Monday, June 27, 2016

Something to strive for

Number 10 jersey, FC Barcelona

“Es normal,” the taxi driver said. I’d just mentioned one of our first stops in Barcelona would be the famous Camp Nou stadium, or el templo de Messi, as my eldest son calls it. That elicited a laugh, and agreement, and then her telling comment. He’s a great player. Y es normal: well-adjusted, normal, ordinary.

It’s international soccer season as I write, with the Copa for the Americas just finished and the Euro still underway. And last night was another frustrating one for the Argentine national team for which Lionel Messi plays, with a loss in penalty kicks to Chile, including a tough penalty kick miss by Messi. But this piece isn’t about soccer per se; it’s about how much being well-adjusted stands out in a world of jostling, attention-grabbing, big-mouthery, and pride. “I tried my hardest; it’s been four finals but I was not able to win,” Messi told journalists after the loss. Notice the extraordinary in that statement: a taking of responsibility, a genuine dejection at defeat, and an action step (leaving international soccer). No blame for the setting (a narrow field), painful misses by teammates, rough play on all sides, and a game strategy that fell flat. Nope; instead, personal responsibility, humanity, and a pretty refreshing dose of vulnerability.

In Barcelona, we visited Camp Nou, and we saw displays about the remarkable history of FC Barcelona and the stunning goals by its current star. And like thousands of kids around the globe, my kid bought a number 10 Messi jersey and wears it with pride. It’s not the ball skills of his idol that I hope he’ll aspire to emulate, though. It’s the well adjustment I hear in public comments and actions by a person who could easily choose otherwise. To be at the top of our personal game and well adjusted: how about we all strive for that?