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“He is my most beloved friend and my bitterest rival,
my confidant and my betrayer,
my sustainer and my dependent,
and scariest of all, my equal.”
~ Gregg Levoy

We knew this day would come, predicted it even. Maybe not down to the exact date and time, but from the moment Shea could walk (at 9 months), talk in complete sentences (15-18 months), and throw a ball (I have no idea when he did that), Mark and I knew there would come a day when this little brother, who annihilated all his big brother’s major milestones and then some, would bypass Max in some way (height, athletic ability, etc. etc.), and let him know his little brother status had just been upgraded.

We both figured that would come the first time Shea realized he was bigger and stronger than Max, and we reveled in stories about how Shea would give Max his first well-deserved major ass-kicking. We envisioned blood and bruises, and two parents leaping in to break up the fist-filled altercation. That hasn’t happened — YET! But Max’s day of reckoning at the hands of Shea has come, and it came dressed in a maroon Realty Street baseball uniform.

Yup, Shea has bypassed his big brother’s athletic ability on the baseball field and then some. Granted Max is not the most coordinated baseball player. He works hard, usually has a good heart and attitude about the game, but his natural talent isn’t there. He’s in his last year of Little League and has come a long way, and for the last two seasons he has played the entire game, but he wasn’t doing that as a fourth-grader. He also wasn’t the shortstop, who is also capable of pitching, catching, and playing anywhere in the infield. As for hitting — his little brother’s triple in the first game, next to Max’s double, just about sums up the whole experience for him thus far (only three games and one scrimmage into the season). Poor Max! He’s really a good ball player, but I think his brother’s success is playing with his confidence now.

Now don’t get me wrong. Shea is by no means an All-Star player, as proven by the three or four errors he made at short last night. But going from a kid that only played two innings a game last year and those played in the outfield, I think I’ll give him a little leeway (and time) to get comfortable in the field.

It’s funny to watch the two of them. I know it’s cliche to ask “How did two such different little people come from the same two parents?” but … Shea is built solid and strong. He is tall and currently wearing the same size jeans as his brother. He picks up things easily — be it throwing a football, shooting hoops, or hitting a baseball. He is  pretty laid back, and only within the last year have we begun to see any innate competitiveness emerge from Shea. Max on the other hand is all about competing — and winning! He can make a competition out of dinner. The other day he actually asked Shea what he had eaten for lunch that day. When Shea told him Max replied with “Ah, I beat you.” Shea summed it up when he said, “I don’t get it. What was there to beat me at?” Exactly. Max is also skinny (very skinny) with solid muscle everywhere. He has a nonstop metabolism, and thus a nonstop body and personality. I mean it, some part of that kid is always moving (most of the time it’s his mouth). But we love him still!

Anyway … these two very different brothers who have always had a love/hate (more hate than love lately) relationship over the past 10 years now find themselves in a precarious predicament. The tables have turned and the hierarchy of brotherhood is in question. So now they have entered into some bizarre war of the words, and they will fight to the death, or at least until someone lay beaten, battered, and totally devoid of the confidence they once knew on the living room floor, and right now it’s anyone’s game.

Shea took a few early shots during the conflict after that first scrimmage a few weeks ago. He had hit and hit well, his brother had not, and that fact wasn’t lost on Max. But Shea still had to make mention of it a few times, to Mark and I in particular, but he made sure his brother was within earshot when he did so. Max retaliated last night by “giving his brother some helpful advice” while he was on the mound and Max was in centerfield. That went over well. It temporarily stunned Shea for a few pitches, but then he recovered quicker than expected, leaving his enemy slightly bewildered and confused, a stuttering to explain his failed tactics.

And so the battle continues … and Mark and I try to stay out of the crossfires as much as possible, although at times we have to strap on our battle helmets and step onto the battlefield to play peacekeeper. I’m not sure how this Operation Ego Boost is going to end, but I hope when it does, there are as few casualties as possible.

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