And That’s Why They Play the Game

red-soxWe are traveling during the final games of the regular baseball season, and it’s causing my husband a great deal of hardship. His beloved Red Sox have been on fire, winning eleven games in a row, and he has had to content himself with replays seen on my computer and games viewed on a small screen in the middle of the night. Worse yet, no one here in Europe cares.

So it has fallen to me, as a good travel companion, to listen each morning to the endless remaining permutations of possibilities for Red Sox success. Over one breakfast, Boston had at least secured a wildcard slot. By another, they had to lose every single remaining game to not win their division. Various future scenarios offer home field advantages, and each loss by other successful teams in the division changes the formula. The configuration even left him temporarily rooting for the hated Yankees this weekend as they played a team close on Boston’s heels.

I don’t really care about baseball, but I do care about him, so I try to pay attention while he speaks. Still, my mind wanders.

riverWe’ve been on the road nearly two weeks now and in a macro sense the vacation has gone as planned.  You know, we’ve shown up where we were supposed to be, when we were supposed to be there. No glitches. But that’s sort of like the Red Sox showing up to play their games, isn’t it? Yes, being there is essential, but it is the other stuff that makes it interesting.

Who could have predicted that the Douro Valley would be such a frustrating place to drive that we would be content to make several dinners out of our breakfast leftovers rather than brave the roads? Who could have guessed that a full moon rising over the Portuguese countryside would inspire us so much with its beauty?

One might have guessed that the GPS would get us into trouble, but who would have thought we’d manage to high center our rental car so thoroughly on a tiny mountain road that it would have to picked up by hand and moved? I certainly didn’t see that one coming.

p-seaNor did I imagine the twenty or so whales we got to watch playing in the late afternoon sunlight of a boat tour, or the wonderful custard-filled tarts that are everywhere. I didn’t know that hot coffee in a big cup would be quite that impossible to find or that a single difficult-to-use espresso machine could frustrate so many half-awake people at once. Why is the air circulation here so bad? Why is the bread here so good?

The original idea for my novel d4, outlined many years ago, was that everyone at some point in the future develops prescience, and they all know what tomorrow will bring, as well as the next year and the next decade. Every human understands how they will die, and when. My overall thesis was that this society would be sad and bored.

My feelings about predestination and freewill have changed a lot in the decades since I thought this one up, and I like to think that my story telling abilities have improved also. I recognize now that such a tale would be hard to tell well and I like the array of my partially prescient characters in d4 much better. But the original story idea has me thinking.

roadIn an hour or so, Boston is going to play New York, and they might clinch the title in their division. Computer models have them likely to win by three points, and odds makers are favoring Boston heavily. You don’t have to be a sports fan to recognize that in spite of this, the Red Sox might well lose tonight. Because of that, my husband can’t wait to watch the game.

And a year from now, the things I will remember most about this trip will be all the wonderful and the difficult things that surprised me. They will be what made the trip interesting. Tonight, I’m thinking about how we don’t show up just to be somewhere. We show up to find out what happens once we arrive.

(For more vacation-inspired epiphanies see Our Brand is Crisis on my z2 blog, Happy International Day of Peace, Alberto and Maria on my x0 blog, and The Moon Rises on my c3 blog,)

 

 

 

Advertisements

Of baseball, tennis and predatory lending

I’m married to a Red Sox fan, and Friday night he was upset when his Sox won. This doesn’t happen often, so he had my attention. Apparently a fan interfered with a hit that should have allowed LA to tie the game, but a bad call on the play stood and gave Boston the victory.

“The manager knew, the team knew it, the fans knew it,” he said. “The manager should have just given LA the run. But of course he would have been fired for doing that.”

tennisThe source of much of his ire comes from the fact that he plays tennis, a “gentleman’s” game even for ladies. At all but the highest levels of play, competitors referee themselves and are expected to make calls fairly, not in their own best interest. It’s not a flawless system, but most tennis players buy into it and try to get it right.

He got me thinking. There are two ways to approach any competition. One is to take every advantage that you can. Soccer players writhing in imagined pain hoping to inflict a foul on the other team are an extreme example of this. In this world, the savvy player tries to play everyone, and get away with everything possible. The only goal is to win.

The other approach is cooperative only in the sense that one of the goals is to get the calls right. Players believe that points should be scored and games won with good rules that are fairly applied.

What do you think happens most often in a close competition between a team or person taking the first approach and one taking the second? Yes, you’re right. I believe we call it “nice guys finish last.”

This got me thinking — what is the U.S. philosophy for doing business? Well, I think there are plenty of ethical people would prefer to not only follow the letter of the law, but who would also choose to follow the spirit of the law, thereby behaving like the ladies and gentlemen on a tennis court, if you will.

loansBut, business is lot more complicated than any sport, and the rules and the playing field are always changing. Therefore, the ability to weasel around the rules is so much greater. If you put an adept weaseler in competition with a businessperson who is trying to do it right, who do think is going to drive whom out of business? More often than not? Yeah, I think so too.

A few weeks ago I read about proposed legislation to regulate what is known as predatory lending traps. These payday and auto title loans are part of a business model built on lending money to people who probably can’t afford to pay you back, thereby giving the lender the opportunity to roll over the principal into a new loan at much higher interest rates. If you’d like to know more about this practice, you can read a Southern Poverty Law Center article on how these practices wreck people’s lives. The proposed new rules would apply to products that are aimed at financially vulnerable consumers with the intent of setting them up to fail with loan payments. You can read about the new rules at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

umpireLike most people, I don’t like rules. I used to think that the less we had of them the better. However, being married to a sports fanatic has taught me a few things and one of them is that if you don’t have fair and reasonable rules to cover a situation, then the team or person with the least integrity will take advantage. When done right, rules and referees are there to make the game fair, and to see that the best player, not the most devious player, wins. Rules in the business world are there for the same purpose.

life lessons18Of course, there are those that say what goes around comes around, and that those who profit unfairly will get what they deserve eventually. I think that is probably true, but I’m not willing to see people suffer while waiting for cosmic justice.

Yes, yes, I know that sometimes it does come rather quickly. Last night Boston played LA again, for the second game in the series. They lost by a comical 21 to 2. My husband is happy because as far as he is concerned, the two teams are now even. He has high hopes that Boston will win today.