So I am reading two different articles in the New York Times “Sunday Review” section – not at the same time, although that itself would have been newsworthy – and I notice that both articles seem to be about the same thing. Making me immediately wonder it that was just a coincidence or if the New York Times “Sunday Review” section was instead running a “Theme Issue”, like when the networks, to promote ratings, made us do “Halloween Thursday” where every show scheduled that evening had to do their own version of a Halloween story, whether we wanted to or not. (By the way, isn’t that exactly what cable news is, every show on the schedule covering the same stories, with a barely perceptibly different spin?)
(Also by the way, the New York Times articles may not have been talking about the same thing; both articles may have just rung the same “alarm bell” in my head. Sometimes that happens. I’m reading the paper and every article seems to be about the same subject; the forgotten value of compromise, science supplanting religion as the “One True Faith”. I am now wondering if the identification of these underlying themes derives less from the newspaper than from myself, fueled by the issues regularly occupying my mind. I could, however, be wrong about that and it actually was the Times’ version of “Halloween Thursday.”)
The first article involved modern fathers and how they spend more time with their children than the Dads of earlier generations, who devoted their lives to making a living, and for the lucky ones, making a killing. (Depending on their line of endeavor. You can put in the same punishing number of hours, but if you own a hardware store, versus working on Wall Street, there will be a glaring disparity in your net worth.)
The first thought that came to mind reading that “paternal comparison” article concerned the (strategically) omitted unspoken consequence.
“It’s nice that fathers are spending more time with their children. But if they’re telling their boss they have to leave early to catch their son’s or daughter’s performance in the Chess Club Championship, how does affect that boss’s perception of their commitment as “all-in” Warriors on the Work Front? Are they impressed by the Dad’s commitment to balancing family and career? Or are they thinking, ‘We’re working here! And you’re skipping out to watch chess!?!’”
Then I read a Times article about kids’ baseball – I will tie this together I promise; I mean come on, don’t I always? – complaining that striving for excellence, children – imaginably some of them driven by the same fathers who left work early to watch them play – are sustaining serious injuries, due to over-exertion in a year-long protocol focusing on training, practice and playing actual games.
I throw in – in my head; this was not yet another article – also football – where the problem of concussions and overall bodily wreckage, especially among school-age youngsters, is an ever-mounting concern.
And I am wondering, in both cases, acknowledging that the majority of kids who play sports do it “Just for fun”, “Can you really limit practice and participation in games and become a standout professional ballplayer?” Or a virtuoso violinist? Or a prima ballerina?
Or an acknowledged champion at anything?
(Private Confession: I was thinking of writing about this issue, but now maybe I can’t because, writing about another issue, I have let the cat inadvertently out of the bag. Co-starring with the question “Can you be great without being crazy?” is the equally – at least to me – intriguing question, “Can you be great without an obsessively, single-minded commitment?” Who knows? Maybe I will find a different way of talking about it. Which will pass today for “generating suspense.”)
A wise man once told me – I believe I have mentioned this before – “Everything is like something else. What is this like?” So I started thinking – that’s not exactly accurate, more accurate is that reading those articles triggered spontaneous activity in my brain – and this recollection from my childhood came unexpectedly to mind.
I was five or six years old and my parents had excitedly introduced me to the wonders of ice cream. But instead of loving it, I began screaming uncontrollably, having bitten off too much of the chocolatey confection and as a result sustained an excruciating “ice cream headache.”
Desperately trying to assuage my affliction, I could hear a hint of disappointment in my parents’ voices.
“I guess he doesn’t like ice cream.”
To which I immediately replied, reflecting a premature understanding of the Eternal Dilemma:
“I like ice cream. But take away the ‘cold’!”
I don’t know, can you actually have both?
Theoretically, I guess so.
But how ultimately satisfying is a bowl of warm ice cream?