Storytelling Perspective (December 16, 2015)

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Updated: December 16, 2015

One of the best parts of the holiday time is storytelling. Whether it’s seeing people from an older generation telling you about “Back in my day” or others telling you about their current life, the storytelling runs rampant. Since that’s what I do for a living, it’s so awesome to hear when others do it.

My girls spend a lot of time with my mom. My mom is a former school teacher so by nature she’s a storyteller. The girls have learned so much about my life when I was little through hearing stories from her. But I noticed something the other night.

The girls had asked about a story where my brother ran into the door while chasing me. We were little. It wasn’t child abuse (well it might be today given the hyper-sensitive, logically-challenged people that create rules for life in America today). It was just the by-product of child’s play.

As the story goes, my brother, who was maybe 2 at the time, was chasing me through the entryway. I turned the corner, closed the door behind me, and he ran directly into it.  My mom, who was teaching piano lessons in an adjacent room came in, picked my brother up, grounded both of us for misbehaving, and we missed Sesame Street for the first time in our lives. It was glorious. There were tears.

Disclaimer – that’s not exactly how the story really happened. I was 4. My brother was 2. We were playing with our Lego train set. My brother wanted the blue car. I had the blue car. He tried to take it from me. I took it from him. He chased me. I closed the door. He ran into the door. We got grounded. He still didn’t get the blue car.  I can come clean on that now because that was 30 years ago and the statute of limitations for my mom’s ability to ground me more than she did has expired.

That’s not the point. The point is that storytelling comes from perspective. There’s many stories my mom tells from when I was growing up that didn’t go exactly as she remembers them (self-incrimination saved for future dates). There’s many stories we’ll hear this holiday season that aren’t exactly as they seem.  Why? Perspective.

Did your grandpa really walk uphill, in a snowstorm, 2 miles, both ways to school?  No. Because if he walked uphill both ways he’d never make it home. And even at both the north and south poles, it doesn’t snow every day.

Did your uncle really track the 20-point buck for two and a half days, across the desert, through the swampy muck and over half the Rocky Mountains? No. Just, no.  There was beer involved.

Those are clichés but it’s integral to the storytelling process. With many cliché stories, the story has been told from perspective. Walking uphill both ways, in a snowstorm, for 2 miles, was gained through the eyes of an 8-year-old.

When I took my girls to Scottsbluff a couple weekends back, they thought it was such a long trip.  In reality, that’s the closest trip I make with Northeastern. They couldn’t fathom anything further away than the 2 hours we’d just driven.  In reality, I’d ridden in a bus 5 hours one way less than 48 hours before that trip.  And I’d be in a bus for 3 hours one way less than 24 hours after.

But I’ve got a different perspective than my daughters. Sure they’ve been to further away places. And in the perspective of those trips, they might see the fallacy in their current perspective.  But it’s not worth pointing out because quite frankly an over-exaggerated perspective is a beautiful thing.  Storytelling depends on it.

When I say on air that I’m going to need everyone to take their shoes off in order to count the number of turnovers in a game, I’m not being serious. If there’s 200 people in a gym, that’d be 4000 turnovers. But the exaggeration drives the point home that there’s a lot of turnovers.

There’s many examples like that I use on a regular basis when telling the story of a game I’m broadcasting. When you talk to children, they over-simplify things.  Why? Because it drives home the point of the story.  And I think that’s what the world is lacking today.

Why is everyone going so overboard, in crime, in the media, in their political correctness? Because for so long we’ve been over policed by the hyper-sensitive, logically-challenged people that create rules for life in America today that we’ve forgotten reality.

The woman on MSNBC who thinks Star Wars is racist (Google it, her stupidity will baffle you)? That’s the type of person who has led to the amoral world we live in today. Their inability to see the point of the story and take it at face value has devalued the quality of life.

The point of my mom’s story to my girls about me and my brother getting grounded for the now-revealed Lego stealing incident wasn’t for the face value of the story.  It was told to illustrate points of behavior and consequences for actions.

So this holiday season instead of writing off “cooky ol’ Grandpa” telling a story that never happened that way, listen to the story.  Instead of writing off “drunk redneck uncle” as embellishing the facts of what really went on, search for the point.  You’ll be better off for using logical reasoning, you know something not taught in Common Core.