Thursday, November 11, 2004

Little brothers are people too

I was the first born child in my family. Everything was good for two years until my mom had another child, my brother Matthew. As a two-year-old I was still able to realize this could be trouble.

"Take him back," my parents recall me saying.

It seems that I took my little brother for granted for all those years. I didn't realize that until I got to college - more specifically about a week ago. I do miss having him around. It's definitely a lot quieter without him and a lot less fun. The kid can be annoying as hell but when I need someone to hang out with, I have no problem turning to Matthew. He's fun when he's not being an ass (and he knows he can be).

Growing up, my parents had a saying: "Josh never had a bad idea." I never had a bad idea because whatever I wanted to do, Matthew would always copy me without fail. If I wanted to play Ninja Turtles, he wanted to play Ninja Turtles. If I wanted to play baseball or soccer, he wanted to play too. It drove me crazy.

"Mom, he's copying me again! Make him stop!" I remember complaining time and time again.

As we got older, we became extremely competitive. Being just two years apart, Matthew's goal in life is to be better than me. My job is not to let him accomplish his goal. We would play ping-pong, tennis or basketball and most of the time I would win. I did have a two-year advantage. But then he narrowed the gap. Suddenly being two years older wasn't cutting it. The competition intensified.

In sixth grade, I began playing volleyball with the Addison Volleyball Club. Two years later, Matthew signed up to play as well. I guess I still don't have too many bad ideas. Volleyball became a big form of competition between us. Matthew constantly tried comparing himself to me two years before. Was he better? Did he hit harder? Could he jump higher? My answers: no, no and no (but I have a bias).

He got his chance to see just how good he was. He got a head-to-head match up. My senior year, I started for my high school's varsity volleyball team (Greenhill School). By his sophomore year, he had earned a starting spot on his high school's varsity volleyball team (St. Mark's). Greenhill and St. Mark's are big rivals as far as Dallas-area private schools. Regardless, when we played each other in volleyball, it was bigger than just Greenhill versus St. Mark's. It was Feldman versus Feldman. I even wrote in my sports column in my school's paper about the match up with Matthew.

St. Mark's school rivalry increases sibling rivalry in

No Joshing
by Josh Feldman, executive editor

As a student at Greenhill, I'm fully aware of the
school's long-lasting rivalry with St. Mark's. I am also a big brother, bringing another aspect of competition into my life: sibling rivalries.

However, unlike most students, my rivalry with my brother, Matt, is more than your average sibling rivalry.

He is a sophomore at St. Mark's, adding to the contrasts between the two of us. We constantly argue over which school is the best (obviously Greenhill), and every time we do, our mom is there to put an end to the feud. However it is now that we each get to formally fight for our schools through volleyball.

Each of us has played volleyball since age 12, and even though I am two years older than Matt, we both play at the varsity level at our respective schools. After playing four years of club volleyball, he has solidified his spot in the St. Marks' starting line up. He worked to be where he is, but so have I.

The first time I faced him on the court was last year in a match at a St. Marks hosted tournament where he started on the St. Marks' JV team.

On the first play of the game, I hit a ball at him, nailing him in the chest to set the tone of the game. He fought the game of his life, knowing that it was his older brother on the other side of the net.

This year, we already played against each other at a match at St. Mark's and I know I was the most intense I had been for a volleyball match in a long time.

Neither of us went into the match thinking that it would be just another team: there was family across the net. The focus of our games will not be on the scoreboard, rather on keeping my brother in check; knowing that even if the score shows the game to be a blow out, when we get home, we will recount the small battles we had during the game.

Whether that be a block I had on him or an ace he served at me I do not know. The rivalry goes beyond the sidelines of the volleyball court, into who will have the most to brag about at the dinner table.

Rivalries are never easy because you are constantly at war with someone. When that person is your brother who goes to your school's biggest rival, it's even more difficult, trust me.

As we are still in volleyball season, I look forward to future matches against Matt. I am ready to take the court to face not just an opposing school, but the person whose bedroom is down the hall from mine.

While I know that all my mom wants is a good, clean match, I want Matt to know that for the time being, his place remains in my shadow.

Remember, though, that I am the older brother.

No matter what, I cannot win in this situation. If I am seen as better, "so what?" I am a whole two years older, and therefore my victory is easily accepted (and justified).

If he is better, then I just got out-played by my younger brother. Either way, I do not want to hear of his triumphs over me at the dinner table.

When we played against each other, my school always won and for the most part, I won the small battles between us at the net. If I got set, I was not about to hit anywhere near his block. I didn't think that I couldn't hit through him, but I was terrified of the possibility that he might send the ball back. I did not want to deal with that.

As a leader of his team for the past two years, he constantly called me, asking advice and complaining about his coach (and, yes, he did have a lot to complain about). He was the clear leader of his team and he played like it. (WATCH VIDEO OF MATTHEW ON THE COURT - select VOLLEYBALL). I thought it was awesome to have him calling me for on-the-court advice. Volleyball is probably one of very few areas where I consider myself better and more knowledgeable than Matthew.

For example, I thought I was good at math and science, but if I was king, Matthew would be the emperor. Even when I got an 800 on the math section of the SAT, I missed one problem. His 800 was flawless. The beginning of his spring mid-semester comments from math class last year read something like this:

Mr. and Mrs. Feldman:
I regret to inform you that your son Matthew has encountered the inevitable misfortune of finally missing a point on a graded assignment in my class this year. ...

Is it just me, or is that ridiculous? I can't deny that the kid is smart, but why does he have to be a genius?

I do miss having him around though. As much as we fought growing up, he was my sidekick. Nothing against him, but that's the role a little brother plays. I find myself constantly wishing he was here because he's an automatic buddy. We have many of the same hobbies and interests, so we can - potentially - get along very well.

I do hope he comes to USC. I know he's looking at other schools like Stanford, MIT and CalTech (like I said, he's a smart kid), but having him here would definitely be awesome. He wouldn't live with me so we would have our distance, but he'd still be close enough to hang out. Also if he continued with volleyball out here, we could both play for the club team and be on the same side of the net for once.

He's probably sitting in his room right now, buried beneath a stack of college applications to every school that people like you and me only dreamed we were smart enough to apply to. If he does get off his butt to read this post, I have one message for him:

Matt: You're coming to USC, damn it! Trust me, you won't regret it.

I truly believe he should come here. It's an awesome environment and a good school. He would excel in USC's engineering program. He would love the football games. He would enjoy the freedom this school provides. Most importantly, he'd be here when I need my "sidekick" the most.

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