If you’re playing sports or a game any kind, the last thing you want to hear is someone telling you, “nice try” or “good try.” Or anything like that.
Words will not make you feel better if you missed that putt by six inches or missed a jump shot with time running out. Or your jenga blocks fell after you got a little daring. Who, in the history of anything, has ever replied, thanks, I appreciate that, it really was a good try. Thanks for making me feel better.
You might start losing your hearing with old age but one thing that comes in loud and clear is the friggin’ and most unwelcome encouragement of others. I’d much rather have my friends say, “damn, you suck” than good try or you’ll get it next time. I’d rather them just be quiet. Hold the consolation. Don’t tell me somebody looks good in the casket.
Good try is acceptable only if it’s packed with sarcasm and intended to make you feel worse.
I was pedaling along on my e-bike (yea, it’s got a battery just in case that Rockaway wind wants to get tough with me. And I don’t want that wind saying, nice try). I was with Rock Horan who was biking on his lounge chair or whatever you call those things and it is similarly battery powered. Some guy, dressed like a superhero, (much younger than us but too old to be dressed as a knock-off Spiderman) pedaled next to us and said cheerily enough, “You guys are cheating,” an obvious reference to our bike batteries. We said we’re just smart or we have to hurry to get to the blue plate special. Haha stuff back to him.
And then he said something like, I really admire you guys. That’s great. And then he sped away. What the hell?
Admire us? I wanted to put the bike in high battery gear and chase this patronizing dude down and yell, “Hey, nice costume. Good try.” Admiration? For what? Next thing people are gonna be cheering me on for getting food in my mouth.
The exchange reminded me of the story my bother told me. He met a longtime friend at a bar and the guy, who was a walking resume, said something patronizing and my brother called him on it. “That was patronizing, man.” And the guy responded, “I know.”
Which still makes me laugh. And at least the guy didn’t damn him with faint praise.
I figure eternal damnation means getting praised in the worst kind of way, over and over.
Do you like my haircut? Uhm, yeah, it’s interesting.
You’re tall for a short guy.
There’s that old commercial in which Mary Lincoln asks Honest Abe if her butt looks big in that dress. Abe hesitates, which was his downfall, of course, but he did not damn with faint praise. If he had said “Not as big as it looked with that other dress” he might have never made it to the theater.
You work on something, a paint job, an essay, knotting your tie. You ask somebody what they think and they give you a “It’s fine.” It’s fine means one thing and one thing only: it could be better.
This column. Yeah, I know, it’s fine and not bad for an old guy.
By Kevin Boyle