Now that we live closer to our daughter and her family, we are able to see the kids' athletic events, concerts, and assemblies. Driving 8 hours for a 5-minute piano recital or a 30-minute school assembly might have sounded crazy to some folks, but we did it for years. Now that we're only 90 minutes away, we can get back home and sleep in our own bed the same day.
Recently, we went to watch Conor (7) in a basketball game. He takes after his mother. When Jennifer was in high school, she played basketball, too. She was never tall enough to score many points, but she was like a gadfly on the floor – stealing the ball and generally aggravating the opponents.
Conor is the same kind of player. He's not tall enough to get many rebounds or score many points, but he harasses the other team and is a fast runner. Watching him play brought back a lot of memories of my daughter.
Conor's team did not win the game we saw. They lost 39-22. Actually, one boy on the other team beat them – Paulo had 32 of his team's 39 points. He was a whirlwind of intensity as he drove to the basket, dribbled artfully down the floor, or tossed in 3-pointers with ease. It was hard to believe that Paulo was in the 7 and 8-year-old category. He seemed much more adept and experienced.
Paulo wore a number 8 jersey. After the game, Conor came to me and said, "That number 8 beat us all by himself, Grandma." I agreed with Conor, but I said in reply, "Your team did a good job trying to defend against him." Actually, it was amazing that Conor's team could score any points, since Paulo continued to steal the ball and intimidate with his physicality.
Sitting next to me on the bleachers was a gentleman who was rooting for Paulo's team. He had a son on that team and told me that all of the players looked up to Paulo because he was so good. His son didn't score a point, but was all smiles at the end of the game because his team had won.
There was also a woman sitting behind me who had a son on Conor's team. She was frustrated by the defeat and said, "They shouldn't keep score. It should just be fun for these little guys." Not wanting to start a debate, I kept my mouth shut. However, I have a serious disagreement with that attitude.
Keeping score is important. In life, everything is judged. Don't kid yourself into thinking that it isn't. If children are organizing a game on the corner lot, they will figure out a way to keep score. If a family is playing a board game, it is always obvious that someone is winning or losing. It's the nature of the beast.
Playing a game "just for fun" isn't fun to most people. No matter how old you are, you enjoy the possibility of being the winner. If your fellow players decide not to keep score, you keep score in your head. I'd wager that most players do the same thing. We always know the score.
For folks who are trying to be politically correct and insist on the 'just for fun' games without scorekeeping, I say this – Give me one example in the real world where competition isn't judged somehow. To prepare our children to function out in the world, they need to know if they measure up. Try doing that without judging, scoring, or declaring a winner and loser.
Conor's team might have lost that game, but he learned a good lesson – one player can make a difference. Number 8 single-handedly taught him that.
(IF YOU WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT DR. SMITH, SHE CAN BE REACHED AT HER EMAIL ADDRESS: JSMITH1313@CFL.RR.COM  OR IN CARE OF THIS NEWSPAPER.)