The Baseball Bat

At some point in every man's life, if he lives long enough, he is hit with a baseball bat. Figuratively. Sometimes literally, but that's a different topic.

I'm still not sure what to call this bat. It could be 'getting old' or 'going bald' or 'reality' or... well, you'll see what I'm talking about.

There are three ways that men deal with this baseball bat.
1) Ignore it. "Nah. That wasn't a baseball bat that just hit me." Reacting this way doesn't make it hurt any less. It just guarantees they'll get hit again. And again. And again. Until they finally accept the fact they were just hit. Then the hits stop.
2) Over react (Google "Define: Midlife crisis").
3) Accept it. "Ouch! What the...? Why did I have to get hit with a baseball bat? Man! that hurts!" And then you move on.

Different ways I've been hit with the bat:
A- Me: "Hmmm. My pants are too tight. Musta dried them too long."
B- Me: "Ouch. My back hurts ... again. What did I do yesterday? Oh. Nothing."
C- Me: "Not really. I just want to go to sleep tonight."
D- Wife: "Hey, you know I was serious about your hair thinning out up there, right?"
E- Barber: "I can only do so much with what I have to work with."
F- Work Associate 15 years older than I: "James is too young to know about things like that. He's not old like us."
G- My kids: "Dad. You're Old."
H- Me to my wife: "Yeah, we were dating then, but we're more than twice as old as we were then."
I- Me: "When did looking at my ear hair become part of personal grooming?!?"

I guess in reality, I've been living the #1 reaction from above until the last two days. During the last 24 hour, examples D, E, F, and H all happened to me. And then, finally, I said, "Wow, that was a baseball bat that hit me."

The advantage for people who don't dive headfirst into an early midlife crisis is that we get to stay married, don't incur new debt for a car, and get to (and this is the most important) grow up. I know what you may be thinking, "Seth, you're 35, you have 4 kids, spent 10 years in the Army and have a career with a little bit of responsibility. Of course you're grown up." or may you're thinking, "Well, it's about time!" Either way the truth is that the way I see myself is never the way others see me. I look in the mirror and I still see the 17 year old captain of the wrestling team. I don't think anyone else has seen that when they look at me for the last 18 years.

I realized when I was whining about the fact that I don't want to have the beginnings of a bald spot that I'm not 17 anymore. Shocker, I know. But realizing that my body is getting a little... a lot older also frees me to finally see myself as something other than a kid. When you see yourself as a kid, you act like a kid. When you see yourself as a man, you act like a man.

So, because of that, I welcome the receding hairline, the very slight-only-my-wife-knows-its-there bald spot, the extra weight around my waist, and the hair where it wasn't before. Don't get me wrong. I have a razor and know how to use it. I'm not accepting the physical changes without a fight. But I am accepting the facts. I accept that I'm a man and am free to act as such.

Oh. one more thing. The grey hair. I accept that too. Begrudgingly.

Deeply

When I was in the Army there were two kinds of field exercises... What I mean is there were two reasons we went out into a training area and slept overnight. 1- We were practicing and training for what we would do during a war; 2- we were facilitating the training for what others would do during a war. Normally when we were doing the second we would try to do as much as the first as possible. But sometimes it wasn't possible. When you aren't practicing for your real mission, it becomes very mundane and makes for a miserable time.

There was one time where we were doing the second and it was miserably cold. We slept in a tent with no heat and it was around 0-5 degrees. About day 5 I woke up in my cot at 4:30 AM and said good morning to Ranger Rick who held down the cot beside me. I mumbled something about how cold it was and how I was getting worn out by the constant cold and would love a cup of coffee. Ranger Rick flipped his feet out of his cot, slipped on his boots, and walked in his long underwear to the next tent over where he poured two cups of coffee and brought one back to me. For some reason I have yet to put my finger on, that was one of the most memorable things anyone has done for me.

Yesterday at work something similar happened. It was about 3 O'Clock and I hadn't eaten lunch. One of the guys I worked with noticed and brought me a can of soup and a
couple slices of bread he had made. For the same mysterious reason it meant a lot to me.

Last night my wife asked why my oldest son was so happy. Lately we haven't seen eye to eye and have ended up butting heads a lot. Last night as I was sitting on the couch, he asked if he could snuggle with me. We lay on the couch for no more than 3 minutes before we had to get up and head to bed. But that little time made the difference in his night. Janey pointed out that I was 'speaking his love language'; I've never read the book, but I can see an advantage in knowing what you can do for people that means a lot to them. I think I need to take a couple minutes every day to give him a hug and see if that makes a difference. I know that cup of soup and coffee touched me deeply.

Football Coaches and Doing the Right Thing

15 years ago when I was @ UT. Ouch! I have trouble finishing that sentence. Let me begin again.

A few years ago when I was attending UT, I was 15 years younger than I am today. Ugggh. Let me try again.

When I was a college student at UT. (perfect). When I was a college student at UT, all I cared about was winning football games. Hmmm.. not true.

When I was a college student at UT, I had several interests. But when it came to football, my number one concern was that we won. When we didn't win at least 9 games in a year, I was furious. When we didn't get invited to a New Year's or later bowl game, again, furious. We had failed as a school and as a team. We should have done better. Four years without beating Florida? Inexcusable! Fortunately for me, I was on the Van Wilder plan so I was around long enough to see Tennessee beat Florida (1992- in the rain- at Neyland Stadium- Heath Shuler picked 'em apart! What an incredible game!)

Now- I'm older and arguably a little more mature. We have been criticized as Tennessee fans (and a college) for being upset that our .........former coach left after 14 months to take a job elsewhere.

I would like to explain my behavior over the last 14 months and the last 72 hours.

Last 14 months: Tennessee hired him (like Jonny Majors when he left tennessee, I won't say his name) and assumed risk when it did so. No matter how strange it felt to hire a 33 year old hot shot as a head coach, we gave him our loyalty and defended him when he broke the rules and did stupid things. We have become accustomed to having a coach for a few years (like 16 or 17 years each coach). I think what's happened with him is that we, who gave him our loyalty and defended his poor decisions, expected him to mature and our investment in him would pay off... over time. It was an investment. We knew, deep down where we didn't talk about at parties, that we wouldn't get the rate of return at first, but it would come over time.

Last 72 hours: someone stole our money and emptied out our 401K. We invested in him; he walked away.


The question remains, "What do we do now?" We start over and don't make the same mistake again. Invest in safer stock. Why? Because when I give my complete loyalty to Tennessee Football- that's a reflection of me. When I tell my kids that Tennessee Football is awesome, i don't want them to look at the news and see the poor decisions that the coaches or players are making. I want them to see morality, and upright citizens. Otherwise, I am telling my kids that Its ok to win by doing whatever it is that team is doing. I want a coah that I can be proud of. Not one whose actions I overlook when they get great results.

I live in Oregon. Mike Riley of the Oregon State University shows some of the characteristics that I want in a coach. He came back to OSU and said he is dedicated to coaching this team. He was offered the USC job and turned it down so he could stay in Corvallis, Oregon and raise his kids here.

Now- I am finally able to say. I'm glad he's gone. I hope we hire a stable, level-headed, morale leader for the kids he will recruit, coach, and lead. If we don't win an SEC Championship for the next 10 years, it will be ok. I'll still enjoy watching the football team play and screaming at the TV. As long as we have a coach I can be proud of.