Nobody Likes to be Around a Whiner

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“I didn’t even foul him!”

“It’s hard to tell sometimes.”

“No, it’s not! That ref just sucked!”

I sat alone in the second row of our minivan, shivering slightly in my basketball singlet and shorts. I should have worn a jacket to combat the January chill, but being a stubborn 10-year-old, I had insisted that I didn’t need one. Despite the freezing cold walk from the parking lot to the game, I had played well. Extremely well. Except the stupid referee kept making the wrong calls! I was knocked to the ground by an overly aggressive forward, and a foul wasn’t even called. When I barely brushed the forward’s shoulder on the next play, the whistle was blown on me! The injustice was unbearable. It was obvious that the referee was either in serious need of a pair of glasses or wanted the other team to win, yet when I tried to express my indignation during the car ride home, I noticed that my dad’s expression grew sterner in the rearview mirror. A lecture was coming.

“You know, being a ref is a hard job. People make mistakes sometimes, and you just have to deal with it. Were there a couple of calls that didn’t go your way?”

While he was taking a breath, I snuck in an angry, inaudible, “Yup.”

“Yeah, there were a couple,” he conceded, answering his own rhetorical question. “But there were also a couple of calls that did go your way that shouldn’t have, and you know what? Right now, the other team is whining about those calls.”

Stubbornly refusing to meet my dad’s eyes in the rearview mirror, I thought about what he had said. Although at first it had seemed perfectly obvious that the referee was secretly working for the other team, I supposed that he did make a few calls that went our way. I truly hated to admit it, but my dad was probably right: it wasn’t worth getting upset about a couple of wrong calls.

I no longer play basketball, but my dad’s lecture has stuck with me. When I race, I always take the time to congratulate my opponents, no matter who wins. As a result of my good sportsmanship, I’ve become friends with my rivals and look forward to seeing them at each meet. Watching basketball and soccer games, I don’t heckle the players or referees. When the rest of the fans are yelling, “Warm the bus up!” to the losing team, I try to focus on the game. And I certainly don’t spend the drive home whining about how awful the referees were.

I thought that my dad was done with his talk, so as we pulled into our driveway, I stole a glace at him in the rearview mirror. Rookie mistake. My dad’s hazel eyes were looking piercingly back at me, and he added one final thought.

“And nobody likes to be around a whiner.”





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