The Excuses We Make

You know, we just don’t recognize the most significant moments of lives while they are happening. Back then I thought, Well there’ll be other days. I didn’t realize that was the only day.” Archibald (Moonlight) Graham
Field of Dreams

“Dad, I don’t understand why you have to play ball so often. Can’t you skip a night?”

The speaker was my son. It was a legitimate question and one that deserved an answer, so I gave it to him.

“I try not to miss because I can’t play like this forever. There is going to come a time where my body won’t let me play this hard. I have already felt the changes. I can’t play like I did when I was 25 and am not willing to go quietly into the night.”

It is not the first discussion we have had about this nor will it be the last. When you are 11.5 you only have a cursory understanding of what it means for your body not to respond as you want or think it should. The mysterious aches and pains that come after forty some odd years of life haven’t hit you. When you are 11.5 you wake up, stretch and are ready to go.

That doesn’t always happen in your forties.

I explained that I am in decent shape but not great. I told him that I have been playing hard for as long as I can remember and that eventually the pounding catches up with you. Years of impact can’t be ignored, but we can have some say in the matter.

“So why don’t you just eat healthier food, sleep more and take better care of yourself?

I didn’t have a good answer for that question.


I shrugged my shoulders and told him that I have developed bad habits that I want him to avoid. I am responsible for most of the challenges that I face. You can say that some of my responses to said challenges are because I responded like my friend Moonlight Graham.

There are other days. There will be other days. There have always been other days and there always will be until there aren’t.

It is a lesson that I have learned the hard way. I have stood graveside and buried friends and relatives. I have said goodbye to relationships and jobs that I thought would always be there and then they weren’t.

These words sting a bit because they make me sound foolish and naive, but I can’t hide from them. We only have so much control about the people, places and things in our lives.

Sometimes things happen that we cannot stop nor influence in any meaningful manner.

I don’t like the feeling that comes with not having done enough, or at least the sense that I didn’t. One could argue that sometimes you do all that you can and things still fall apart.

That is true. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether you give your best or your worst because neither will change the outcome. The only thing they can do is help you sleep at night. That is something whose importance shouldn’t be discounted or forgotten.


Just before we finished our conversation I explained to my son that I have a responsibility to my family to take care of myself. I play ball because it helps me physically and emotionally.

I do my best to try to balance the time needed to take care of me versus that of taking care of my family. No one wants to gain one and lose the other.

But I didn’t tell him that the very few regrets I carry with me are major and that I see the root cause as having believed there would be other days when there was only that day.

You can see the clip with the scene I mentioned in the video below:

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  1. Jens July 13, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Hi Jack,
    I have actually never watched field of dreams. But, as soon as summer is over and I’m back living in a house, I’ll watch it. I’ve added it to my list of movies to watch.
    I certainly know about excuses. I have been wanting to run to get some exercise, and I love running, but I keep creating new excuses every single day in order to not run. I have no idea why, but that’s what I’m doing 🙂

    • TheJackB July 14, 2012 at 8:09 am

      Hi Jens,
      Field of Dreams is simply wonderful. Part of that is because there is connection to baseball that extends back generations for us. If you ask guys our age and older you can almost guarantee that we all played as kids and maybe long beyond.
      When you hear names like Shoeless Joe Jackson you nod your head because you know the story. There is a sort of magic there.
      Baseball is also magical because you don’t necessarily have to be huge to play pro ball. It is easier to imagine that you are a pro player.
      It is just magic.
      As for running, I hate it. I get bored. It is part of why I play basketball. The stop/start part of it doesn’t bore me.

      • wonderoftech July 14, 2012 at 11:25 am

        @TheJackB @Jens I agree, running can be boring which is why I prefer racquetball. But running is much more interesting and tolerable if I’m listening to an audiobook. 🙂

  2. JoeDeGiorgio July 10, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    Field of Dreams is one of my all time faves, I need to watch it again. I cry every time. Like Bill said, arguably the best father-son movie ever. And I too still like to try to go a hundred miles an hour physically, especially with basketball, but my knee won’t let me. But I’m always working to get in better shape. I need to give myself a best shot to live long for my kids, as well. My favorite workout is still beating the heavy bag. Sweaty and fun!

    • TheJackB July 11, 2012 at 11:24 pm

       @JoeDeGiorgio Hi Joe,
      My apologies to you as well for the late response. Call it a senior moment, because I really thought I had replied.
      Anyhoo. I love a good workout on the heavy bag. It feels great and it is good exercise. I used to be more diligent about pounding that sucker again.
      Field of Dreams is just one of those flicks that does it. It is a movie that so many of us can bond over, part of why I love it.

  3. YoungmanBrown July 10, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I am perpetually lazy, and most certainly put things off until the last minute.  It is a tough habit to break, but I am working on it.  Fortunately for me, I have only myself to take care of at this point, and not a wife and kids.  But perhaps that is the reason that I don’t have a girlfriend at this point… because I am too blasé to take life by the horns.

    • TheJackB July 11, 2012 at 11:22 pm

       @YoungmanBrown My apologies for the delayed response. I really thought I had responded but I did not.
      Habits get harder as we get older and the addition of others in our lives makes some of them harder to change, but it also makes some easier. All depends on what you want.

  4. jphillipson July 9, 2012 at 4:16 pm

    Your son asked a pertinent qustion but you didn’t understand it. Sometimes our kids ask the right questions and in our ignorance we misconstrue the simplicity of the question believing the inquisitor incapable of anything deep or meaningful.
    In essence the question provides the answer. When you focus too much time and energy into one aspect of your well-being it is usually to the detriment of the whole.

    • TheJackB July 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

      Welcome to the blog. I appreciate someone who isn’t afraid to share their opinion even at the risk of looking rather foolish.
      What I don’t understand is why you would want to play the fool for such a minor point. I understood exactly what my son meant and why he asked it. This isn’t the first conversation we have had nor will it be the last.
      Since you haven’t ever been privy to any of them and have never visited my blog before it would seem prudent to step more carefully around this topic.
      My children are far more intelligent than I am and capable of engaging in very deep and meaningful conversations. I encourage and work hard to keep that part of them going, but sometimes a simple question is exactly as it appears to be.
      I teach my children to be careful about making assumptions based upon limited information because it is riddled with potential issues.

  5. wilyguy July 9, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    This is a great post, Jack. So many people live their lives as if they have too much left. I had a friend of my sister’s who would always chide me for eating steak. She say “wouldn’t you trade that steak to live another month?” I would always without blinking say “No! If I had to live a life where I couldn’t have a great steak, I’m not sure that life would be worth living.”

    Same goes for money, sure you want to have some when you retire, but if you never take that vacation, will you enjoy it after you retire? If you make it to retirement?

    Like you I’m mid 40s and still try to perform like I was 20. My daughter is 8 and we enjoy a lot of things together. She doesn’t always get her way and won’t understand the choices until she is old enough to change them.

    Love the Field of Dreams reference, I always become a big bawling baby when he asks his dad to have a catch.


    • TheJackB July 9, 2012 at 10:24 pm

      That scene really hits me in all the right places too. I want to live for another 1000 years but I only want to do it if I am healthy enough to enjoy and appreciate it..
      The challenge of trying to balance living now versus being “responsible” about the future is tough, but important. I understand exactly what you mean about eating that steak now versus eating it in the future,

  6. workingdan July 9, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    I’m in my mid 30’s and already find myself physically, or perhaps mentally able to do the things I used to. I have no desire to run, which is unfortunate because I have kids that are dying to play with me. Man I’m lazy and it kills me…and the kids too.
    This post makes me want to get up off my lazy ass, get in shape and go play foosball…err I mean football!

  7. vanitacyril July 8, 2012 at 10:16 am

    finding a balance between responsibilities to myself and my family, knowing that another opportunity may not come, would be so much easier if there were more hours in the day, ya know? all we can do, is do the best we can with what we have in that 24 hours. from what i’ve been reading here, you’re doing a pretty darn good job Jack. and i think it’s great that even with the “bad habits”, you have something to balance it out.

    • TheJackB July 8, 2012 at 8:58 pm

      Yep, we all have the same 24 hours, at least until I invent the 36 hour day. 😉 I kid, but I know what you mean. Our time is limited but there is still a lot  that we can do with it if we make the effort. 
      Not always easy, but if we do our best…

  8. LizJostes July 8, 2012 at 7:36 am

    This post makes me sad, but I fully appreciate your honesty and the sentiment. This makes me think, Jack. 🙂

    • TheJackB July 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm

       @LizJostes Hi Liz,
      Why would it make you sad?

      • LizJostes July 9, 2012 at 4:07 am

         @TheJackB Because you are talking about getting old and not being able to do the same things you could when you were younger.

        • TheJackB July 9, 2012 at 9:06 am

          Got it. I am not really sad about aging. There are some things that irk me a bit, but in many ways life in my forties is better than before.
          I need to add that the last four years have easily been among the hardest and most challenging of my life, but there is a difference now because of purpose.
          I know what I want to do and am following that path. Makes it all easier.

  9. Hajra July 8, 2012 at 6:06 am

    My dad used to play badminton with me and we used to go cycling together. Severe knee troubles now stop him from doing that;so we settle for barbecue! Times do change and things aren’t always as practical as you wish they could be. But then you sometimes find other ways to come out of it. My dad can’t manage to play a game ALWAYS; but then he manages to beat the crap out of me in a game of badminton now and then! 
    So, I am sure your kids will get it too! 🙂

    • TheJackB July 8, 2012 at 8:42 pm

       @Hajra  Fathers know all sorts of secrets and tricks that we use to continue to beat our children in the games we play with/against them. 😉

  10. Mark_Harai July 8, 2012 at 6:00 am

    Yes, lots of things change in your forties Jack… It’s amazing!
    Over the last year, I’ve gone blind… Can’t see anything in front of me without reading glasses – geesh!
    I can feel my past football days too, pretty much all over my body, especially the knee’s… But I still try to drive hard – although now it’s now it’s just hiking, stretching, calisthenics – things of this nature.
    Slinging weights and trying to lift the gym with my legs and back days are over!
    I might be tempted to strap on a football helmet and plant my head in somebody’s chest – oh the love of the hit!! But, that wouldn’t be the smartest thing I reckon. The last time I played football with the kids, we played tag and I was so sore I limped around for a week – lol!

    • TheJackB July 8, 2012 at 8:36 pm

       @Mark_Harai What position did you play? The few pix I have seen make it pretty clear that you aren’t a little guy.
      I know that feeling you describe as I have shared in the pleasure of being sore. Haven’t been willing to give up the punishment that comes after the fun yet, but one day…

      • Mark_Harai July 9, 2012 at 5:30 am

         @TheJackB Well, I’m sure ‘linebacker’ crossed your mind based on the statement; and you’re hit the nail on the head – lol!
        I was small at the position. My playing weight in college was about 218 at 5’9″. I’m sure some folks thought I was closer to 250 based on the punishment I handed out.
        I didn’t last long. I threw everybody part I have into hits, usually leading with my head. A very bad habit… Almost broke my dang neck at 19 years of age, which took me out of the game for good : (
        I think I knocked some screws loose because I’ve been starting businesses ever since!

        • TheJackB July 9, 2012 at 9:13 am

          I wanted to play high school ball but my parents wouldn’t sign the release forms. So I ended up becoming a swimmer, but I still played a lot of tackle football with the guys, just no pads.
          Played a bit of intramural ball in college too. Every now and then we would find ourselves playing tackle with guys who had done the real deal.
          I was 5’10 and about 190 or so, but I could pound out some decent weight on the bench and could curl close to 150 pounds. It was a point of pride to be able to take the hits some of those guys handed out and to give them back.
          All these years later I am able to say that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was, but muscle combined with young, dumb and stupid go a long way.

        • Mark_Harai July 9, 2012 at 10:25 am

           @TheJackB That last statement just killed me!
          150 lbs. is some pretty serious weight to curl!
          I think back in the day I could probably do a couple of reps with that 😮
          My bench press max was right around 450. That sounds like a lot, but some of my teammates, lighter than me, did sets with that! Some guys are serious strong!
          Even though they out lifted me, very few hit as hard. I knocked the snot out those boys… 
          Thanks for taking me back to the good ole days Jack – it’s been a while : )

        • TheJackB July 9, 2012 at 1:51 pm

           @Mark_Harai It wasn’t something I could do more than a few times. Got more mileage out of doing 3 sets of 10 with a 100. Got even more with the 700 pushups I used to be able to do.
          But I never got close to 400, let alone 450. Didn’t try to get there, so who knows.
          It is funny how these conversations can take you back a few decades. I still play ball on Thanksgiving day, but only one half.
          Most of the time I set up at Noseguard, but every now and then I play O-line or fullback.

        • Mark_Harai July 9, 2012 at 7:30 pm

           @TheJackB Yikes!  Had a few fullbacks knock my nose in the ground!

        • TheJackB July 9, 2012 at 10:31 pm

           @Mark_Harai I think we have all gotten lit up a few times.

  11. CrossBetsy July 8, 2012 at 1:52 am

    I believe there is a war within in each of us (and is sometimes fought with circumstances outside of us) that challenges us to decide every moment who and what we want to be. Just because I know I’m capable of achieving whatever I set my mind to, it doesn’t mean I can tolerate the sacrifices required. And, although I feel the pain of looking a dream in the face and saying “I could have”, I feel more and more content the older I get, that life has a way of weeding out the unimportant and making simple thinks rich enough to fill me up.
    For me, it’s becoming not so much “I can’t”, but “I won’t”. 
    My children log away how I spend my time. They know what’s important to me. And I encourage them to do what they love. We don’t talk much. They just know that I’ll sacrifice for them, for the important things, like basketball and fishing…things they love.
    Getting too long! The whole subject is very moving!
    Thanks, Jack!

    • TheJackB July 8, 2012 at 8:35 pm

       @CrossBetsy Those sacrifices are a determining factor in much of what we do. Our willingness or unwillingness to take them on has a significant impact.
      I like the distinction between can’t and won’t because it says you are making a choice and to me that is very important. The knowledge that you are is important as it means that you understand that you have taken responsibility.
      I don’t think many people do that.

  12. Julie July 7, 2012 at 5:34 pm

    There is enough magic out there in the moonlight.  

  13. wonderoftech July 7, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Jack, I understand. I play racquetball with guys who are in their sixties and seventies and are going strong. There is one guy who is in his 80’s who shows up every so often. Where I played in New Jersey the best players were in their 70’s.
    But those are the exceptions. There are plenty of players who have quit because of injuries.
    Then again, the kids are only around for so long. My oldest goes off to school in September and everything will change.
    I guess the key is balance.

    • TheJackB July 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm

      I bet those guys you mentioned have gotten really good at placing the ball so that they don’t have to run as much.
      My kids are a bit younger than yours, but I know the clock is ticking so I am trying to find that magical thing we call balance. Does it really exist? 😉

  14. bdorman264 July 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Field of Dreams. Best father son movie…ever. 
    My basketball days are done; 3 knee surgeries told me I need to stay close to the ground. It was definitely good exercise, I miss it.
    Yes, we never know what tomorrow will bring or when something will just be ‘gone.’ 

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