By Dr. Bernie Kastner
It’s no secret that I am an avid fan of all the major sports. I used to go to sleep every night listening to Steve Sommers schmoozing S‑P‑O‑R‑T‑S on WFAN. That ended when we moved to Israel 18 years ago. I have had to make many adjustments without the constant streaming of WFAN or broadcasts of the local baseball, football, hockey, and basketball games. In order to have some semblance of a life, I decided to subscribe only to Major League Baseball, my favorite sport. While enjoying the prospect of being able to watch any game during the season and post-season, I do surf to the other sports sites in order to watch highlights of games during the playoffs.
I am telling you all this because when I watch the two-to-three-minute video clips of post-game interviews, I am surprisingly struck by what has become a common theme among the ballplayers—humility.
While it is true that not all superstars or even average players are modest, such as the effusive Jose Reyes or the likes of Niger Morgan a.k.a. Tony Plush, I have come to notice that most of those who reach the professional level do walk around with a sense of awe and respect for the game. Many a post-game interview will begin with the interviewer congratulating the player on having a great game or singling out a particular spectacular play that led to victory. Invariably, the player will attribute the win to the team as a whole or to another player or coach who helped him get to where he is today. Moreover, the players talk about how hard it is to succeed at this level, especially as it pertains to winning a championship. They thank the L‑rd for just being a part of the team and hope that they can contribute in some way. Players give credit to the greatness of the other team and how tough an opponent they are. The respect shown is quite eye-opening.
I have to say that I am duly impressed by how even some of the younger players handle themselves in front of the media. It is a testament to how each has developed personally, recognizing the long journey it requires to make it to this level. They admit that to succeed at this level one must possess a combination of luck and skill. When a player outwardly shows his humility and verbally expresses his appreciation for what it took to reach a certain accomplishment, he revels in the specific victory and in the same breath expresses hope for the opportunity to repeat the feat. No bragging and no chest-beating—just a lesson in self-effacement.
This attitude permeates all of the major sports. When the L.A. Kings recently won hockey’s Stanley Cup, their star players talked about how difficult it was to win it all. The same sentiments were expressed by players of basketball’s Miami Heat, who after losing last year in the finals, revealed the extent to which they rededicated themselves in order to get back to the championships and then overcome last year’s failure. It was truly refreshing to hear these superstars speak with much more humility than I could ever have expected.
Those of us who are not superstar athletes have much to learn from this. Our daily lives are a mix of ups and downs, victories and failures. We often go through life with certain expectations of deserved honor and respect. We complain to whoever will listen that life is not fair and that we could have and should have succeeded—if it only were for . . .
It is a big world out there. We can control only a small portion of it, if that much. The question is: Do we go through life being as aggressive as possible by taking advantage of anything and everything we can in order to get ahead, or do we adopt a more passive approach and just be thankful for “being in the game”?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not suggesting that in being passive, it is acceptable to expect things to come together with complacency. That breeds mediocrity. Rather, knowing one’s place in this world will bring to the table a purer outlook on life and on one’s accomplishments. It will naturally limit frustration and will promote goodwill and a cheerleading attitude toward others. It will encourage sportsmanlike behavior both on and off the playing field.
We can always complain that we don’t have enough (money, time off, possessions, space in the house, etc.). We look around us and there is invariably someone whose quality of life is better, bigger, more satisfying, more luxurious, and happier. We can also look at those who have less than we do and marvel in contrast at the blessings bestowed upon us. We will be judged in the Afterlife by what we did with the opportunities we were given. For someone who has material possessions, he will be asked if he invited the less fortunate into his home for a hot meal. And for those who are less fortunate, he will also be judged with regard to the attitude he displays—did he breed bitterness, jealousy, and contempt?
I always tell parents that it is a dangerous precedent to compare one child to another—especially within one’s own family. Not all children reach certain benchmarks at the same time. There is nothing wrong with your baby if he begins walking at eleven months as opposed to his older brother who started walking at nine and a half months. Likewise, we all must look at what we have and use the tools we were given to the best of our abilities. In the Afterlife, our lifelong success on Earth as individuals is judged on that basis.
Dr. Bernie Kastner is a psychotherapist in private practice with offices in Jerusalem and Ramat Bet Shemesh. He is also the author of “Understanding the Afterlife in This Life” and “Masa El Haor.” Feel free to visit his website at drbkastner.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.