the game -- a participant. Excellence? Well, that's reserved for Mercedes or Audi or some other precision engineered German bullshit.

As thick-headed as I am, I do realize that even by mentioning this steaming turd a few of you will Google it and give them extra publicity. Oh well. At least I didn't link it right to your curious little finger tips.

Let's clear something else up. The damn commercial doesn't even make sense. They act like there's only one fucking trophy for everyone, and that ain't how it works. In reality, the winners, and even the runners up, actually do get trophies with the appropriate designation. And then everyone, winners included, gets the smaller participation trophies. At least that's how it is in West Virginia, but maybe we're just smarter than the rest of you dumb fucks.

I'm not trying to expose plot holes in commercials -- 'pot holes' might not make sense there but it sure would be funny since, you know, I'm talking about a car commercial -- or to denigrate car companies. I'm working my way toward crucifying asshole parents.  Let's get to that.

So your eight-year-old's team won every fucking game, huh? Whoop-dee-fucking-doo. No one outside Mayberry gives a shit anyway, and I bet the big winning streak didn't have diddly to do with your little spawn. In fact, they probably won 'em all in spite of your bumble fuck brat.

That coach of yours is the youth league Lombardi. When that kid from the wrong side of the tracks showed up sporting muscles like a testosterone-infused teenager from fighting off his five older brothers, ole coach knew he had a ringer. Think Kelly from Bad News Bears only big, athletic, and with less resemblance to a pot head ne'er-do-well.

Tell me again how this douche carried the team.
All of you living-on-credit-to-impress-the-neighbors yuppies with perfectly manicured lawns wouldn't dream of letting your kids cavort with real-life Kelly, except of course if it meant he might carry their shitty team to victory. And carry he did. Man-child might be fielding with his brother's hand-me-down Goodwill glove, but he catches better bare handed than your coddled sissy-boy with his $350 Rawlings. At least you won't have to worry about your golden child knocking up some poor little rich girl in a few years; that kid couldn't catch herpes in a whore house.

Not to worry, though, that public school thug your team's genius coach found ran down every ball hit out of the infield, belted 106 home runs, and brought home the coveted championship of Pleasantville. He was a goddamned one-man wrecking crew.

Even so, his parents didn't show up to see a single one of those tape measure dingers, and they certainly weren't showing up to collect some lame trophy, participation or otherwise. They're not going to win any prizes for model parenting either, but at least they're not pushy assholes. And they're not so deluded as to think winning every game, or any game, at eight years old matters one iota. Hell, if I had to choose, I'd take the deadbeat parents over the win-at-all-costs psycho nut job parents.

And if your team didn't have said ringer, then you probably won because your jerk of a coach played the best nine players only while everyone else sat there keeping the bench from flying away. Either way, even if your kid was one of the anointed nine, he ain't the next Mike Trout. Keeping with the fish theme, he's just a big fish right now in a very small pond. Odds are, you'll have burnt him out with all this ludicrous pressure to win before he even makes it to high school ball.

Speaking of high school, if this was high school ball we were talking about here, things would be a little different.  By the time you get to high school, things are getting a little serious. College scholarships are on the line, and winning actually starts to mean something. Not everyone plays, and no, there aren't participation trophies.

But here's a little newsflash for all you dumb fuckers who didn't even play anything in high school. Even at this somewhat advanced level, participation is still recognized. There's a thing called a sports banquet at the end of the year. At least there is in communities where the residents don't have their heads completely up their asses. At the sports banquet, the name of every kid who participated is read aloud as they walk to the front, shake hands with the coaches, and receive a nice little participation certificate. Sure, there might also be some awards for stellar play, but every kid, even the ones whose names the coaches don't remember, is acknowledged.

Let me reiterate this, because it's probably the only point I'm going to make in this entire article that's not laced with profanity. Participation is recognized and appreciated at all levels of sports.

You might have heard of Peyton Manning? He's an actor. He's also that old geezer quarterback -- younger than me, though, by damn near a decade -- who just rode a phenomenal defense to a Super Bowl victory in spite of his own shitty play when, really, Tom Brady and the Patriots should have won if they hadn't been decimated by injuries. Wait, I'm about to trail off on a tangent about deflated footballs and growth hormone and media coverage and public perception.

Manning, we're talking about Manning. He might be done as a player, but he's still all the way there as a man in my book. While he rehabbed a foot injury during the season, a practice squad receiver named Jordan Taylor ran routes for him every day. When Manning limped back into the lineup to claim that Super Bowl, guess who he bought a brand new suit for to wear on the flight to the big game? That's right, you guessed it... practice squad player, scrub, loser, participant... whatever you want to call him... Jordan Taylor.

No chance of seeing the field.  Wearing a fucking sweet suit anyway.
You hear these kinds of stories all the time. Some marginal player who barely made the team emulated the other team's star quarterback in practice so the first team defense could kick the shit out of him, get their reads down, and perfect a winning game plan. That dude who's just another guy and was never going to play during live game action made all the difference in the world. His participation mattered, and you can bet your ass his teammates know it and will recognize it in some fashion.

It's not just the stars who win games. Every member of a successful team, from the star down to the guy who barely made the team, contributes in some way. That's a huge part of winning culture, in sports and in life. By telling an eight-year-old participation doesn't matter, you're telling him there's no point being a good teammate if you're not the star.

I was one of those kids in Little League who rode the pine. Whatever wire disconnected since, I was a good kid back then - timid, small for my age, and with lousy eyesight that hadn't been sorted out yet. But I was proud to be on a team; I liked wearing my jersey; and I did whatever my coaches asked without question because my mom taught me to be polite and respectful and because I wanted to help out. Guess I had being a good teammate pretty well figured out. Most kids do when their parents aren't filling their heads with nonsense about how winning the pee-wee bowl is somehow going to propel them to NFL stardom.

What exactly does a real star player look like? I've heard professional hitters talk about picking up the rotation of the laces on the ball as it comes out of the pitcher's hand and determining whether it's a curve or a fastball early in the ball's flight. That's right; they can see the LACES! That's what true talent is, and your kid ain't got it. I promise you that.

This bully hates participation trophies. He's holding a couple he stole from his sons to teach them participating sucks. With genetics like that, I'm sure no one in this family is losing sleep over a participation trophy.
You could forget me picking up the laces. I sure didn't have it either. I couldn't even see the damn ball. It just looked like a white blur about three feet long hurtling toward me, and it didn't help that I blinked every time I felt it coming close. It wasn't until after I grew up that I turned into a masochist who would enjoy being hit in the face, but at eight I wasn't so ridiculous and was actually afraid of a baseball thrown by some kid who I just knew didn't have a clue where it was going.

Every disastrous at-bat, I'd take whatever flailing hack or three I could take and resume my position on the bench. Or I'd just stand there with the bat on my shoulder, hoping the pitcher was too wild to get three strikes over the plate and would walk me. I was so damned short that actually worked sometimes. Whatever strategy I employed, I netted all of about three hits in that entire illustrious season. I think two of them went for extra bases, so at least I was swinging for the fences.

Most of the time, I sat there with my thumb up my ass, wishing we could get out of the hot sun and go swimming soon, and glimpsing the field only for the bare minimum youth rules required. Thanks, coach. I really stand a snowball's chance in hell of improving at this game while sitting here watching the kids who already know what they're doing do it some more. Maybe I shouldn't get that fucking participation trophy after all, seeing as how no one ever lets me, umm, participate.

The truth is, there are a lot more kids like I was in any youth sport than there are really good or interested ones. They're kids. They don't even know what they like yet. And much of the time, even the sane parents are enrolling them in anything and everything that comes down the pike in order to keep them busy and work off some of that crazy kid energy so they'll sleep at night. Participants are really all they're going to be.

The hope, I guess, is that they'll find something that really interests them at some point, and I suppose that sort of "throwing darts at the board and hoping one sticks" strategy isn't a bad one. Exposure to different experiences and all that jazz. You think more parents would realize this is what's going down. Maybe they do. Maybe it's just the crazy ones who are so vocal in their disdain for the kids who are there for the experience and haven't figured out yet if this is their life's passion.

Why is this bench warmer wearing a blanket? It's hot as fuck out here.
So what's behind all this vitriol toward the participation trophy? The best I can figure is that it comes mostly from a bunch of frustrated jock wannabes who never did much even in their so-called primes and certainly don't do anything these days besides drink beer and move further and further away from anything resembling athletic. Their tales of their youthful athletic exploits get bigger with each passing year. In reality, most of these peanut dicks could have never hoped for anything more than a participation trophy themselves, but of course they conveniently forget that fact so they can take the hard-line, tough guy stance.

I got a little something to say about that. For starters, shut up fat boy and sit your blow hard ass down. I got trophies for everybody and there ain't shit you can do about it. I'm the real bully up in here, only my marks are the other bullies. You don't like it that everybody's kid gets a trophy? Do something about it. I'm just itching to make you eat this fucking thing.

Guess what else? I got trophies for all kinds of people you probably hate as much as I hate you. The same sort of jackass who doesn't think an eight-year-old deserves a participation trophy probably thinks liberal is just another word for pussy. Yep, I just said the dirty word. Oh yes I did! Not pussy, dumb ass, liberal. And I got trophies for liberals too, fuck-face.  

I'm sick of listening to your fucked up logic about how anything left of center is weak or un-American. Social Security is 81 years old -- older than your dead grandma -- for Christ's sakes. It's pretty much ingrained in the fabric of our society. Capitalism is great, but only an absolutist moron with no appreciation for history would think it should dictate every policy decision. Obamacare, for example, while not perfect, is monumental legislation that improves hundreds of thousands of lives.

And if driving a giant pick up truck to make up for the fact you have a tiny little penis even though you never do anything resembling manual labor isn't environmentally irresponsible, then it's at least a pretty stupid way to spend your money. So go ahead and do that. Give a big chunk right back to the big business you so love voting into office. The rich get richer at your foolish expense and you think middle class economic woes have something to do with food stamps and free loaders. Moron.

You like apples?  How you like them apples?
Call me a liberal pussy to my face, motherfucker. We'll see who's what when you're spitting up a mouthful of blood and your goddamn teeth. Don't act all horrified and offended. I'm just putting it in language you'll understand. Bomb the terrorists' families, right?

Are you finished, Mr. Slade? No, I'm just gettin' warmed up.
I got trophies for gay people too and all kinds of trans this and that people. You're definitely the type who would be chafed by that. Gay! Gay! Gay! We're all gay and we're coming to your house to fly a gay pride flag in your front yard and ass rape you right there in your own bed!

I'm no expert on any of this sexual identity stuff, by the way, and I don't pretend to be. Hell, I don't even really understand the terminology. Could you tell when I just wrote "trans this and that" above rather than elaborating? But I don't have to have a complex understanding to know what should be common sense.

I've never lost a wink of sleep worrying about someone else's sex life, and you're an idiot if you have. As long as whatever is happening between two people or a big ole group of them isn't hurting anyone who doesn't want to be hurt, then have at it. Fuck whoever you want. Fuck your couch if you want. And if you need somebody to strap a homophobic bully who hates liberals and participation trophies to a chair, tape his eyes open Clockwork Orange style, and make him watch gay porn until his dick shrivels and falls off, I'm your man.

You're really not my favorite person mister pushy dad raising your all-star athlete kid and teaching him to begrudge all us lesser beings our loser participation trophies. That's coming through here, isn't it? Let's try it one more way just in case it's still a little fuzzy.

If you're feeling left out, I brought your trophy. It's a pointy little Father of the Year trophy, and I think I'll wedge it up your ass. I still can't hit a baseball, but I did grow up strong like bull. I'm pretty sure I can make good on my threat, at least with the piece of shit audience to which this little ditty is directed.
Really? This thing is so fucking great you put a watermark on it so I can't use it. I should shove it up your ass.
Oh wait, you'd probably enjoy getting rammed in the ass, even though it's the last thing you'd admit. That little trophy would open up a whole new world to you. Never mind. I ain't doing you any favors.

There's a flaw in my logic anyway. You're probably also the type who thinks it's a good idea for regular citizens to tote concealed weapons around town for protection, and you'd likely pull yours on me instead of just taking your well-deserved beating like a man. I won't argue with you there. I figure a gun is about your only chance in this fight provided you don't shoot yourself in the foot pulling it out like I imagine you probably will.

So there it is. The self-annointed super hero Captain Participation Trophy -- champion of children, lousy athletes, liberals, and gay people and hater of overbearing jock dads -- is here to save the fucking day. Never mind you think liberal and gay are the same thing. That's completely beside the point.

CPT will fuck you up!
Here's a shiny participation trophy for everyone. Weeeeeeee! I'm even giving one to those sensitive kids I read about who jump imaginary jump ropes in gym class. They weren't jumping as well as the other kids and their feelings were hurt, so the teacher confiscated all the ropes and made everyone jump air to level the playing field. It doesn't take much timing, after all, to jump air.  

I might even think that's taking it too far and that a few of us could stand to toughen up just a little, but fuck it. Everybody gets a trophy today. And all you jump rope all-stars can keep right on jumping and stop worrying about anyone else's business for a change.

Jesus, forget my piddly biases about who should have won the Super Bowl. This was a downright righteous fucking tangent! What was I even talking about??? I don't know. Actually, I think it all fits together rather nicely. But for the sake of trying to stay on topic, let's get back to my original rant. What the hell was it? Oh yes, participation trophies in youth sports. Right.

Of all the causes to passionately defend, why in the world would I pick this obscure one? I dunno. It touched a nerve. Obviously.  

This kid has more trophies than you. Nah-nah-na-boo-boo.
I pictured my little girl when I saw that commercial. She wasn't going to win anything yet, and maybe she never would have. She was tiny -- much tinier than I was at her age even though I was small -- and way behind other kids.  

I knew she knew a lot. She could navigate all over the place with this uncanny sense of direction. She was at Ocean City when she was maybe three years old. A full year later she returned and led her mother by the hand right back to the same room she stayed in previously! Yet she was barely speaking -- just a few words and broken phrases. So yes, she had a ton of catching up to do and would have been lucky to even participate in an organized sport in any manner.

But if she had, I bet she'd have marched off the field carrying her participation trophy like it was a gold nugget. I'd have kissed her soft little cheeks and told her how proud I was. Then we'd have ridden off to get ice cream and celebrate while listening to her favorite songs. One time we were sitting at a picnic table eating ice cream, and she tasted my flavor and decided she liked it better than hers. She didn't say a word -- strong, silent type that kid. She just slid her bowl in front of me and slid mine in front of her. That was that.

She'd have probably slept with her little trophy the night she got it. She liked taking everything she could carry to bed with her, especially new stuff. She'd trudge up the stairs tripping over the tattered blanket she drug behind her, both arms full of toys and sippy cups and whatever else had her attention. I usually walked right behind her, scared to death she'd topple over and go careening down the stairs backwards on her head.

I sure wouldn't have wanted anyone telling her her trophy didn't matter. Because it would have mattered to us. If someone said it didn't matter, it would have been like saying she didn't matter. And boy did she ever matter.  I miss her so damned much.  She's with me every minute of every day. If you're ever talking with me and you think she's not there somewhere, she is.  

You don't need to feel sorry for me. Hell, I'm kind of a venomous jerk at times. And I certainly did some really stupid shit, but I knew -- I still know -- something few people ever get to experience. I know true, unconditional love.

I realize I went a little nuts here. I'm almost done, though. There's just a bit more swearing, spitting, and teeth gnashing to endure.  

Here's all I'm really saying. Life can be hard sometimes. Really fucking hard. And you might not have a clue what the hell someone is going through; what kind of loss they've suffered; what kind of addiction is gripping them; what kind of guilt they carry; or what demons haunt them.

Don't do as I do. I'm a lousy example. Do as I say. Be a little less judgmental of others. And if all you can do is outwardly be nice while inside you're seething at their stupidity or incompetence or weirdness or whatever, then do that.  

Sometimes, participation, even just dragging out of bed to participate half-assedly, is all someone can muster. If it's not directly messing you up, and maybe even if it is if it's only temporary, then let that be good enough.

If someone had ever said my daughter didn't matter, explicitly or tacitly, I'd have certainly jumped in their face and threatened them about like I did here. I might have even beaten their ass. Oh well. Sorry not sorry. That's my kid you're fucking with. I guess that's why this particular issue is a hot button with me.

Sooooo.... I think that about covers it. I'm pretty sure I managed to get everything off my chest that's been bothering me and probably piss half the people I know off in the process. Damn do I feel better! If you're still around, here's a little present for you.

If you don't agree with what I wrote, it's not a difference of opinion. You're actually just stupid, and you can fuck off. Facebook really should have added that option to the new like buttons.

Now check out the short video below. You'll be treated to something way better than anything I ever wrote.

First chair drummer? Oh hell no.  Participation trophy for being a member of the band? You bet your ass!

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