Thursday, March 02, 2006

I bet that kid would kick ass at "Battleship"!

Lance Mannion's kid plays chess, which leads to a bit of thought about parenting versus coaching and the difference thereof from Mr. Mannion.

I've always loved chess, even though I've never been particularly good at it. I've also wondered a bit about what The Daughter is going to turn out to be good at. She's got quite a knack and enjoyment for coloring and painting, and the other day she told me that she wants to learn how to play an instrument some day, maybe the violin. That one made me happy, even if it's turned out that this former brass player has produced a potential future string player. Oh well -- you take what you can get.

(For brass players, string players are The Enemy, best viewed with deep mistrust and suspicion, because they're the ones who get to play all the time and they're the ones who always get the rehearsals stopped. Damned string players! And the worst of 'em? The second violins. I hate them so much....)

Er, anyway, back to Lance, who notes a couple of differences in the way he comments on his kid's chess game versus another dad's:

I was able to wait until we were in the car and on our way home before I pointed out to the 10 year old that he should have won that game easily. [The kid had become obsessed with pawn promotion, which had nearly lead to disaster. -Ed.] I tried not to make it sound like a criticism, just an observation with a helpful tip---don't let yourself get sidetracked. Promoting a pawn is gravy, something you do almost by accident, I said, you shouldn't make it your strategy. As gentle and Ward Cleeverish as I tried to be, the 10 year old was still crushed. I'd taken the wind out of his sails.

Oh well. A tactical error on my part, I should have let him enjoy his victory a while longer, but at least I wasn't as bad as one of the fathers I overheard talking to his son at our first meeting.

"Overheard" suggests he was speaking quietly and intimately to his kid. I didn't overhear him. I heard him along with everybody else in the room. He didn't even try to keep his voice down.

His son had just lost and instead of encouraging the boys to shake hands and sending them off to report their game to the teacher running the club and keeping the records he said to his kid, "You know why you lost, don't you? It's not because he's a better player than you! It's not because he's more talented! You weren't paying attention!"

He said this with the other kid standing right there too, raining on his parade at the same time he was humiliating his boy.

I'm not sure that Lance took the wrong approach in bringing up his son's fascination with pawn-promotion too early; I wasn't there and it's tough anyway, knowing when to do something like that. Wait too long, and the lesson won't be learned at all; do it too soon, and it comes off as "Who cares if you won at all?" I am certain about the other father's boorish behavior.

It's always easy, in our "broadcast every sport or game with a color commentator" society, to find the exact thing that cost the losing player/team the game. Look at all my rants when the Bills lose -- I always kvetch about the offensive line and call it a day. But I think it's worth reminding ourselves, once in a while, of the words of the great Captain Jean-Luc Picard:

"It is possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not a weakness. That is life."

And I'm also reminded of this great exchange from Bull Durham, after Nuke LaLoosh has just had a really good inning:

NUKE: I was great, eh?

CRASH: Your fastball was up and your curveball was hanging--in the Show they woulda ripped you.

NUKE: Can't you let me enjoy the moment?

CRASH: The moment's over.

I don't know how that relates to anything, but there it is.

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