Am I My Brother’s Scorekeeper?

Anyone who grew up with a brother or brothers close in age knows that by the time you turn 6 or 7 you and your brother(s) know exactly who is better than whom at every single activity known to civilized man. This is true of a broad kind of activity – like basketball – but also the multiple activities comprised by the larger activity – like dribbling, rebounding, passing, shooting, posting up, stealing, blocking, and so on. While this rule obviously applies to sports and video games and other activities in which you’re overtly competing against one another, it’s also true of activities that most people wouldn’t see as inherently competitive, like talking to adults or weeding the strawberries. Ryan, Chris, and I could rank ourselves one through three at every single thing any of us had ever done. That’s just part of having brothers.

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I would share, but we’re embarking on a life of head-to-head competition, and I see no reason why I should impart any sustenance to you.

You’re probably thinking, “Wait, aren’t older brothers better than younger brothers at pretty much everything?” Not necessarily. Yes, it’s true that older brothers – particularly early in life, when an extra two or three years means you’ve lived 20% – 30% longer – have a pretty significant advantage in most endeavors. And believe me, if I had a dime for every time Kook (our nickname for Christian) pointed out the unfair advantages conferred by age I’d be writing this from the comfort of my hot air balloon made from cashmere with a picture of Magnum P.I. silk screened onto the side. Indeed, Kook developed a fairly sophisticated algorithm for calculating age-adjusted results, along the lines of, “Well, it took you 67 seconds to run to the mailbox and back, and it took me 75 seconds, so when you take into account our respective ages, that means I beat you by 6 minutes.” It’s weird he placed so much faith in these calculations, since even when adjusting for age Kook never came out on top of the “who is better at math” competition.

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Best wingman?  This guy.

Even looking at results on an absolute rather than age-adjusted basis, older brothers don’t always prevail, which is something of a miracle given that in addition to the physical and mental benefits conferred by age, older brothers enjoy tremendous psychological advantages. For example, Ryan and I were very good friends with a set of brothers in our neighborhood; I’ll call the younger one John and the older one Steve. Although both were very gifted athletically, John was larger and stronger than Steve. However, in the heat of battle, Steve, the older brother, was able to shrink himself, walk right through John’s ear, and plop himself down into a recliner inside of John’s head, where he was able to effortlessly break John’s focus, provoke him to anger, and even occasionally reduce him to tears. But Steve had an even greater advantage than his ability to mess with John’s head: both Steve and John took for granted that Steve was going to beat John, regardless of who was objectively better at the task at hand.  That is the essence of the older brother’s advantage, and most of them exploit it mercilessly.

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We all knew and acknowledged it:  Kook was the better napper.

Nevertheless, in spite of all the tremendous advantages enjoyed by older brothers, it isn’t unheard of for a younger brother to be better than his older brother at a few things. And by the time you reach adolescence, the lines demarcating each brother’s areas of dominance are pretty clearly drawn.  So it was with me and Kook when it came to speed. Although I could best Kook at most things athletically, he was faster than me, and had been from the time we were young. This was a source of tremendous shame to me. While some younger brothers could beat their older brothers at bingo or the read-a-thon at school, speed was an area that really mattered. Being fast as a kid is like making a lot of money when you’re an adult. You can pretend you don’t envy the fast kid/rich guy, and maybe most of you doesn’t, but there’s a part of you that does.

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Well, let’s see:  Sherlock Holmes, Batman, and The Greatest American Hero.  I don’t have to tell you who was the best at Halloween.

Anyway, Kook was faster than me from the time we were little. I knew it, he knew it, and thanks to him everybody else knew it. Kook as a child was many things, but gracious in victory wasn’t one of them (or in defeat, or in basically any other state). I was always embarrassed that he was faster than me, and I spent a lot of my younger years going out of my way to avoid any activity that would highlight my shame.

Time passed, we got older, and I left home for BYU. Right before I left for my mission my family went on a trip covering a bunch of places on the East Coast, including Cape Cod, where we found ourselves one July afternoon. I honestly don’t remember how it came up; maybe someone suggested it out of boredom because the water was too cold to spend more than 30 seconds in. In any event, someone floated the idea of Kook and me running a foot race along the beach. The mere mention of a foot race triggered an anxious response in me. Why would I subject myself to a direct competition where Kook’s superior speed would be put on such stark and undeniable display? This reaction was tempered, however, by the fact that I no longer felt myself to be in competition with my brothers. I realized that Kook beating me in a foot race would be just that – Kook beating me in a foot race, and nothing more. Plus, I had nothing to lose since no one expected me to win. So I agreed.

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It was on this very trip. . .

My Dad walked 40 or 50 yards down the beach and spread out his arms for each of us to touch as a finishing line of sorts. He yelled “Go!”, and we were off. I ran as fast as my frozen legs would take me, entirely unaware of where Kook was relative to me. As I neared my Dad it occurred to me that I didn’t see Kook in front of me. Afraid to look back, I pumped my legs against the sand and smacked my Dad’s hand, turning to see Kook a pace or two behind me.

My parents have always presented a face of absolutely objectivity and neutrality when it comes to their children; they never played favorites, and never rooted for one of us to beat another. On that day, though, my Dad was unable to mask his surprised amusement as the myth of Kook’s vaunted speed was smashed into a thousand little pieces on the sands of Cape Cod. I don’t remember exactly what happened after the race. I know I laughed in surprise, and I know Kook was a never-ending fount of excuses and demands for a rematch, which I gave him a few days later in the parking lot of the Hill Cumorah pageant. Where I beat him again.

(PS:  I’m not going to even get into who was better at looking cool.  Pretty obvious.)

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17 Responses to Am I My Brother’s Scorekeeper?

  1. Jeff says:

    Great post. Loved the pictures even more I think. I think BatKook was the winner with Halloween but all the costumes were great. The nap picture stood out as well, all 3 of you on a single bed and able to sleep is amazing. Were you not concerned at all about the placement of your head and Ryan’s backside? Did John and Steve’s last name start with G or S?

  2. Davis says:

    Jeff, I had a big post about how me and “John” and Matt had an ongoing volleyball/basketball rivalry against Ryan and you and “Steve” but Ryan made me take it out because it was too long. And also, I think, because he doesn’t like remembering you guys getting beaten so badly by your younger brothers.

  3. Ryan says:

    definitely G.

    By the way, can someone submit that vacation pic to awkwardfamilyphotos.com please? On the double.

    I remember the feeling of being shown up by one’s younger brother in front of adults. You’d go to great lengths to make sure that never happened. Very frustrating that I prepared so thoroughly, completely dominated in almost every way that mattered, only to have Davis say some cute catchphrase about wall street or politics (usually which he heard from me, but wouldn’t have been cute coming from me, because I was older), that he knew nothing about, and be elevated to ‘brilliant-adorable’ status. That was sickening.

    The other thing I remember was during the brief moment when my athletic coordination and growth had come to me, but Davis’s still had not. I was getting decent at basketball by then, and could dominate the family in most basketball related skills, except that Davis had the sweetest baseline jumper. He rode that jumper in every game, and found a niche for himself as mister baseline jumper. It was an impressive example of sticking with what you’re good at.

  4. Davis says:

    Ryan, this post made me reflect on our backyard one-on-one basketball games, which because you were always a foot taller than me usually went like this: I’d get the ball, turn my back to you and the basket, back you right up to the basket, try an endless series of pivots and pump fakes, and then shoot the ball straight into your arms. You never even blocked it; you just caught it, like a pass. One of the more maddening aspects of our relationships (second only to Tecmo Bowl).

    But yes, I was better with adults.

  5. Jeff says:

    Ry, I remember that baseline J and it was automatica. Those volleyball games were always competitive, intense and fun. Sigh, we need to go play in Andrea’s back yard this summer.

  6. Davis says:

    Jeff, those games were some of the best times of my life. Summers on the bench. Man.

    Unfortunately, our volleyball court is now a swimming pool. But I’d totally be up for a rematch.

  7. Ryan says:

    No, you were better at manipulating adults. It’s different.

  8. Ali says:

    ryan is obviously better at looking cool as sherlock holmes for halloween.

  9. Ryan says:

    Ali’s right. You can tell from the high-waisted pants that I was willing to consciously forego my normal fashion sense out of pure commitment to the character.

  10. Layne says:

    Awesome put-downs of Kook. I know that he is fast, but being 7 feet tall, it must take him slightly longer than average to get going. What I want to see is a rematch with your current selves. Christian with his deteriorating body and Davis wearing 30 lbs. of Larry’s Cookies. THAT is a race I’d pay to see.

  11. Davis says:

    You know the best thing about this post? Go to the home page and look at the photo there, paying particular attention to the length of Ryan’s folded legs.

  12. Ryan says:

    Seriously, I was noticing the exact same thing. You can see not only the length, but can also deduce the length of his shorts from the shot. Or maybe he just wasn’t wearing anything.

  13. Braden says:

    “If I had a dime for every time Kook (our nickname for Christian) pointed out the unfair advantages conferred by age I’d be writing this from the comfort of my hot air balloon made from cashmere with a picture of Magnum P.I. silk screened onto the side.”
    Best sentence you’ve ever written. Great post, Dave.

  14. Christian says:

    So it comes to this. Sigh. Mom swore me to secrecy forever that night before the race, but you leave me no alternative. Mom and dad asked me to do that race, and to throw it. They wanted to send you off on the mission with a boost of confidence, a “spring in his historically slow step” as Dad put it. Why do you think they arranged to have the races on the slow sand of Cape Cod and the even slower Cumorah Clay of Hill Cumorah? So that an impossible Davis win would look more plausible.

    And you want to know the math of the algorithm? You can’t handle the math!

    You’ll be hearing from my lawyer. [Ryan, please send Davis a Cease and Desist on official letterhead. Thanks]

  15. tyler says:

    I really do enjoy that this blog itself is a representation of what this post is all about. Even though you all have grown up, you still continue to compete, and take any available cheap shots that you can at one another. Funny I have noticed these exact same circumstances in for the most part all male sibling relations, including my own. Our modern behavior hasn’t changed much from the times when we were all hanging out in a organically constructed men’s house, arguing over who can collect the most dung, and how fast each could spread it all over their wifes house. From what I get from you all, given Christians profession, he would do this the best. Funny post

  16. Tanner says:

    I’m surprised the HImmler home allowed halloween costumes to include a pipe. Especially a pipe that was held between the index finger and the middle finger with the precision and refinement of a seasoned smoker.

    I imagine the parental conversation went something like this:

    G: Are you kidding, do you know what what will happen if we let our kids have a Lagoon Season Pass? They will end up like the Corey Bell’s (excluding Tiff of course). I would rather that he started smoking.

    J: Speaking of smoking …..

  17. Ben Pratt says:

    Wrasslin’. I was the undisputed wrasslin’ champion at my house. On the trampoline, on the floor, on the couch, on the bed, didn’t matter. I could pin all four of my siblings at the same time. Then I went to college, went on a mission, went back to school, got married, etc. Suddenly my brothers are all my size. Wha!? One brother is 9 years younger, and I’m pretty sure he’s stronger than me. How can this be? It’s like the world is broken. Nothing makes sense anymore.

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