Thursday, November 02, 2006

Video Basketball, Heroes, Fathers, and Sons

Tonight, Max (my seven-year old.... excuse me, seven-and-a-half year old) at the suggestion of his mother, and I went one-on-one "NBA 2K5" style, via the X-Box. This was the first time we'd played since he beat me about three weeks ago. Aimee knew this, and I suspect that she figured this would be good payback because I hadn't jumped to it fast enough when she had asked for help earlier in the evening. Watching me be humiliated by my boy was her idea of a good way to end the day.

Well, let me tell you something... I not only whooped him on the video basketball floor like a rented mule, I did it twice. How, you ask?

Practice. Lots of practice.

You see, it's like this... when I was Max's age the cutting edge of home video game technology was Pong. We thought it was cool that you could control a line on the television for the purpose of hitting a blob back at the other line. It was the Halo of its day. An epiphany of epic proportions.

And when Atari came out with the 2600, well, I can't tell you what a leap that was. A joystick, and a button! Ring the bells! We could play Pac Man at home, as much as we wanted, no quarters necessary (except that the graphics were kind of unintelligble and the joystick only worked about 60% of the time). Thus, if you grew up when I grew up, you are famillar with a joystick and a button. You've got that down.

But, apparently, one joystick and one button are no longer sufficient in this post-modern age.

Have you seen the latest video game controls? The X-Box game pads involve seven buttons on the face, two mini-joysticks, another 360 degree button, and two triggers on the underside of the control. I have no idea what's on the controls of the X-Box 360... you could probably fly a plane with it. I'm not worried about the future of the country because for those kids that have figured out how to use these things, all forms of engineering will seem tame by comparison. It's thoroughly ridiculous... especially if you are dinosaur who can remember cutting edge being two lines and a blob.

Max, at seven-and-a-half, has mastered the modern game control. We severely limit his video game time, and it makes no difference. His little fingers just know what to do which in a way I admire, and in a way kind of ticks me off. That's how he beat me in video basketball. His little fingers went to all the places they should have, while my fingers kept putting up three-quarter court shots, calling unwanted time outs, and wanting to make obscene gestures in frustration (which they did not, I might add).

So, late at night, after everyone was asleep, starting the first night I lost, every night for a couple of weeks I played the X-Box until I got blisters, and over time my fingers started figuring out where they needed to be. I didn't get more than four hours of sleep any single night, and I'm pretty sure it set back my academic progress, but by golly, I finally got to the place where I could beat the computer on the most difficult level.

And all for the purpose of re-asserting my supremacy over my offspring, which I did in convincing fashion this evening.

You might think this is kind of sick, but there's a real mystique about not being able to beat your father in something, and finding out over time that there's a point where he can't dial it up another notch. That day you stick it to the man is a powerful thing. I still remember the first time I ever beat Dad at one-on-one basketball (the real thing... not video). The closer I got to beating him, the more he cheated and the more determined he became to not lose. He was genuniely upset when I finally "won by six shooting only left-handed" or whatever crazy rule he'd made up to give himself one last hope of defeating me just one more time.

Of course, another year later and I was toying with him at will... which is the nature of all things. But for now, I'm just not ready to be Max's video whipping boy. I've still got a physical edge on the real basketball court cause I'm two feet taller than he is, but I don't want to give up the video basketball frontier just yet. I don't want him to find out how human I am. I want to be immortal and all-knowing in his eyes just a little bit longer. Heaven knows he'll find out human I really am, and that too soon. No sense rushing things. Let's just enjoy them the way they are... me as his hero.

He'll find out the world is short on heroes only too soon.

For as long as I can, I want him to dream of beating me just like I dreamed about beating my father. And someday, it will be no contest.... and I'll step aside gracefully and wait for the grandkids, who, I might add, will crush me on a regular basis.

Until then, Daddy will reign supreme....

although Max said something about finding a "cheat code" for the game. What's a cheat code? Should I be worried?

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