As a basketball coach’s wife, there are certain away games that I’ve learned to watch on television. Sure, they’re within driving distance, but I learned long ago to listen when my husband says “You might not like this one.”
It’s not that our team is going to lose. Winning or losing has nothing to do with it. What keeps me at home are the fans.
Some schools are known for harassing the opposing team’s coach. That’s all well and fine when the coach isn’t your husband—or your father.
Several years ago, I made the mistake of brushing off Saul’s warning and took two of our children to a road game. Jordan was 5, and Charlie was 3. Both were just old enough to know that people were yelling rude and intimidating things at their daddy, even if they didn’t really understand what those things meant.
They’re silly jabs really, wisecracks about his hair or his mom or sometimes even his wife.
Saul lets those remarks roll off his shoulders. It’s all part of the game, part of the fan experience, and he uses their crazy comments as fuel to fire up his team.
My kids didn’t quite see it that way and they still don’t. Honestly, I have a hard time with it, too. Some of the things they say can be downright mean. I zip my lips and plaster a smile on my face. Or I stay home.
Sometimes I imagine what would happen if I walked over to the screaming maniac with the painted face and said, “Hey, wanna take a look at some photos of the coach when he was nursing me back to health after I had breast cancer?” I can almost see the reaction.
I think that imaginary conversation is why I fell so in love with the Ryder Cup this year. I was captivated by one particular interaction in which a guy from Mayville, N.D., got caught heckling Team Europe.
You can read the whole story in the Sept. 29 issue of The Forum, but basically, here’s what happened: Team Europe repeatedly missed a 12-foot putt on the eighth hole of the practice round. David Johnson of Mayville was part of the crowd trash talking the players. Johnson is heard yelling out, “I could make the putt,” at which point the four Team Europe players invite him out on the green, slap a hundred dollar bill on the ground and tell him to prove it.
Johnson sinks it.
Here’s where the kindness comes in.
All of a sudden, everybody was on the same team. Those four players that Johnson was berating moments before began hugging him and giving him high-fives and congratulating him like longtime friends. I’m sure they were getting annoyed at the crowd and themselves for struggling with that particular hole, but once the heckler made it, they were genuinely pleased for him.
At any point during the practice round, the members of Team Europe could have pushed back against the crowd with their own insults or dirty looks. But they didn’t. They simply gave a guy a chance to prove how ridiculous his comment was.
When it turns out Johnson could actually do what he said he could do, instead of turning away with snarky comebacks about it being a lucky shot, they embraced the moment and allowed their new friend to soak in the limelight.
Kindness gives us a choice. Sometimes our kindest move is to let people’s rude comments roll off our backs. But every once in awhile, kindness gives us the chance to turn frustration into a fairy tale ending.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.
Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.