Barry Rubin – who very, very clearly wrote his own Wikipedia page – decided it would be a good idea to use the journalistic stage to play one of modern society's most sympathetic characters: the loud-mouthed, egotistical suburbanite pissing and moaning about his kid's soccer coach. Then he ups the ante by turning the whole thing into a lesson about how liberals made his kid a pussy. Since his intended audience is the regular readers, if any, of Pajamas Media, there's a good chance that he expected his rant to draw plenty of nodding heads and comments of sympathetic agreement. Outside of that bubble of sadness and Joe the Plumber fans, however, "It’s How You Play the Game: The Fate of Western Civilization and Grade-School Soccer" does not fare quite as well.
Or does it?
No, I was right the first time. It doesn't.
It‘s something of a stretch to compare a soccer game among eleven-year-old boys with the fate of the democratic world, but I’ve always managed to see big issues in small things.
i.e., "This is retarded, but I am going to do it anyway. Inexplicably I will soon ask you to take me seriously."
Really, Barry? This is "something of a stretch" like Mitch McConnell is something of a sour, hatchet-faced prick. Like the Hindenburg had something of an accident. Like Pajamas Media is something of a joke, even by internet standards.
My son is playing on a local soccer team which has lost every one of its games, often by humiliating scores. The coach is a nice guy, but seems an archetype of contemporary thinking: he tells the kids not to care about whether they win, puts players at any positions they want, and doesn’t listen to their suggestions.
This could not start out more poorly, BR. You do realize that this is how every rant from a loudmouthed parent about his kid's soccer coach (a topic, incidentally, about which no one on the face of the Earth cares) begins, right?
"Man, this coach is such an asshole. Tyler only played like 20 minutes today, and he only got the ball twice. I screamed at this guy for like an hour and he just ignored me. Then I show up at his house after a couple of beers and you know what that asshole did? He called the cops. He called the goddamn cops."
He never criticizes a player or suggests how a player could do better. My son, bless him, once remarked to me: “How are you going to play better if nobody tells you what you’re doing wrong?” The coach just tells them how well they are playing. Even after an 8-0 defeat, he told them they’d played a great game. And of course, the league gives trophies to everyone, whether their team finishes in first or last place.
I'm going to ruin some of the suspense and point out that these kids are 10 and 11.
I’d even seen an American television documentary about boys and sports which justified this approach, explaining that coaches were doing something terrible by deriding failure, urging competitiveness, and demanding victory. So were the kids really happier to be “relieved” of the strain of trying to win, “liberated” from feeling bad at the inequality of athletic talent?
Barry would cite the name of this "television documentary" but he could not find a link given that it aired only on the Barry Rubin's Imagination network. Thank god he was able to remember all of its key points so he could construct his straw man.
Or am I right in thinking that sports should prepare children for life, competition, the desire to win, and an understanding that not every individual has the same level of skills?
No, you are not even remotely right about that. Sports are not to teach kids how life works. Sports are for kids to get exercise, and they are more likely to do it if it's fun. It's only thanks to emotionally unstable Jock-Dads and the worst fratboy aspects of our culture that anyone would imagine people learning life lessons from a contact sport.
A central element in that world is rewarding those who do better, which also offers an incentive for them and others to strive,
Sometimes doing better is its own reward, like when doing something inconsequential like playing soccer when you're 10.
rather than thinking they merely need choose between becoming a government bureaucrat or dependent.
See, we were traveling down Loud, Boring Blowhard Avenue and we took a very sudden left onto What The Fuck Are You Talking About Street.
Read that again. That's how fast it happens. That is how fast these people turn normal things that happen to normal people (like seeing a lemonade stand) into Parables of Conservatism.
The playing field was perfectly even, but the boys were clearly miserable. They felt like losers, their behavior rejecting the claim that everything was just great, or that mediocrity was satisfactory as long as everyone was treated identically. They knew better than to think outcomes don’t matter. In a truly sad gesture, one boy had suggested before still another losing game that they form a circle, put their hands in, and cheer themselves: “Like the good teams do.” Halfway into the season, the kids had even chosen a nickname for the team that expressed their sense of being weak losers.
None of this happened. If you have ever been within 1000 yards of 10 year olds playing soccer, you are well aware of the fact that no one gives a shit about the whole enterprise except for the parents. Those kids would rather be at home playing Wii. They would rather be playing something without adult supervision. They would rather be doing anything except playing soccer while their parents yell at them. The idea that these kids sunk into a deep depression because their coach on Team Trotsky was preventing them from winning makes it clear that this entire story took place in Barry Rubin's head.
When the opportunity came to step in as coach for one game, I jumped at the chance to try an experiment. I’ve never coached a sport before, and am certainly no expert at soccer despite my son’s efforts. Still, I thought the next game could be won by simply placing players in the positions they merited, and motivating them to triumph.
"Unlike their coach, I knew which positions they merited because like every suburban dad on the planet, I think I know everything. I know better than every coach, teacher, and fancy-pants expert you can throw at me. I am God. I am a flabby-assed God with a wife who hates me and two annoying bastard children on Paxil. Look upon my works, ye mighty, and despair."
I didn’t put terrible players in at forward or in the goal. It didn’t take any genius to do so, just basic sports common sense. You don’t need Ayn Rand to tell you which way the wind blows.
Ah, "common sense"…the last refuge of the person who thinks he knows something but can produce no evidence in support of it.
I wonder if Barry Jr. was one of the kids he arbitrarily deemed "terrible" or, by some magical coincidence, Little Rubin is the bestest, specialest, most talented little Pele on the team.
Before the game, I gave them a pep talk, with the key theme as follows:
I bet that helped. 10 year olds really pay attention to Asshole Dad doing his Win One For the Gipper impression.
Every week you’ve been told that the important thing is just to have a good time. Well, this week it’s going to be different. The number one goal is to win; the number two goal is to have a good time. But I assure you: if you win, you will have a much better time!
"Because…umm…you can use the victory to convince yourself that you're better than those losers on the other team! If I do this just right, you'll soon learn to derive all of your self-worth from convincing yourself that you are, by some arbitrary criteria, better than other people. That's why I drive this 2007 BMW 335xi. It's so you can tell that I'm better than Bob Johnson and his lame-ass Honda Accord. Look at Owens in his little Prius. What a fag. Are you kids getting the message yet?"
And that’s just what happened. They took a 1-0 lead and held it, in contrast to the previous week when it was scoreless at the half but turned into a 3-0 humiliation when someone ill-suited was made goalkeeper just because he wanted that job.
What a magnificent coincidence. Of course, none of those 10 year olds remembered the outcome (and certainly not the details) of the previous week's game, but rest assured that the neurotic Little League dads did.
When kids with fewer skills didn’t want to play defense, I pointed out that these were critical positions, since winning required preventing the other team from scoring. At the end, they performed heroically, holding off repeated attacks on their goal.
What, all of the sudden this is the French Army at Verdun? It's a kids' soccer game. By definition, nothing that happens in a little league soccer game can be heroic. I don't care if Timmy Anderson scores four fucking goals on a broken leg while adopting an abused dog and teaching two underprivileged kids to read. It's not heroic.
I worried that the boys who played less of the game and were given seemingly less significant positions would be resentful. But quite the opposite proved true. With the team ahead, they were thrilled. One shouted from the sidelines something I thought showed real character: “Don’t let the good players do all the work!” Instinctively, he recognized that some players are better, but he wanted to bring everyone’s level up rather than down.
Odds that this actually happened: zero. The odds are zero. Pretty convenient that the 10 year olds would start yelling things that sound like slogans from The Fountainhead just as Coach Galt takes over and realizes he could use a few zingers in his column.
I’m tempted to say he was going against what he was being taught in school.
You're not tempted to do it if you just did it. Also, what?!?????!? Where do you send your kids to school, Barry? Is it some special charter school that uses a patented combination of math, science, and belittling comments to put the kids in their place nice and early?
They played harder, with a bit more pressure and a less equal share of personal glory than they’d ever done before. But after the victory, they were glowing and appreciative, amazed that they had actually won a game.
I want to point out that Barry Rubin just described the children as "glowing and appreciative" of him. I am getting a kick out of picturing a group of uninterested 10 year-olds waiting to be rewarded with a trip to Pizza Hut as Barry looks on and says to absolutely no one in particular, as people take great pains to avoid him, "Look at how much they appreciate what I did for them!"
Suddenly, I noticed that one boy’s mother was really angry at him, claiming he hadn’t showed good sportsmanship because he was too happy over the victory. Not seeing anything that might have provoked her outrage, I wondered whether this was a suggestion that one should apologize for winning.
So, to be clear: Having absolutely no fucking idea whatsoever what this supposed scolding was about, if indeed it actually happened, you just went ahead and assumed that it was a demented liberal (woman, of course) acting out your straw man argument and punishing her child for winning.
Makes sense to me.
Still, the bawling out didn’t put a damper on his big smile.
"In one short hour, I became more important to him than his mother. Everything he had ever been taught was rinsed away by my powerful lessons."
Next week, of course, they will be back to losing.
Without you, Barry, how could they win????
But I think that perhaps they learned something useful to counter the indoctrination they are getting in school.
Barry, whatever school you are sending your kids to, be sure to let me know so the rest of us can avoid it.
If you don’t care about winning, you’re merely handing triumph to the other side.
Which you wouldn't care about.
In a soccer league that might not matter, yet in personal life, your level of achievement and satisfaction is going to depend on giving your best effort. If a country is indifferent to succeeding, the opposing team’s success might be very costly indeed.
Bingo, Barry. You've nailed it. America is in trouble because we all want to lose. We don't care if we're unemployed and the country falls apart. Totally indifferent. How did you know?
As I said at the start, perhaps not too much should be read into this little parable.
"Perhaps" you could have pondered this point more seriously 1100 idiotic words ago.
Yet the broader question may be the most significant issue of our time: why should Western democratic societies abandon the techniques and thinking that have led to such great success, in order to embrace failure as glorious or victory as shameful?
I am tempted to say "Presented without comment" and let you ponder this sentence by your lonesome, but I just need to point out that he describes his attitude as something that has "led to such great success."
It would be facile to point out that Barry Rubin is a dickhead, so please focus on the fact that he is the worst possible kind of dickhead. The kind that thinks that what the whole world really needs is to listen to him and all of its problems will be solved. In reality, of course, this IS the problem. Our problem is the millions upon millions of self-centered assholes, each one a god in his or her own mind despite having accomplished nothing and not maturing emotionally beyond grade school, walking around thinking that the problem with America is that everyone refuses to listen to ME. Next time Barry Rubin really feels like making a difference, I suggest taking a look in the mirror and shutting the hell up for once in his life rather than pedantically lecturing people based on their choices as he imagines them.