It was a Tuesday night in December, and I was in Podunk, Texas, population 226. My students were playing basketball – the lowest-level of ball you can watch that you still have to pay admission for. This was 7th grade boys B Team, in a 1A school, in the middle of corn fields. About 16 fans were there, along with some crickets.
But there’s always that one. You know. That guy.
He was three rows behind me, yelling. Our boys were getting beat something like 12-8 and it was nearing the end of the game.
“Come on boys!!! Get your head in the game!!”‘
The yells got louder.
“You boys don’t even care– come on! You’re not even trying! Get your head in the game!”
“What you boys need to do is HUSTLE!!!”
Whose voice was this? I’m too curious. I know I should resist looking, but in a moment of weakness I turn around, and I’ll never forget the sight: a 400+ lb man, hunched over with a chili dog in one hand and a Coca-Cola in the other. Snapping.
We swim in a culture of spectators and judges.
Reality TV. Fantasy Sports. Talent Competitions. Social Media.
We’ve done it so much, it has us believing we’re somehow entitled to judge anyone actually doing something.
I sat the other night watching 9 year olds on Masterchef Jr. making Lobster rolls, and by the time it was over, I caught myself nodding with the judges and mumbling, eww, yeah, he DID brown the edges a bit…
Then it smacked me — this is A NINE YEAR OLD making LOBSTER ROLLS. When I was nine, I could microwave a Jimmy Dean biscuit.
Spectator culture has so many of us terrified of doing. My kids, as a rule, won’t even attempt anything that might end up on YouTube. Too dangerous.
And we’ve done it enough ourselves, it has us believing we’re somehow entitled to judge those we watch. After all, we paid.
Friends, no matter what you do– there will always be a fat guy in the stand, eating his chili dog, and reminding you you’re not good enough at something he could never do. Telling you you’re not trying hard enough. Laughing at your mistakes. Telling you how you SHOULD have done it.
Make no mistake– critique will flow most freely and sharply from those who CAN’T or WON’T do what you’re doing. Or from those who think they are entitled because they used to do it. Back then.
You have work to do. And you’re going to have to do it amidst the noise of the spectators. This is life.
You cant escape them. You will be watched. There are far more viewers than doers.
So, paint that picture.
Write that book.
Start that business.
Ask her out.
Play ball. Even amidst the yells, the critiques, the judges, or the comment feeds. Do your thing. Take a shot. And when you miss, turn and give the big guy a wink– and go get that rebound.