So, last Saturday I’m back on the ball field coaching my 9-year-old boy’s little league team along with three other fathers. We lose big. Why? Because it was hot. Yes, I know what you’re thinking: Wasn’t it hot for the other team? Stop with the logic, OK?
My team wilted in the fourth inning. In fact, three of the players cried. One missed his mother. I told him the game would be over shortly and she was looking forward to seeing him. He accepted it, but struck out anyway.
The right fielder cried when the ball hit his thumb after he booted it. The catcher shed tears when he was called out at first base. Where was Tom Hanks when I needed him?
But above all, the heat dominated the game. It was about 90 degrees, and the field was dusty. The kids were appalled. They are used to climate-control. When it’s hot, they stay inside and enjoy the air conditioning. When it’s cold, the house is cozily warm. So when they are forced to play six innings outside on a scorching day, there is much angst.
When I was 9 years old, I was hot all the time in the summer. My tiny Levittown house had no air conditioning, and I slept upstairs directly underneath the tar-infested roof. So one August day, I had the following dialogue with my father:
“Dad, could we get air conditioning?”
“Why? You have a fan in your room.”
“But the fan just blows the hot air around.”
“So don’t turn it on.”
End of conversation. Later, at the dinner table, my father told my sister and me about how hot it was in Brooklyn where he grew up. At least on Long Island, there’s a “sea breeze.”
My sister and I looked confused. The ocean was 15 miles away.
Our dog, a German shepherd named Barney, was so hot he didn’t move for hours, lying supine on the linoleum kitchen floor.
“I think Barney may be dead,” I told my parents.
“Don’t be a wise guy,” my father retorted.
We never did get air conditioning until I moved out in 1971. Then two units arrived. I still hold a grudge.
But back to the ball field.
We lost the game 12 to 4, but the team really didn’t care. They quickly left the diamond for more comfortable precincts. Most of them are really good kids, far smarter than I was at their age — but far softer, as well.
America is a place where you can succeed no matter who you are. I am proof of that. But you must work very hard and be willing to endure pain. You must set a goal and win in the marketplace, no matter the air temperature. You must pay the price for success.
These kids don’t know that. But they do know two things. First, they don’t want to be hot. And second, they don’t have to be.