Thank you, Cody Parkey...

Fri, 01/11/2019 - 12:00am -- Keri

Everybody makes mistakes and at times we wish there could be a reset button. The article below is a wonderful example of how a professional athlete can teach us how to move past a mistake. 

Thank you, Cody Parkey, for teaching my kids everything I want them to learn from sports

Thank you, Cody Parkey, for teaching my kids, in one missed field goal attempt, pretty much everything I want them to learn about sports.

My son plays flag football and baseball. My daughter is a gymnast. I spend a whole lot of money and time on these endeavors, and I wouldn’t have it any other way, because their teams provide them so much joy and, more to the point, so many of the moments and lessons I want them to carry through life.

Show up for your people, and show up on time. Be grateful for your spot — someone else would love to have it. Finish what you start, even when it stops being fun. Don’t gloat. Don’t taunt. Cheer on your teammates, even when (especially when) they perform better than you. Learn from your mistakes. Try not to keep making the same ones.

A judge handing out awards at one of my daughter’s debate competitions once told the participants, “Don’t let the wins go to your head or the losses go to your heart.” We try to apply that to their sports too.

Later, I hope, my kids will rely on these lessons in a bunch of endeavors that have nothing to do with athletics: college, friendships, marriage, careers.

I take my son to a lot of games — professional and college. (My daughter mostly declines our invitations.) Before your game Sunday, in fact, my son and I drove up to Evanston to watch Northwestern basketball play Illinois. Always a few Cubs games. A minor league game here and there. College football when we can get tickets. We haven’t been to a Bears game yet, although I did take him to Bears training camp in Bourbonnais.

I’m always on the lookout for lessons there too. See that? Even the best guys in the league strike out sometimes. That kind of thing.

On Sunday, we all watched with bated breath as the Bears’ future hung in the balance. Your 43-yard field-goal attempt goes in, your team’s one step closer to the Super Bowl. You miss, season’s over.

You missed, obviously.

And then you walked off the field and handled questions with grace. (“One of the worst feelings in the world,” you said. “Continue to put things in perspective. Continue to just put my best foot forward and sleep at night knowing I did everything in my power this week to go make that kick, and for whatever reason, it hit the crossbar and the upright, and I still couldn’t do it. I feel terrible.”)

And then you woke up the next morning. Because life really does march on, even after crushing disappointments. That’s a tough thing to teach kids in the abstract. Your real-life example helps.

Some fans have acted like jerks. There are lessons there too.

I showed my kids a couple of the cruel tweets. I asked them how they thought it would feel, after a so-so performance, if people piled on and called them names and threatened them. I told them how I would feel if people did that to me every time I made a mistake at work.

We talked about how pro athletes — despite giant paychecks and enviable endorsements and the (fickle) adoration of millions — are humans first. And no game is grounds for threatening or abusing a fellow human.

(I also showed them the tweets saying your team’s offense didn’t do you any favors by only putting up 15 points the rest of the game — 9 of which you scored. A nice reminder that every moment of a game counts, not just the final moment.)

I realize all of this, if you’re even seeing it, is cold comfort. Who wants to be a teaching moment instead of a Super Bowl champ? Nobody.

But as long as I’m raising sports-obsessed kids, I’m going to be searching deep and wide for the instructions we can glean from the triumphs and defeats and all the layers therein.

You handed us a book of them on Sunday — mostly, I guess, by being human.

Thank you for that.


Join the Heidi Stevens Balancing Act Facebook group, where she hosts live chats every Wednesday at noon. This Wednesday, she’ll be joined by Smart Dating Academy founder Bela Gandhi to talk about dating and relating better in 2019.