We sports fans are a species of bottom-line thinkers.
Everything comes down to two things: Winning and losing.
We thump our chests and talk trash when our team wins.
We get offensively defensive when our team loses.
We are like a dog staring at a television set.
We twist our heads and fixate on the images in front of us.
Right now, it’s because of football. And football fans may be the worst of the subspecies.
They sit and scream at that TV, discuss and analyze every play, while trying to decide how a run up the middle will impact the season.
And when all else fails, blame the referee.
And it’s still the preseason.
Coaches, especially on the youth, high school and college levels, have come up with a way to keep their players from getting that distant stare.
It’s a variation of the famous quote, “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey.”
In other words, the coach is trying to make everyone believe — including himself — that wins and loses don’t matter. It’s about the experiences learned while navigating through the season that counts.
It’s kind of an interesting concept, you know?
I started thinking about it, but in an alternate fashion.
A friend of mine recently took his family — including his 7-year-old son — on a long trip to see his daughter’s graduation from Naval training in Great Lakes, Ill.
The journey was 10 1/2 hours and 720 miles — one way. The season was about the journey, which was trying to keep his young son occupied so he didn’t get restless.
I wasn’t there, but kind of imagined it went something like this:
Dad: “Well, here we go, son. We are going on a nice car ride to go see your sissy. This will be fun. You’re going to see so many new things.”
Son: “Did you bring cookies?”
The family car starts the trip.
Dad: “Here we go. We are going to pass South Hagerstown and then once we get on the highway, we are going to drive by exits for Williamsport, Clear Spring and Hancock. When we come back, all these places will just be starting high school sports. Won’t that be cool?”
Son: “Are we there yet?”
The drive hits the Pennsylvania Turnpike and starts heading west.
Dad: “See this exit here, son? You get off here and go that way and you get to Cumberland, which always seems to have good football. Go that way, and you get to Altoona. They have a baseball team like the Suns, who play for the Pittsburgh Pirates. The park has an amusement park by it.”
Son: “I want to go on a ride.”
The trip progresses and hits the Pittsburgh area.
Dad: “Wow son, do you know where we are? This is Pittsburgh. This is where the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins play. They are pretty good and have won a lot, but we don’t care for them. They always seem to beat our favorite teams. It’s good to cheer for teams and you can cheer for anyone you want.”
Son: “Can I dress up as a pirate for Halloween?”
The family trip gets into Ohio.
Dad: “Son, see that road right there? You take that to go to Canton and the Pro Football Hall of Fame. That’s where all the great football players want to end up someday.”
Son: “My teacher gave me a hall pass so I could go to the bathroom.”
The trip hits the halfway point as the family passes the Cleveland area.
Dad: “Right here, this is near Cleveland. They have the Indians, Browns and Cavaliers. People from here never seem to be happy. Their teams are always losing.”
Son: “I don’t like losing. Why do they keep playing?”
Dad: “No one can figure that out.”
The son falls asleep for a bit. He wakes up in Indiana.
Dad: “Hey, welcome back, son. We have just made it to South Bend. This is where a school named Notre Dame is located. They have a historical football team named the Fighting Irish.”
Son: “Why do they fight?”
Dad: “To be honest, they haven’t put up much of one lately.”
After a pit stop to take on fuel and get some comfort, it’s on to the final leg of the trip.
Dad: “See this big city? It is Chicago. This is where the President of the United States and a real famous basketball player named Michael Jordan are from. They have all kinds of teams here.”
Son: “Are we there yet? I have to go to the bathroom again.”
The family completes the journey and reaches its championship destination: Great Lakes, Ill., where they will see their daughter/sister.
In the midst of all the excitement, Dad wonders if he helped his son understand things about sports. Dad wants him to appreciate them and pull for certain teams, just like he does.
It will be their bond. Dad still wonders if his son picked up on that it’s OK to cheer for a favorite player and a team while enjoying the whole experience of a trip.
Meanwhile, the son gets out of the car, stretches, and catches a glimpse of his sister, who he hasn’t seen in six weeks. He runs over to her and gives her a big hug.
Son: “Hi, sissy. … Go Navy.”
In this case, the bottom line was a huge win. This destination was far more important than the journey.
Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at email@example.com.