Teammates: A Formal Apology

January 3, 2007

The only thing worse than competing against me in any kind of contest where I’m allowed to talk is actually being on my team.  Every year for New Year’s Eve several of us gather at the home of our close friends, four families in all.  And every year, at some point during the festivities, the board game Taboo makes its way out and we split into teams of husbands vs wives.  Now, I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this game, but basically one guy gets a card, and on that card is a word, like Cactus, and six other words, like Desert, Thorns, Sharp, Needles, Plant & Water, and you have to get the people on your team to know that the word is Cactus WITHOUT you saying any of the verboten clues.  You have one minute, and you get a point for every word that your team guesses, and you LOSE a point if you fuck up and say a clue, or if you skip a word ’cause you’re inept.

Well, I don’t want to surprise you with my awesomeness, but it turns out that I’m like the Michael Jordan of avoiding saying certain words while using different words to describe another word entirely.  More to the point, I may actually be like the Wilt Chamberlain of this specific skillset, setting the bar at an unapproachable height for all other challengers.  I know, I know, sounds like the perfect person to have on your team in a brisk round of Taboo, yes?  Well you’d be wrong.

It turns out I can be woefully unforgiving if my teammates aren’t getting the brilliant clues I’m throwing out.   Two of the four New Years’s Eve familes I only see on that one night a year, which is funny because we always get along so well.  But then I realize what it is – by the end of the evening, my Taboo prowess has shattered the nerves of both my opponents AND the poor bastards who got stuck on my team.  And it’s not just Taboo, this pretty much happens in any game.  The constant sniping, the undercutting the intellectual prowess of a teammate, etc.  It’s not really the best way to build team unity.

So, all this reflection made me think about something my oldest brother said when I was a teenager, about how our dad had tried to steer him away from team sports and into individual competition.  My brother was on the UCLA gymnastics team, a Rings specialist (and a freakish physical badass).  My dad was, at one point the fastest 100 Meter Butterfly swimmer in the nation in his age class, and still competed in national events well into his late 60s.  I wonder if somewhere deep in my childhood the initial foundation of destroying the team to promote oneself was consciously taught, or if it’s more of a side effect of just being raised to think you’re smarter than other people.  On behalf of all my teammates, both in Taboo and in any other games I’ve played, a sincere apology.  While you may not be as good as I am (and let’s not kid ourselves: you’re not) in Taboo or Trivial Pursuit or Pictionary or what-the-fuck ever else, it turns out that doesn’t mean it’s okay to call you a dumbass.



  1. After you wussed out and left at 8:45 (don’t even try to pin it on the LBC’s “fussiness” and “it’s over 2 hours past her bedtime”) we ended up playing for a little while longer. We eventually tried a new approach – have everyone (except the word-checker) try to guess and see who could get the most points on their own.

    Neither game was nearly as much fun as when you and the Missus are here. We all realized that the competitive spirit was drained from the room, so we quickly ended up soundly mocking Ryan Seacrest/lamenting the sorry state of Dick Clark.

    Next year, we’re playing frisbee golf!

  2. I think it’s time we just faced the sad truth regarding frisbee golf.

  3. You have been so delinquent in visits, Nathan and I can barely remember our last game.
    Ah, yes. It was Cranium. And my team (the team that wasn’t yours…on purpose), won.

  4. That damn Cranium is like gaming Kryptonite to me!

  5. Ooooh. What’s the sad truth about frisbee golf? My ex played it, and so I must know about the sadness of his favorite sport.

  6. Back when we worked together, Mr Kinsley & I would occasionally wander off to the half of the giant warehouse we slaved away in to play indoor frisbee golf using things like iron girders & holes knocked in the wall as our markers on the game.

    At one point, after I’d been on a hot streak, I turned to him and said, with no irony, “You know, the sad truth of it is that I think I’m just better at this than you are.”

    It was the lamest thing anyone could ever take pride in, and pretty much the crowning moment in a long history of ridiculously unjustified self-satisfaction. The moment the statement left my lips I could hear myself saying it & simultaneously not believe anyone could be enough of a pathetic douchebag as to take pride in their string of victories in a game that was largely created to fill time while slacking off at work.

    Since then, it’s become shorthand for embarassing unjustified hubris. Anytime we see someone taking pride in something that doesn’t merit it, the phrase “the sad truth of it is, he’s just much better at [skipping rocks/stacking cups/building a gingerbread house/lord knows what else] than you are.”

  7. “Back when we worked together, Mr Kinsley & I would occasionally wander off to the half of the giant warehouse we slaved away in to play indoor frisbee golf using things like iron girders & holes knocked in the wall as our markers on the game.”

    OK, for starters, we didn’t occasionally go play frisbee golf – we occasionally worked and played golf the rest of the time. And it wasn’t just the two of us – please don’t forget our dear curmudgonly friend Dave.

    I believe frisbee golf is where you started creating charts to display your “prowess.” I’d love to see some old Rouse Dominance Factor charts if they’re still around.

  8. Oh please. I kicked your ass at Pictionary EVERY TIME. Kneel before Widdershins!

  9. I guess this competitiveness runs in the family. If you and Tom were both on the same team would you two dominate over everyone, or be hung up on the fact that the other one doesn’t get the perfect clue?

    I think I’d pay money to see the two of you play; together or against each other.

  10. I can’t really play against Tom in things. It would be… bad.

    And widdershins, that was when I was a teenager. Much like Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team, my true powers didn’t emerge until my early 20s. You don’t want me to bring it now, trust me, it’d get brung. Also, true fact: You only ever won because Mike was on your team. Mike’s like the Picasso of drawing things, it’s kinda unfair.

    Mr Kinsley, sadly those excel spreadsheets (yes, I did maintain excel spreadsheets entitled “Rouse Dominance Factor” charting my success at throwing a frisbee through a hole in the wall) no longer exist. They were lost in the great hard drive failure of 2003.

  11. Ok – I’ll grant you that Mike was indeed Picasso. But I’d like to point out that I beat you regardless of who I was paired with…

    Ok, now I feel petty. See, you have this effect on people regardless of whether you actually win…

  12. Oh, widdershins… the sad truth of it is, you’re just much better at pictionary than I am.

  13. What about an apology to the missus? I have to endure the looks from your teammates that say “And you’re married to him.”

  14. I know the feeling . . .

  15. screw that, you should totally be kicking me $$ under the table for making you look good by comparison, not to mention all the sympathy you get from everyone!

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