Regular readers of this space know that I have a propensity to get all weepy and sensitive on occasion. I don't apologize for this. It's a big part of what I think is one of my strengths in writing, being able to tap into an emotion. And while I've struggled hitting that vein thus far in NaNo (though I continue to grind, albiet a few thousand words below par), I've got something for you here today.
I was 13, seeing my hold as #1 goaltender on my traveling soccer team slipping away. I was sharing every game, for the first time, with a new guy. This particular game was against our bitter rivals, Ballistic United from Pleasanton, the next town over. We were intimately knowledgable of each other, spending five years facing off regularly. We got along with them. Off the field. On, it was war. Every game with them was the most important game we played. Twice we'd faced them in the State Cup Final. We played them half a dozen times a year, in league, various tournaments and this day, in the League Cup. I took the field at the start of the second half, us holding a comfortable 2-0 lead.
They grabbed one back, nothing I could do. Then, in the last 15 minutes, I surrendured two more, leading to a demoralizing lost. I should have had both, getting a hand to each, but unable to keep the ball out. The last one was, no denying it, a soft goal. I had it the whole way, but at the last minute, the force of the shot overpowered me, bending my outstretch hand backwards and trickling into the net.
Inconsolable, I slumped against the post at the final whistle.
Poker is a curious thing. It's competition. It's competition over money. Yet, the most fun I have playing is against people I know. Even in the midst of the battle, there's a comraderie. These games are also the most intense, demand my concentration. With the glut of blogger/reader tourneys and satelittes, a full weekend slate lately, I've seen a lot of the same, familiar faces across the felt, people I talk to regularly, with whom I share my experience and limited expertise. And then these people show up trying to take my money.
I held my head in my hands against the post, not moving. Handshakes were exchanged, but nobody moved toward me. I think they knew. I think they knew I needed that time to settle. I don't know how long I had been sitting there when a shadow crossed my downward vision. I peeked up to see Mr. Bazan standing there. Mr. Bazan was the father of one of the Ballistic United players. Thanks to our familiarity with their team, I knew who he was. But I hadn't spoken to him. He smiled and leaned down to put his hand on my shoulder.
"Tough game, son."
"You know, you've beaten us a lot more than we've beaten you."
I raised my head fully and he stepped back to extend his hand. I took it and he pulled me up. Using my name, he said,
"You can't be perfect all the time. But you can give your best. You gave your best."
He guided me halfway toward my sideline, arm around my shoulders, and handed me off to my Mom.
I got the sense Mr. Bazan had been in a similar situation. It wasn't his words that resonated with me. It was his compassion. His simple action. He became a face I sought out at tournaments. He always had time for a greeting. I always had time to thank him for that day. I actually ran into him many years later. He still remembered my name.
I got to thinking about this because of the many conversations I've had with my poker friends out there. In the time that I've found my way into this community, I've been at both ends of the Variance spectrum, as have they. They've been there when I was bitching about the latest injustice and I've tried to do the same for them when they hit a bad run. We've watched over each other's cyber shoulder in various tournaments. We battle over pots and seats and stacks, but at the end of the day, we support each other. We have empathy for the trials we endure and praise for the steps we take.
It's not the words. It's the compassion. The being there. Enjoying each others success and trying to soothe our failures.
We can't always play perfect. Can't always be on the right side of luck. But we can play our best and we can remember that, even when it seems little consolation.
All I'm really trying to say is...