Death in the Family

Written June 13. Sat upon for five weeks.

There was a death in our family this week, although no one is grieving except me. I understand, though, because it was part of me that shriveled up and died: my ego.
I fouled up a ceremony honoring the graduating seniors of our high school baseball team. (My son is a sophomore on the team.) I was in charge of writing and announcing the special moment where each senior walks out with his family, providing each player’s reflections on his past and future. Simple enough: I wrote questions, sent them to parents, and then compiled the responses into a single script.

I’ve gotta say, the pre-game ceremony was going well. There was laughter; there were tears. … But there weren’t enough introductions. For whatever reason, I flat-out neglected to transfer the responses of one kid into my script.

I didn’t realize my error until another dad in the press box told me I had skipped a player. I will never forget the expectant look on the faces of the player and his parents—waiting for me to recite his baseball biography.

And I had nothing to say. Oh, I stammered out his name and his parents’ names, and I remembered where he’s going to college, but then I fumbled around, trying to freelance the rest.

I literally don’t remember how it ended.

Any parent with kids in sports knows the type of community that surrounds a team. There are different jobs to be done, and parents have different skills. Ideally, the parent most suited to a job performs it—well.

I erred most obviously in not having the information in front of me at game time. But it was a series of ego errors that led to that disastrous conclusion.

My first mistake was believing I was the parent best suited to handle the announcing. I said earlier I was in charge, but only because I put myself in charge. Look, I can speak into a microphone and introduce players, but so can any number of people. I believed I could do it effortlessly, though. And that was my ego at its miscalculating worst.
I should have made and followed a checklist. I should have asked another parent—my dear wife, for example—to proofread my script. I should have checked and double-checked the script before the ceremony, preferably with one of the other dads up there.

But I didn’t, and I failed.

I failed to provide a player his moment in the Senior Night sun. I short-circuited the spotlight on that boy. And his parents. And his relatives in the stands.

I apologized, believe me. I went to the parents during the game and expressed my deepest regrets. I made a formal apology to the player—in front of the team—after the game. I expressed my remorse to the family by email. And … you know.

Other parents have said, well, mistakes happen. But I didn’t make a simple stumble. I made a deep-seated, complex mistake. I declared myself an expert then methodically proved to be a fool.

That hurts, brothers and sisters. And I don’t know what hurts most—the guilt or the humiliation.

I grieve for that boy and his parents, knowing that I ruined their celebration of four years in a varsity uniform. It’s a grief that cuts deep.

And though my ego suffered a mortal wound, I will one day find comfort in moving ahead without it.

But not today.

Today I’m still grieving.