Fighting The Good Fight For All Younger Siblings: It’s OK That You Didn’t Turn Out To Be The Best At Anything

Over the past 100 hours, I’ve probably skimmed through something like 7,000 tweets in my Twitter feed. Some were boring, some were witty, many were useless, but none of them were as ridiculous as this one:

Screen shot 2013-02-05 at 8.36.05 AM

And after my jackass oldest brother tweeted this out on Friday afternoon, at least one other friend of ours immediately piled on, saying he completely agreed with that statement.

I’m not posting this to get sympathy. After all, I’ve been the little brother for 30 years, I can take it. And besides, I’ve slowly been carrying out my revenge on my brothers (see: the world’s greatest best man speech/roast of Neil, given on July 11, 2009). I’m posting this because I wanted to argue against the preposterous notion that my other older brother, Aaron, would crush me so easily in the Super Bowl. I also wanted to take this opportunity to expand the conversation about brothers competing in general and who should grow up to be the better athlete or competitor.

First, back to Neil’s tweet. I’m willing to admit that in a vacuum Aaron probably would have the upper hand if we were facing each other as opposing head coaches in a Super Bowl. Neither of us has ever played or coached football at any competitive level, but the reason I’d give him the edge is simply because he’s better at everything than the average person. I have no doubt that if you locked each of us in a room for two weeks with our 53-man team and plenty of video to watch of the opposing team, Aaron would come up with a better game plan than I would.

But this is where Neil’s argument breaks down. The Super Bowl isn’t played in a vacuum. The coaches and players aren’t locked in a room for two weeks. They’re out in the real world. Specifically they’re trying to prepare for a Super Bowl in a city like New Orleans, Miami or Dallas. For anyone who knows us, take a second and think about which brother is more likely to forget his priorities and get sucked into the party scene for those two weeks? If it took you longer than two seconds to come up with “Aaron” as your answer, you obviously don’t know us very well. Rather than spending 18 hours a day in the weeks leading up to the game practicing and watching film (this is the amount of hours I’m guessing most coaches spend getting ready each day), Aaron would spend five hours walking around the city and barhopping, seven hours participating in an underground poker game, two hours handing out beads to women (assuming we’re in New Orleans), three hours at the beach or laying out by his hotel’s pool, and then finally he’d have just about one hour each day to squeeze in some game-planning. And how about his assistant coaches and his players? What would become of them if they had this loose cannon as a leader? Total anarchy is my guess.

And on the other side there’s me. Obviously I’m not saying I wouldn’t be tempted to go the Aaron route and just party my balls off for 10 days. But the thought of sweet revenge for 30 years of little brother treatment would keep me motivated and focused. I’d be reminding myself that 30 years of oppression could be erased in a single day. I’d probably get too obsessed and forget to sleep, eat or shower for the two weeks leading up to the game.

Aaron may be naturally better than me at a lot of things, but he’s also the one most likely to take his skills for granted and show up unprepared. I’d particularly love his post game press conference where he’d explain to the media, “Yeah, I just figured we’d wing it out there today, considering we were playing my little brother who’s never beaten me at anything. I did what I thought was best for our football team, and Ross’s team just got lucky today.”

So that settles it, right? Again, anyone who knows us well should be nodding in agreement because Aaron in New Orleans for two weeks could only turn out one way.

Oh and one other thing. Even if Aaron did somehow build a 30-point lead on me in the game, I’m pretty sure he’d start popping bottles of champagne or mixing himself gin & tonics on the sidelines without waiting for the game to end. He’d stop coaching and my team would start to put up some garbage-time points. So even if he was to sneak out a win, it wouldn’t be 63-0 like Neil suggested.

Obviously I was stewing over Neil’s tweet all weekend, and I started thinking about another douchey comment he’s made about me several times in the past. One of his favorite things to say when we’re in a conversation about the three of us growing up and playing sports against each other is that “Ross should have been a professional athlete, or at least a D-I college athlete because he grew up having to compete against older and bigger kids.”

Basically his point is that spending my entire childhood facing much better competition should have groomed me to be one of the best athletes in my own age group. It’s like if you’re in second grade but decide to only read books that are appropriate for sixth grade and up. It might be frustrating at first to not immediately understand all the words, but once you’ve looked them up in the dictionary and memorized them, you’d have a huge vocabulary advantage over the kids your own age.

Once again, in a vacuum this seems to make sense. Younger brother competes against his older brothers all his life, he’s going to get even better at sports than he would if he was only playing against kids his own age.

But what about when you have a couple of bastard brothers who go above and beyond to stack the odds against you? For example, what if the older brothers aren’t only constantly beating the youngest brother, but they’re also trying to ensure that he loses competitions to some of the neighborhood kids his own age?

To be more specific, my brothers used to make me play one-on-one basketball games against a neighbor who was a year younger than me. One of my brothers would be the referee and he would openly root for the neighbor to win while making sure all the calls went against me. And it wasn’t just when I played this one neighbor in a sport. It was any time I was up against anybody in anything. The last thing my brothers wanted to see was me winning (writing all this down makes me realize I should have shut them out of my life years ago).

So here’s my argument against Neil’s theory: When your childhood is filled with losses in everything to your brothers and then they rig every game you play against your peers to ensure you don’t win, you lose the motivation to compete pretty quickly. I don’t mind facing a tough challenge or being in a situation where I know I’m a big underdog. I just don’t like being in a no-win situation. And to all the neighborhood kids who have been wondering for 20 years why I always used to quit whatever sport we were playing at 5PM to go watch “Saved By the Bell” and eat yogurt, that’s the reason right there. It was no fun when I knew my brothers would never let me sniff a victory.

A final note: Unlike Neil, I actually did some research to see if there’s any validity to the “youngest brother should be the best athlete” theory. It turns out there’s no data to support his claim. For every youngest brother who turned out to be the best, there’s an oldest brother who’s the best in his family. As a matter of fact, guys like Peyton Manning and Joe DiMaggio make me think there might be something to the middle brother being the best athlete.

That would certainly be supported by how the Gariepy family turned out.

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2 thoughts on “Fighting The Good Fight For All Younger Siblings: It’s OK That You Didn’t Turn Out To Be The Best At Anything

  1. Ross- I feel your pain honey!!!!!! Don’t forget what I have told you all your life- you will be a better person for all of that stuff. Youngest of the family rules!!!! ( sorry Aaron and Neil- oxoxox)

    • Oh, “youngest in the family rules.” At least I finally got to the bottom of why you skipped the mother-son dance in high school with me. Thanks Mom.

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