Taxes, Exam Grades, and Soccer

These doctoral school classes have a way of “humbling” me into remembering my past…

When I was in college, there was this one team of Brazilian soccer players who dominated the indoor soccer tournaments at the university. They were exceptionally good soccer players because they were Brazilian, because they were athletic, and because they were at that university on a tennis scholarship. Tennis players have incredibly good reflexes and lateral movement, two things you need in indoor soccer. (Outdoor is less demanding on the reflexes, unless you’re playing goalkeeper.) With the ball bouncing off the wall, they were able to keep any opposing team at bay, and they were very, very good.

Every tournament that I played the 4+ (long story) years that I was there, the Brazilians managed to win and humiliate us. Well, maybe not humiliate every game, but it was pretty brutal. That, and we always took a beating. I played keeper about 3/4 of the time, and I did some pretty good damage to my knees on the hardwood. No kneepads for me; I’m a man. So it was with a lot of frustration that I went into the last game of my time at the university, and it was the championship game of that season. My teammates laughed at me when I told them that I wanted to win because I wouldn’t play with them anymore. They laughed because it would be very hard to beat the Brazilians.

So we beat the Brazilians. We beat them with a come-from-behind win in the waning minutes of the game. It was in slow motion, all of it. And it was so good. When we took the lead, all I prayed for was for the game to end. When the whistle was blown and the game ended, I ran to the center of the court and laid there. All my teammates came and piled on. It felt really, really good.

I’ve been struggling a lot with biostatistics lately. I never really used what I learned for my master’s degree — as far as biostats goes — during my work at the state health department. So I’ve sort of been re-introduced to the finer details of it. I knew the major concepts (e.g. how to read a confidence interval and what a confidence interval meant), but the behind-the-scenes stuff left me in the six years between the masters and the doctorate schoolings. But today was grand. Today I got an A in a biostats exam. It felt really, really good.

Anyway, one of my friends was complaining about the amount of taxes they paid for last year. He showed me the amount, and I almost choked. I didn’t almost choke because it was too much. I almost choked because it was about 10% of what I paid in taxes. This brought to mind some conversations I’ve had over the years with people who are more, how shall I say, “anti-government” than I am. They are convinced that everything and anything related to the federal government is a scam or is worthless or is a waste. Yes, there are things within the federal government that are wasteful and, frankly, we could do without.

But we all agreed to be part of this country one way or another. I immigrated here as a child, and I had the choice of going back to Mexico as an adult. I stayed here because 90% of my family is here, and I got my education here, and I like it here. Then I met my wife, and I was hooked. I’m as American as it gets, so to speak. Part of that agreement to be part of this country’s citizenry is to pay taxes, no matter what the going rate on those taxes is. If I am not willing to pay those taxes, then I could be subjected to some heavy penalties. If I really don’t want to pay, I need to find another country to live in… And I’m pretty sure there’s going to be taxes to be paid there.

On the other hand, if I want taxes to change, then I need to work toward having them change the legal way: by participating in elections and keeping an eye on my elected representatives’ dealings. I’m surely not going to whine about it (much). (I’d rather spend the money on less productive things than taxes, really… Like an Xbox One.)

At any rate, that’s all for today. I’m off to celebrate the A in biostats with some soccer out in the snow. If you need me, you know where to find me.

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