The Coach as Expert, and What If You Don’t Know

WordPress’ topic for 1.11.11 was “Write about one thing you’ve never told anyone and explain why” but I touched on that recently and will go in another direction: What to Say When You Don’t Know.

I didn’t watch the Daily Show Monday night. I would’ve if I’d known Jon Stewart was going to say this:

“How do you make sense of these types of senseless situations is really the question that seems to be on everybody’s mind. I don’t know that there’s a way to make sense of this sort of thing. As I watched the political pundit world, many are reflecting and grieving and trying to figure things out. But it’s definitely true that others are working feverishly to find the tidbit or two that will exonerate their side from blame or implicate the other. Watching that is as predictable, I think, as it is dispiriting. Did the toxic political environment cause this? A graphic image here, an ill-timed comment, violent rhetoric, those types of things. I have no fucking idea.

“I wouldn’t blame our political rhetoric any more than I would blame heavy metal music for Columbine…and that is coming from somebody who truly hates our political environment.”

I, like most people, have felt shocked, disgusted and gutted over what happened in Tucson this weekend. I have seen people attempt to connect the dots and find cause and effect for this massacre. I’m with Jon, I am not sure there is a way to make sense of it. And I dismay over those who would attempt to fabricate a sense-making story because it’s part of their talking-head job. Times like this recall Cesar Vallejo’s poem to me and I have added it to the end of this post.

update: Who has said it better than Barack:

“Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding.  In the words of Job, ‘when I looked for light, then came darkness.’  Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.”

In my day job, QA, an essential survival skill is to realize when you don’t know something and say so. When you act as if you know but don’t, you’re on thin ice. I like it when my day job has some relevance to my larger life.

Last weekend at the Association Cup, the Hammer were leading 1-0 in the second half but under a lot of pressure from the Piedmont Highlanders. Our goalkeeper was having to take goal kick after goal kick and doing badly. The ground was slick, the ball was heavy  and he was caked in mud. He couldn’t get the ball out of our defensive zone and eventually the Highlanders intercepted and chipped one over him to tie the game. Later in the half, our center defender asked if it would be OK if he took the kicks instead, since he’s much stronger. I knew that he’d do a better job. I also knew that our GK had to learn to work his way out of this problem himself. Even our Director of Coaching, Jeff Wilson had emphasized the importance of goalkeepers taking their own kicks.

What was more important, my goalkeeper’s development or maximizing our chances to get a result? Would it be worse to make him take the kicks and fail, perhaps costing us the game? I didn’t know. So when our defender yelled to me asking if it was OK, I turned around and said nothing. I let the boys decide. Sometimes you just don’t know.

Los heraldos negros

Hay golpes en la vida tan fuertes . . . ¡Yo no se!
Golpes como del odio de Dios; como si ante ellos;
la resaca de todo lo sufrido se empozara en el alma
¡Yo no se!
Son pocos; pero son . . . abren zanjas oscuras
en el rostro mas fiero y en el lomo mas fuerte,
Serán talvez los potros de bárbaros atilas;
o los heraldos negros que nos manda la Muerte

Son las caídas hondas de los Cristos del alma,
de alguna adorable que el Destino Blasfema,
Esos golpes sangrientos son las crepitaciones
de algún pan que en la puerta del horno se nos quema

Y el hombre….pobre…¡pobre!
Vuelve los ojos,
como cuando por sobre el hombro
nos llama una palmada;
vuelve los ojos locos,
y todo lo vivido
se empoza, como charco de culpa,
en la mirada.

Hay golpes en la vida, tan fuertes . . . ¡Yo no se!

Cesar Vallejo

The Black Heralds

There are blows in life, so powerful . . . I don’t know!
Blows as from the hatred of God; as if, facing them,
the undertow of everything suffered
welled up in the soul . . . I don’t know!

They are few; but they are . . . They open dark trenches
in the fiercest face and in the strongest back.
Perhaps they are the colts of barbaric Attilas;
or the black heralds sent to us by Death.

They are the deep falls of the Christs of the soul,
of some adored faith blasphemed by Destiny.
Those bloodstained blows are the crackling of
bread burning up at the oven door.

And man . . . Poor . . . poor! He turns his eyes, as
when a slap on the shoulder summons us;
turns his crazed eyes, and everything lived
wells up, like a pool of guilt, in his look.

There are blows in life, so powerful . . . I don’t know!

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One Response to The Coach as Expert, and What If You Don’t Know

  1. Jen says:

    I like this story…it makes me think of my mother who will only tell someone she doesn’t know twice, and then she makes something up and answers very decisively. For example, here is the type of exchange I have overheard (and, OK, sometimes been part of) a million times:

    “How deep is this lake?”
    Mom: “I don’t know.”
    “Do you think, like, 300 feet? More than that?”
    Mom: “No idea.”
    “Do you think it could be 500 feet? That’s really deep…could that be right?’
    Mom: “It’s over 400 feet deep.”
    “Wow. Really?”
    Mom: “Uh huh.”

    What’s amazing is that people *very* often accept her answer, when she has repeatedly told them she doesn’t know. Rarely, someone will turn on her and say, “But you just said you didn’t know!” But usually they just say, “Hmm…OK…”


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