Posted by: Mark Nielsen | September 6, 2007

Cubs & Kids, Sports & Sportsmanship

When asked whether pitcher Carlos Zambrano was right to criticize fans who booed his poor performance on Labor Day, eight year old Payton Bauer (having been at the game) said the following:

“No. He overreacts at times, and its like he puts the world on his shoulders.”

Out of the mouths of babes, as they say. Even an eight year old– who probably has the impulse control of a spider monkey– can see that Carlos runs at too high a temperature.

I’m working with my P.E. students on the same issues: organized but relaxed fun, attention to essentials, team thinking, self-control, and the basic inner security of knowing you did your best (or the ability to acknowledge when you didn’t, like Big Z did a day later).

Don’t get me wrong. I love Zambrano. Like White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, he’s a colorful, passionate Venezuelan.

But passion combined with competitiveness does strange things to people sometimes. Competitiveness is not something I’m usually focused on, but I can certainly respect those who have it. Our medical schools, for example, are built for students who push themselves to excel, who take their work and themselves seriously.

Yet even a heart surgeon is likely to do a worse job if she puts Zambrano-like pressure on herself, all the time. Whether one’s opponent is an artery clogged by twenty years of unhealthy eating, or a batter with twenty years experience hitting a fastball, there are days when we just don’t perform perfectly… or we get beat, even when we do.

Life is a long, wild ride, Carlos. Learn to enjoy it a little more. And forgive yourself, your teammates, and the world when it’s your turn to lose.

We boo ’cause we love you. Seriously.



  1. […] be resurrected as a grownup, get his head together, and have the season he was supposed to have last year (click for my Sept. ‘07 blog on Z’s sensitive psyche). Not that he won’t […]

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