When I taught high school, like almost all high school teachers, I needed to supplement my income. Like many teachers I volunteered to coach a variety of sports. I say “volunteered” because often the hourly wage was pretty minimal. But, still, it helped pay the bills.
One of the key ideas I tried to impart to the kids was that we all make mistakes. You will hit the rim and miss the shot. You will take a third strike instead of swinging the bat. You will commit a foul in the penalty area. You will simply do the wrong thing. Sometimes physically. Sometimes mentally.
Micheal Jordan, perhaps the best basketball player ever to walk onto a court, missed about 50% of his shots. He seemed to make the shot at the crucial time, but he missed plenty as well. He failed half the time.
I saw the major icon of soccer, the great Pele, in person in Rochester, New York in the 1970s. He was playing for the New York Cosmos. Pele had his shot stopped by the Rochester Lancers keeper on the modified penalty kick. He walked up to the keeper and shook his hand.
Bottom line. Everyone fails sometimes. The point is not the failure, but what happens next.
I tried to impress on my teams that they needed to forget, immediately forget, any mistake they had made. Forget about it. Then go on and do what you are supposed to do. Get back on track. We can analyze later. In the middle of the game is no time to feel bad or become dislodged from the task at hand.
Maria Jones (not her real name) was my best goal scorer. On Tuesday she missed a penalty kick that would have tied the match. We lost. As fate would have it, on Friday, the next match, we were again awarded a penalty kick. The team looked over to the bench. Who should take the kick? I yelled out that Maria should. She put it in the back of the net and we won the game (I think we won 2 that year). I knew her mental state. I knew that she was able to forget about it and get the job done.
Which brings us to May 25, month number 5 of the Covid-19 pandemic. A lot of people have screwed up. Made mistakes. Done the wrong thing. Governor Cuomo waited too long to institute stay at home orders. Lives were lost. Mayor DeBlasio of New York city was even slower to respond. The Trump administration was unprepared and waited way too long to close borders. And coordinate a national response.
We could go on and on and second guess what SHOULD have happened. A recent study shows that over 30,000 lives could have been saved if the USA had just acted one week earlier to shut down non-essential services. Mistakes were made. Mistakes are always made.
As Judge Judy says: Coulda, shoulda, woulda.
It matters not. What does matter is the now. What are we doing now? It’s never too late to act. The game is hardly over.
We need a national response. We need states to coordinate. We have Texas and Florida and Georgia and California all going their own way. The team, which should be working together, is breaking apart. Where is the coach?We need national, enforceable guidelines for essential and non-essential services. We need help for the 40,000,000 plus unemployed. We need testing. The lack of focus is causing us to make the same mistakes again. And again.
We need to move on. Ignore what happened in January of March or early May. Where are we now? Where do we need to go. What comes next? What’s the plan?
Mr. Trump, you missed the penalty kick. But the game is not over. Place the ball carefully on the penalty spot. Take a deep breath. You missed it last time. Forget about it. Step up and blast it into the back of the net.