I’ve always wondered what coaches say to inspire victories at halftime, especially when their team is down. I played soccer through high school, so I certainly was on the receiving end of some of those diatribes, but, one, that was a looong time ago; and two, I was too much of a knucklehead back then to be paying much attention. I rode the pine a lot. I think the coach only kept me on the team for comic relief and probably because I was the best at bringing in money from our annual fundraiser. But I digress. Pep talks take place outside of sports too, but I like considering them in the context of sports because there is that recess in the middle (well, hockey has two and I guess technically baseball has eight, so let’s just say I’m talking about football/soccer. Please don’t make this harder than it needs to be). And as you might have guessed, my reason for pondering on this odd topic is to use it as a metaphor of sorts: my halftime. Yes, I’m roughly half through my life according to the national average life expectancy for white males (of course this can be adjusted for level of exercise, eating habits and place of residency, but let’s just make this easy. C’mon…).
My mom loves to cut out newspaper articles and send them to me. Most of the time it has to do with Illinois sports, what’s going on in my hometown, clips about nature, dogs, places I’ve been, etc. A hodgepodge of things. As mentioned, I’m a huge Illini fan even though there is rarely anything to get worked up about (unless you care about non-revenue sports which frankly I don’t), and more often than not, Illini sports is the cause of much disappointment and seasonal depression. But hope springs eternal and I’m not a fair-weather fan. So I buy in every weekend of every season… Anyhow, some of these Illini sports clips my mom sends me are from the local paper the day after a football game. One of the columnist rates the offense, defense, special teams and overall performance for the Illini and whatever team inevitably kicked their butt the day before. It’s not uncommon to see F’s and D’s behind each of these categories for the hapless Fighting Illini. So I wondered what my grades would be for myself if I were the one being rated.
Offense (yes, this is going to potentially get weird): Well, if I can try to be objective (which I can’t, obviously), I’m not trying hard enough. I’ve always been the type to do the bare minimum in a number of instances (with a few notable exceptions). This is largely due to my general frustration with people as I find them interesting, but more often than not they annoy me. Yes, everything is about me. I also think that maybe I expect the worst so I let myself get defeated before I’ve even begin in some instances. Unless something truly captures the whole of my attention, I generally just mail it in. Maybe I think there should be more great opportunities created just for me. Yes, I’m a princess. So this general deduction applies to the working world as well as the social world. Now that I’m at halftime of my life I look around and feel I should be so much further along. Or I look and think maybe if I’d stuck with some job at 24 I’d be flying high now. A lot of second guessing, but that does us (me) no good. Socially, I could be more outgoing in the making and maintaining of more friendships. True, I have some dear ones that have been in the picture for decades, but it seems the mold has been broken and I haven’t found any new good ones lately. Maybe I’m pickier, I think I’m just more of an ass. And romance: at halftime most people have settled in to their 1st, 2nd or 3rd marriage by now. Not that I long to be married, but I’m mostly like a fat guy at a buffet; still sampling, never finding a favorite. They’re all my favorites! But kidding aside, I think I’d do well to have someone to keep me in check on a regular basis. It might spur me to more proactive in other areas. But it’s hard and I’m lazy. And I’m not exactly Brad Pitt in the looks category. But I’ve seen some pretty ugly dudes with some pretty fine ladies so the bottom line is my offense is not good in this category either. Offense grade at halftime: C-
Defense: I never let people borrow my CDs (because no one has a CD player anymore), or should I say, I never used to let people borrow my CDs because I was always worried they’d scratch them up, lose them or never give them back. I always burned them for them. I never let people borrow my books (well, rarely) because of most of the same reasons. I’ve certainly got some OCD qualities (but none as bad as Brock!!!) and I like my things how I like my things. I also don’t entertain that much – mostly because I don’t want you in my house messing my stuff up. I’ll always try to deflect those who want to bring their random friends over too. I have a vetting process before you’re allowed in my castle. Sounds like pretty strong defense. Well, this defense isn’t winning any championships. My being always “on-guard” probably hurts a lot of growth. Prizing petty material things is foolish too. I blame my folks. I recently put 90% of my stuff in a storage unit as I am about to embark on another voyage of nomadism and my dad was worried it could get stolen, flooded, burned. I (proudly) said, “It’s only stuff.” And I meant it, but truth be told I would really miss a lot of it. Every time I move states I usually need a 22 foot truck to move everything – for just me. That’s an accumulation of junk. I have north of 350 t-shirts, roughly 275 of which I never wear. I have 500 CDs, of which 450 I rarely play. I have 500+ books, of which 400 I’ll likely never open again. I have boxes of newspaper clippings that I’ll never read again. I defend my stuff, but it weighs me down. I was speaking with someone who said everything they owned could be put in two suitcases and a large backpack. That’s awesome. That’s stuff worth defending. To go back to the sports metaphor, I’m defending the wrong side of the field, so it seems. Defense grade at halftime: C
Special Teams (Not sure where I’m going with this one. Let’s find out): I’m a strange dude. I openly and freely admit it, and mostly embrace it. I remember telling someone every interaction I have with someone else is planned, almost calculated. I don’t know if that was true or if I was just trying to instill some shock value into the early stages of our acquaintanceship (my guess is there’s some truth to that). One of my oldest friends said to me that while I’ve certainly grown over the years, matured in some respects, calmed down in others, I’ve always maintained a thread of continuity to who I am. The same guy that got thrown out of Boy Scout campouts in grade school, got caught by the police for egging houses in high school, stumbled through college and can’t settle down in one place in adulthood still is that quirky and mischievous fool with a mostly good heart. I have a tough shell and a decent heart that is usually driven by a conscience that almost always gives in to the right thing. It’s almost always a struggle, but I do “good” more often than not. Special Teams grade at halftime: B+
Overall: I’ve always said that if average on a scale of 1-10 is 5.5 (why do people always say 5?), then I’m a 6 when it comes to intelligence. Smarter than the average person (5.5), but far from a Rhodes Scholar or Nobel Laureate. Possibly too smart for my own good and not nearly as smart as I try to present myself to be. Nonetheless, I think I’m smart enough to acknowledge my weaknesses and try to work on them. The clay hasn’t dried yet, so there’s still some hope we can salvage it and make some beautiful art out of me before I turn to dust. F. Scott Fitzgerald said that there were no second acts in life. Well, I’ll challenge that. The 1st act may not have been stellar, and anyone who watched the movie likely wouldn’t recommend it (what would I score on Rotten Tomatoes?). In fact, the first act’s performance may have been so subpar that there would be no call for a second act or sequel. Well, tough. There is one. I’ll let you know if it’s better than the first. Overall grade at halftime: C+
Voice of a Generation