THUMBODY SPECIALThey’re giving away gold medals to kids riding bicycles and skateboards, and even for driving cars around parking lots. Yes, the X-Games are back!

At the end of each school year, my son’s elementary school has an awards ceremony. Parents show up in the cafeteria to watch their kids accept awards for various achievements. For two hours, the children file across the stage in endless lines, grabbing trophies as their names are rattled off. By the time it’s over, the kids are so overwhelmed with fake gold statues; they can barely cradle them in their little folded arms. Everybody is a multiple winner!

I look around at the proud parents, pushing and shoving their way forward to take pictures of their kids being winners. Am I the only person in the room that sees a problem with this trophy-fest?

We are attempting to social engineer a future generation of confident adults by acclimating our youth to awards ceremonies. The plan seems simple – give all kids numerous awards, regardless of their effort and talents, so that everyone feels good, and just as important – equal.

I think they should take this a step further: Stop wasting class time teaching our kids the difference between two and three toed sloths, and start instructing them on how to walk on red carpets and compose acceptance speeches.

“Oh my God! This is so exciting! I’d like to thank my teacher, Barney, Blues Clues, Thomas the Tank Engine, the cafeteria ladies, (Wait for audience to chuckle) and of course my teacher – I hope I’m not leaving anybody out. Without them, I wouldn’t be standing here as one of 600 winners of the Math Superstar Award.”

At this school, there’s a curriculum called “Thumbody Special” in which the kids are given a large thumb, cut from a sheet of construction paper, upon which they spend several days writing all the things that make them special, in pretty glitter. Then, the teachers tack these pre-teen publicity campaigns on the classroom walls, so everyone can learn such things, as Chelsea is special because she cares about Polar Bears. Thumbody needs to tell Chelsea that nobody gives a shit, including the bears – and she better get used to it.

Last year, cute little Chelsea received five trophies and two medals, including one for “caring”. The reality is that this poor kid needs to repeat the grade, because she can barely read, yet one day while I was volunteering in class, she confidently told me that she was smarter than me. I can see why she thinks this way – I don’t have 35 trophies with my name on them at home.

The local soccer league I coach in no longer allows score keeping. The league president, (who looks like he never played a sport), gave us a speech about the damage that could result to the children’s self-esteem, so regardless of the score, they request that the coaches lie to the kids and say such things as “We all won today!”

Not me. Here’s what I tell them after a loss: “That sucks, doesn’t it? Do you like that feeling you have right now? If you don’t want to feel this way again, then next week, DO something about it! The only reason you lost is because they wanted it more than you.”

I’m probably not going to be asked to coach again.

So, how’s little Dylan going to learn to live a passionate life, if he’s told that even though he played with no enthusiasm and was a revolving door on defense, the fifteen goals that he gave up make him a winner? I’m guessing not too well. At the end of the season, the worst kid on the last-place team receives the same trophy as the best kid on the undefeated team.

Dylan asked me when he was going to get a trophy on the first day of practice!

Dylan also came up to me weeks later and said, “Hey coach – I can’t come to the game next week. I think the team will lose without me.”

The D-train, as his goof-ball parents refer to him, is the worst kid in the league. He completely lacks passion, yet society has allowed this 8-year old kid to live in a dream world in which he actually believes he’s the most important player on the team. I’m sure it’s the same thing in class, where the D-train sits around picking his nose, secure in the fact that there will always be a table full of trophies waiting for him at the end of the year.

Dylan’s parents told me after the season that their son decided he doesn’t want to play soccer anymore because he thought it was “too easy”, so he wanted to race snowmobiles. Huh? We live in Florida.

Oh, how I would love to be a fly on the wall when reality finally comes crashing down on this kid – and his asinine parents.

Maybe it never will. There are always the X-games – the latest bastion of glory for losers, geeks, failures, and anyone not passionate enough to excel in a real sport. It’s a tiny community of dudes with rich parents, playing around with over-priced recreational vehicles, which allow them to perform with the illusion of athleticism, thanks to strategically placed cameras that make them look gravity defying, and gas powered motors that compensate for their lack of strength.

Old adage: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

New adage: If at first you don’t succeed, you’ll still get a trophy, and lots of them – just find a sport that no one else can afford to play.

There’s still hope for Chelsea and Dylan, and all Americans desperate for their 15 minutes of fame and shiny new additions to their trophy cases. All you have to do is create a brand new sport that nobody else plays, and submit it to the X-Games. How about Snowmobile Polar Bear Rodeo?

In two thousand years, when archeologists are digging around in the ruins of what used to be America, they are going to unearth plastic trophies by the hundreds of millions. It would be fascinating to see how future societies interpret the meaning of this. The big question will be: How could a civilization of so many winners have ultimately lost?

August 12, 2011 by : Posted in Bobby C No Comments

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