The site prompt today is, “How do you feel about cold weather?” Probably just like everyone else. And I’m titling this post Under Pressure a little because it fits with what I’ll be talking about (which is NOT cold weather) and mostly because the Queen/Bowie song is just the best.

I write about youth sports a lot as a doorway. What happens between end lines is a perfect microcosm of the things we all experience everywhere else and a terrific conversation starter.

Last night the high school baseball team had their first playoff team, against a much better team. We won roughly as many as we lost, they didn’t, they won almost all of their games. In fact, they beat us 3 times by a combined 30-3 margin. They are a Catholic school and behaved, as I have found, as is sadly common to religious schools. They’re extraordinarily arrogant and without a shred of sportsmanship. (I know this is usually what teams say when they’ve lost by a combined 30-3, but that doesn’t make it false.)

Our local school, a massive underdog, won the playoff game, the Catholic school’s season is over and we play on. That’s great, but not the point. The boys on the other side acted like babies, pouted, and cried afterwards, reminding us that they are still boys, no matter how big they are or how hard they throw. That isn’t even the point. Kids are pretty much the same wherever you go, emotional, irrational, and generally obnoxious. If we like them, their immaturity is endearing. If we don’t, it’s an indictment.

The Catholic school coaches are very, very good, their team is always sound. And when they win, they’ve been composed and well-mannered. But last night, they sulked, cursed loudly at the umpires (who, curiously, chose to shrink rather than enforce conduct regulations), continuously broke dugout/bench rules for players and coaches, and thoroughly embarrassed themselves.

It says, in Proverbs 24:10, “If you fail under pressure, your strength is not very great.” They say times of trial reveal character, and I’ve always been secretly afraid of the implications of that. I don’t really want the trial, but I do want to see my character as it truly is. It’s so easy to show class when the roads are smooth and all of the lights are green. What about in traffic on Pennsylvania highways? What about when things start to tighten up?

These coaches failed miserably yesterday. I don’t know them at all, and maybe this was a snapshot of their worst moments. Maybe they’re great dads and husbands. Maybe they’re usually community leaders and wonderful examples for their players. Maybe this is the exception. But on a big stage, in front of a lot of people, they tripped and fell.

That’s the thing about character, a lifetime of behavior can be dismantled in one regrettable moment or playoff ballgame. Of course that’s not fair, but it is reality. The storms are coming, the question is how will we navigate them? I guess we prepare, we train, we read, pray, grow, develop, we lift weights, not for today, but for the times we’ll have to use those muscles. We’ll find out how we’ll navigate them, we’ll discover what’s underneath; the hope is that who we are then is who we have been all along.