Inside looking out: Bring on the insults
Some controversy has occurred about a Little League public address announcer from somewhere in the Midwest. After he announces the boys’ names when they come up to bat, he insults them.
“If you need to get a hot dog, now would be a good time because there won’t be much happening with Chris at the plate and it’s no wonder that his name rhymes with ‘miss’ because that’s what he does when he swings.”
When the next batter steps up, the announcer said, “Now batting is number five. He owns more participation trophies than anyone on the planet.”
Some have called this announcer a bully and even worse and have implied that his insults might lead a depressed child to suicide. Others, including the Little League’s townspeople and the players themselves love this man’s sense of humor.
There are hurtful insults of course, but in youth sports, coaches who know how to motivate will stroke some players and mock others to get them to perform with optimum effort.
My assistant football coach, who was beloved by our players, had a knack for mockery that got kids to achieve a level of performance beyond their own expectations.
During sprinting drills, he shouted at the boys who were lagging behind the rest of the team.
“Get the pianos off your backs! My dead grandmother runs faster than you!”
They understood his purpose and accepted the challenge he put forth.
American author Sinclair Lewis wrote, “There are two insults no human being will endure: that he has no sense of humor, and that he has never known trouble.” A sense of humor while in competitive athletics as well as in everyday life helps reduces emotional stress.
As a baseball coach, I once went to the mound after my high school pitcher had walked four straight hitters. I saw the stress in his body language so I said, “Ball, ball, ball, ball. Brian, you’re like a bad song that keeps repeating in my ears. If you don’t like the umpire’s strike zone, then picture in your mind that every time you throw a strike, he falls into a tank of water filled with sharks.” I walked back to the dugout.
He struck out the next two batters. After the game, he said with a smile, “Those sharks got a big dinner today.”
Of course I had another bunch of insults ready for him in case he continued to walk the hitters. Either way, keeping him loose and focused helped him manage his game performance.
American religious leader Brigham Young said, “He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”
Those who argue that we need to be positive in our criticism of children are right, but to prepare kids for the unfairness and failures that inevitably happen to everyone requires that they have a thick skin and strong coping skills. There will be times we are insulted and not in a humorous way. Accept unwelcomed remarks as words that motivate rather than words that hurt feelings.
In my first year of college, I was given a D on an essay that quite frankly destroyed my belief that I was a good writer. The professor’s written remarks were also full of insulting expletives. I had a decision to make. Drop the class or approach him about the paper.
“Well I’m glad you didn’t run from my class with your tail between your legs,” he said with a laugh.
We reviewed the remarks and I was happy to stay in his class because he was an excellent teacher of writing, and many of his techniques for sentence building I still use today. He may have been extreme with his insults, but they certainly captured my attention, and his purpose was to motivate me.
Jonathan Lockwood Hule, a self-proclaimed lover of life and Professor of Happiness wrote, “Insult comes not from the mouth, but from the ear.” When we hear callous comments, it is we who decide if our feelings are hurt, not the one hurling the insults.
I’m at the age now that gets me many insults. My son’s baseball coach introduced me to an opposing coach by saying I once played in a game with Babe Ruth.
I’m an older guy with young children so I’m often mistaken for their grandfather. My reply? I’m grateful. You won’t find many guys who get to be their kids’ father AND their grandfather at the same time!
In a world where so many people are easily offended, perhaps we should all live by this popular children’s rhyme that originated back in 1862.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
Rich Strack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.