Grateful and Crank: A tale of two old men

Last night my work assignment was to cover three high school boys’ basketball games. It’s playoff times and these teams were in the semifinal round of their respective classes. I know very little of area high school basketball, but I know basketball and a bit of research thrown my way from a colleague and I was ready for the onslaught of hoops. But this is not a tale of basketball. It’s a tale of two old men.

When I arrived in the gym, there was a gentleman at the scorer’s table whom I’ve seen at area sporting events before. He always says hello to me by name and had always been super friendly. Once he asked if I was related to a George Moritz. Why yes, I told him. That’s my grandfather. This guy knew my grandfather which was amazing to me. I don’t meet many people who randomly knew my grandfather, since he died in his 80s back in 1972.

On this particular night, he passed out some fun-sized Snicker bars at the scorer’s table (which also served as press row). At the start of the second game he asked if I wanted another. I nodded eagerly.  Sugar rush seemed to be on my mind as a coping mechanism to get through this particular assignment on a day that in general wasn’t going as well as it could have. During a break between one of the games, he came over to tell me how great it was that newspaper was giving so much coverage to high school sports. “I wish you around when I was coaching,” he said. “We won a championship one year and there was this small article in the paper and they quoted the losing coach! It’s so much better now.”

Old Man No. 2 was a different story. I was in the elevator with an older gentleman at intermission of the final game of the night. (I had strategically planned my bathroom break.) Out of nowhere he said to me, “Do you believe The Buffalo News had Tonawanda’s record as 118 wins?” I stared blankly back at him. “Really?” I asked. “They’re a bunch of clowns at The News,”  he replied. What made this exchange so amusing to me? I was wearing my Buffalo News ID tag, which hung around my neck on a lanyard which had “The Buffalo News” stamped all over it.

There was part of me which would have loved to explain to Old Man No. 2 that mistakes happen. That was a typo. That the newspaper industry has contracted beyond belief and there just simply aren’t enough writers and editors to be perfect on a daily basis, particularly on deadline. Mistakes happen under the best of circumstances and rarely are we writing or editing stories under anything resembling conditions conducive to perfection.

But this wasn’t about the quality of local journalism. Not for me. These two encounters with old men served as a gift from the universe, a real-time morality tale of how I want to live my life. On the one hand is the guy who seems pretty happy, shares his Snickers bars and seems full of gratitude. On the hand is a crank who sees mistakes at every turn. Which one do I want to be? Hmm. Tough question, right? But every day I get to make choices, lots of choices, of what kind of person I am — grateful or crank. That’s not to say I don’t have cranky moments. I do. But I want to be the guy who hands out Snickers’ Bar rather than the guy who offends strangers in elevators.

Coaches of all sports preach eliminating bad habit in practice, otherwise they become too difficult to change and diminish skill and effectiveness. I have a feeling the same goes for the habits I practice in life on a daily basis.The choices I make today about my attitude will all have an impact on the future me. What kind of “old man” do I want to be? Sometimes a vision of the future helps us to recommit to good practices in the present.

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