67: Still Teaching

67: Still Teaching

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers

Still Teaching

Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.

~Mark Twain

Many athletes look for new, competitive outlets after their high school “glory days” have ended. When my friends and I finished high school four decades ago, we turned to softball. Fast-pitch, slow-pitch, it didn’t matter. We just couldn’t hang up our spikes at age eighteen.

The summer of 1981 was very successful for our slow-pitch team. One local tournament was especially appealing to us because of the nominal entry fee and the prize money being offered. The local Elks’ Lodge sponsored an annual tournament that, for a mere $100 entry fee, awarded $300 to the champions and $150 to the runners-up.

We liked our chances of winning the tourney because this particular slow-pitch event attracted many “veteran teams.” We were young and cocky and could certainly out-run, out-hit and out-play guys in their thirties!

As the tourney progressed, it was obvious that there were two dominant teams destined to meet in the championship game — ours and one other. The other team breezed through its bracket, relying on the homerun ball and good pitching. We enjoyed an equally easy path through the twenty-four-team field to the finals.

What was interesting about this opposing team was that it was comprised of teachers — most of them our former high-school teachers. Their pitcher was our senior class advisor; the jazz-band director played first base; even the school custodian roamed the outfield.

So when we squared off in the title game, it was more than just recreational softball. There were several sub-plots and plenty of bench jockeying. One of my teammates hoped he could pay back one of our opponents for a detention he had received many years before as a high-school sophomore. One of the educators heckled us from the outfield: “Hey, don’t you guys still owe me some homework?”

In a high-scoring game, we prevailed 16–14 and headed to the Elks’ banquet hall where they were hosting the tournament awards presentation. We were celebrating our victory, already running up a hefty bar tab — knowing that our prize money for winning the tournament would probably cover our drinks well past midnight.

The tournament director took the microphone and began the awards presentation. He thanked all the participants and reminded the two hundred people present that the tournament had raised a significant sum of money for the Elks’ cerebral palsy charity. He then called the second-place team to the front of the hall to present them the runner-up trophy and a check for $150. The team of teachers accepted the trophy, graciously thanking the tournament committee. Before the team captain, our former senior English teacher, put down the microphone, he said, “And by the way, we’d like to donate our second-place prize money back to the Elks to help fight cerebral palsy.”

In the midst of our own revelry in the back of the hall, we just barely heard those words: “donate” and “prize money.” Uh-oh. Instantly, our team had the proverbial devil hovering over one shoulder and angel over the other. Of course, we had only a minute to decide. The devil was advocating for us to “Keep the money. Party on. You won it fair and square.” While the angel encouraged us to “Do the right thing; people are watching; you have to donate the money back, too!”

Interrupting this moral dilemma was the tournament director, back on the microphone. “And will our champions now come forward.”

We strutted through the crowd, high-fiving each other all the way to the podium. We enthusiastically accepted the trophy, and somewhat reluctantly donated our $300 prize money back to the Elks’ cerebral palsy campaign.

We learned a valuable lesson from our former teachers that night, and it wasn’t in the Chemistry, History, or Geometry classroom. It was a lesson about doing what was right — a lesson that I remember all these years later.

~Mike McCrobie

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