Dre, can you bunt?
Brian was the best player on our neighborhood baseball team. He was a year older than me, and was a serious player. He was a starting pitcher at his high school. And he was also kind of a dick. Brian was the kind of person who I would verbally attack and clown mercilessly these days, if I had a good reason.
I was in high school myself, too, but not even thinking about joining the varsity baseball team, mainly because I sucked at baseball. That was a good enough reason.
After I struck out — again — in one of our neighborhood league games, Brian asked me the bunting question on the bench in front of a couple other players. Everyone on the team knew me for striking-out habit, thus Brian could have been seen as trying to help me and the team by asking his question. And as I said, Brian was, clearly, our best player. But Brian asked the question in quite a condescending way. Plus, Brian’s personality was more apt to complain about a less-skilled teammate than offer any useful, constructive help to said player.
Like I said, Brian was a jerk. A damn good baseball player. And a jerk.
(If you don’t know: in baseball, a bunt is when a batter makes the slightest contact with the ball so it travels a few feet, usually somewhere between the location of the pitcher and catcher — see the image accompanying this post. The idea is, the batter who bunts will try and get to first base before the pitcher or catcher can retrieve the ball and throw the batter out at first base. Bunting is utilized by speedy players who trust their ability to outrun the defense’s fielding, or as a “sacrifice” by a batter to help move an already-on-base teammate on to the next base, i.e. from first base to second base, while the bunter himself is throw out at first base. The below video explains it well enough.)
I answered to Brian that I kind-of could bunt, but that I wasn’t too good at it. That statement sums up my entire baseball existence, actually (truth: After playing pitching-machine baseball for years, I was afraid of live-pitched baseballs thrown by a human. Bunting required me to consciously make contact with the ball using my bat. I was afraid of even trying it).
Brian said nothing in reply to my reply, but his body language said enough. We have to keep this less-than player on the team?
I felt like a bum-ass player (I was a bum-ass player, actually; this was more than a feeling). I felt like I’d been ridiculed by a guy who, in this circumstance, I couldn’t ridicule back (accurate). I felt disrespected (I had indeed been disrespected). I felt there were players on the team who didn’t want me on the team (there were such players).
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Did I mention that my father was the coach of this baseball team? He knew nothing about any of this. I never brought it up. I’m sending him a link to this post, my way of telling him about it 20+ years after it happened.
I struck out many more times that season. I never tried bunting. Brian never offered to teach me.
I started playing basketball the following summer.
I know how it feels to be on a team where some people quietly – or openly – express that they feel you shouldn’t be there. It sucks for many reasons.
- There’s at least an ounce of truth to it. If people don’t want you on the team, you probably have some glaring weakness that makes you a liability. Which is good reason to not want you around as dead weight.
- The people who express these feelings are better than you. Which means, you don’t have much solid ground to stand on in arguing against them.
- Your lack of skill + their better skill + the fact that they and you know this = you never feel confident enough to stand up for yourself. And oh yeah, stand up and do… what? You have no skill, remember?!
Well, what can you do in this situation? Obviously you want to get better – not for them, but for YOU – but what else? What can you do for yourself mentally while doing that Work On Your Game?
- Get honest about where you really are. If there are people on your team who don’t want you there, it’s probably because you are lacking skill and/or production in some area. Maybe you are simply not good. Maybe you’re good, but you don’t show up consistently. There is something that you’re doing, or not doing, that is causing them to have an unfavorable opinion of you. Get clear with yourself, and honest with yourself, about what that is. You must first honestly identify the problem to solve the problem. You must first honestly identify the problem to solve the problem. Click To Tweet
- Seek help. Often we are either too proud, too dumb, or too fearful to ask for help. I have been guilty of this many times, not just as a child but also as an adult. Only the fool realizes he has a weakness and then struggles against it on his own. Find someone who is better than you, and ask them to share their wisdom. You will be surprised at how often and how easily those who are better than you are willing to share how they got there. Often, we are either too proud, too dumb, or too fearful to ask for help. Click To Tweet You will be surprised at how often and how easily those who are better than you are willing to share how they got there. Click To Tweet
- Seek help from the very people who don’t want you around. Benjamin Franklin is famous for using this method to turn enemies into friends. Once Ben identified an adversary, he would ask that person for a small favor, such as borrowing a favorite book of theirs. The person would usually oblige to a small request, although slightly stunned by enemy Ben asking for a favor. After lending the book to Franklin, that enemy would now begin to feel more positive towards Ben, supporting Ben’s policies, or at least not opposing him as much or as staunchly as before.
Why? Because as human beings, we are predisposed to act in accordance with how we have acted before, to align our thinking with our actions, and vice-versa. If we can get an enemy to help us out or do us even the smallest of favors, that person will unconsciously begin to feel more positively towards us. On your team, privately ask the negative, outspoken teammate to help you out. You interrupt his negative thoughts patterns towards you and unconsciously get him on your side.
And, you might actually get better as a result of his help!
An alternative to #2 is to get a whole lot better on your own, outside of the team, then come back to kick everyone’s ass. Most athletes, however, don’t have the Mental Toughness, Confidence, Discipline or resources (time, knowledge, personal initiative) to do this.
After my in-game conversation with Brian, I never asked him for help in baseball. He never offered help, either. And I stopped playing baseball the next summer. I’ve never seen Brian since. My father, who still coaches baseball, kept in touch with him.
My dad told me how Brian had moved on to play high school and college baseball, and was trying to make the Major Leagues the last I heard my dad mention him. The best I remember it, my dad told me that Brian had played well at some minor league baseball tryout (at least according to Brian), but could not get an opportunity to get his foot in the door because of his age at the time. I was in my late 20s when I heard this, in the middle of my professional basketball career and also in the middle of revolutionizing basketball on the Internet.
In the end, it’s safe to say that my basketball career outdid Brian’s baseball career. I couldn’t beat him one way, but I beat the hell out of him another way.
DISCLAIMER: This option isn’t for everyone, because not everyone is wired like me. Some people take negative energy from others and turn it into a full fledged pity party. Negative self talk, a negative self image, and worse fears, worries, stresses and anxieties follow. If you are one of these people – and be honest with yourself if you are – follow those three steps above.
If you are like me, and can use negative energy to fuel your vengeance, by all means do it. It’s fun.
And, for the record: fuck Brian.