Monday, March 24, 2008

Humor Me: Dawdling to a better life

By MATT WIXON
The Dallas Morning News


My 5-year old son made his basketball debut a couple weeks ago. His uniform was a little big and the basket was a little high, but I think anyone who watched Ryan for a few minutes would notice two things:

1. He seems to enjoy playing.

2. He seems to be under the influence of cold medicine that includes the warning, “May cause extreme drowsiness, do not take while operating heavy machinery.”

Actually, it’s not that Ryan is drowsy on the court. But you know when you take cold medicine and get that sluggish, “out of it” feeling that makes it hard to focus?

That’s a good description of Ryan on the basketball court.

He follows behind the action, occasionally glancing at the scoreboard. Then he looks down at the lines on the court and checks out the wristband he’s wearing. Sometimes it’s like Ryan is part of a video trick that makes everything around him move in fast motion while he stays in slow.

Yes, he’s an all-star dawdler. And I envy him.

Why?

Well, the world Ryan lives in moves unbelievably fast. It’s driven by high ambition, fierce competition and the fear we all have of falling behind. What we are falling behind doesn’t matter. We don’t even know in most cases, but we know we’ve got to keep a brisk pace on the treadmill.

Ryan, on the other hand, is skipping along at a turtle’s pace. He smiles as a teammate makes a shot, does some kind of dance down the court, then spends a timeout pondering whether the postgame snack will include a juice box and animal crackers.

If Ryan gets the ball right in front of the hoop, he’ll take a shot and he might even make it. But he’s very easy to defend. In fact, although I shouldn’t offer tips to the opponent, here’s the secret to keeping Ryan from scoring:

Right before he shoots, ask him to give you the ball.

Oh yeah, Ryan will hand it over. He’ll even let you take a shot and cheer when you make it. Hey, we’re all friends out here.

Not the most effective basketball strategy, obviously. And because I played basketball for most of my childhood, it’s a little frustrating to watch Ryan play with the aggressiveness of a librarian on Nyquil. But apparently, I was like him.

“Get mad!” my dad used to yell from the stands, hoping to make me play with more intensity and competitiveness.

I never did get mad. But my dad did, which is why he was sometimes asked to leave the gym after yelling at the referees. He also confronted one of my coaches and scared him into quitting. My dad was much more memorable as a fan than I was as a player.

Ryan might be a much better player than me. Or maybe not. He’ll need to be more intense, more aggressive and get a pair of shorts that aren’t so big that he nearly trips on them. He’ll need to learn that you can’t take six steps between each dribble. He’ll need to be more interested in making shots than dancing around to whatever song is playing in his head.

But if he doesn’t, that’s OK. In that case, I might envy him even more. Not to get all peace, love, happy-fuzzy bunnies on you, but wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we weren’t always ultra competitive and trying to pick up the pace?

This world needs ambition, of course. It needs competition that leads to invention and solutions to problems. And we’ve got to have some sense of urgency in our lives. Put Ryan in charge and you would get one-hour photos back in about 27 days.

No, dawdling won’t cut it in this world. But now that the world has taught me what my dad couldn’t -- to get mad -- I wish I could learn to be more content. To just be happy to be in the game, and not always looking at the scoreboard to see if I should be smiling.

If you can do that, wow. You're winning the game. And I envy you.

Especially if you're past the days of juice boxes and animal crackers.

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To be sent the column each week, send an e-mail mwixon@dallasnews.com. Have a great week.