Our obsession with high scores is killing us -- Not everything that can be counted counts

At the same time a Massachusetts girls’ high school basketball team was getting blown out 93-7 last week, I was working the scoreboard at my sons’ high school basketball game, where they got beat by 25.

The score in my sons’ game was extremely close until the last minute of the first half, when the other team went on a tear. Our boys never really got back in the game. Nevertheless, we kept score, and they didn’t have me shut down the scoreboard, because if our boys had put on a run, something exciting could have happened.

That’s not how things went in the 93-7 drubbing. All I can say, as a parent and volunteer scorekeeper, is that the winning coach in that game should have had the class to turn off the scoreboard and just let the kids play.

What’s the point of counting how many baskets you win by, when your kids are on the way to a ludicrously one-sided victory?

Plenty of other coaches, parents, and athletes are already excoriating the coach – and the officials, for that matter – for failing to respect the fact that the losing team’s dignity was getting ground in the dirt.

Responding to the criticism of her winning school, East Bridgewater, Massachusetts School Superintendent Liz Legault issued an apology, saying: “Both teams were excited for the first round of the playoffs and unfortunately they were not matched up well.”

So rather than pile on some more, let me take this conversation in a different direction.

There’s a wonderful expression: “Not everything in life that counts can be counted, and not everything in life that can be counted counts.”

In our society, we have an unhealthy fascination with numbers. We are consumed with statistics, especially of a personal nature – what our net worth is, what our home is worth, even how much we weigh. And for the real hard drivers, what our body fat percentage might be.

But not everything that can be counted counts.

In their groundbreaking book, “Type A Behavior and Your Heart,” two San Francisco cardiologists – Dr. Meyer Freidman and Dr. Ray H. Rosenman – recognized that a fascination with numbers could actually be lethal.

They discovered that part of the whole constellation of factors that often led to heart attacks – which they named Type A behavior – was a needless fascination with keeping score in life.

A Buddhist parable, by contrast, teaches that life is like falling off a cliff. You can struggle and grab at the roots and branches on your way down, or you can kick back and enjoy the ride, because you end up in the same place.

We’re so busy counting – counting our money, counting our honors, counting our possessions – that we may become too busy to be counted on.

And what’s the point of all those goods, if keeping score just leads us to a place where numbers no longer matter – the grave?

As the expression goes: “I’ve never seen a hearse followed by a U-Haul truck.”

So the next time you’re tempted to run up the score on your neighbor, your business competitor, or God forbid your spouse or kids, ask yourself whether you are too busy counting the things that don’t need to be counted, and whether you are becoming unaccountable.

Material things are great. I don’t minimize the value of nice clothing, nice furniture, a nice car, books, or whatever you like.

 

But money, as the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, isn’t everything. But it’s like oxygen – you can’t live without it.

 

Let’s just remember that when we’re consumed with keeping score, we’re almost certainly counting things that ultimately don’t count.

New York Times best-selling author and Shark Tank entrepreneur Michael Levin runs BusinessGhost.com, a national book ghostwriting firm.