I had plenty of kids coming to me on a regular basis complaining about how they felt their classmates were not following the rules of this game or that on the playground. It came as no surprise to me that five and six year olds tended to miss the point of soccer, that is, to use only their feet. The fact that by the end of the year we had most of them understanding fundamentals such as kicking the ball and not each other as well as keeping the ball within the prescribed lines, rather than chasing it and one another across the yard. I had plenty of opportunities to refine my speech about just what constitutes "regular rules" in four square. By stark contrast to soccer, you're only supposed to hit the ball in this game with your hands. If it bounces more than once in your square, you're out. If you hold the ball, you're out. If you hit the ball outside of the four squares, you're out. The litany of additional twists and "rules" that get piled on top of that just serves to make the kids standing in line anxious and frustrated while the finer points of these made up "rules" are argued. Even the sanguine pastime of jumping rope was periodically turned into an excuse to vent elementary schoolers' spleen.
Rules, as they say, are meant to be broken. That's part of the game, it seems. How else would one explain that Marshawn Lynch, star running back for the Seattle Seahawks, made new this week for showing up for practice. His job is a game, and playing games about whether or not he would show up according to the terms/rules of his contract generated some concern among those who care about such things. In other sporting news, Oakland A's pitcher Drew Pomeranz broke his hand not by catching, throwing or hitting a baseball, but by punching a chair. Not that the chair did anything to deserve such treatment, but apparently Drew was just a little upset about giving up eight runs in less than four innings of work last week. Again, I use the term "work" when I mean "playing a game." And is it all "part of the game" to intentionally throw a baseball at a batter? That's what the Arizona Diamondbacks would have us believe. It took two tries, but D-Backs pitcher Evan Marshall plunked Milwaukee Brewers bad boy Ryan Braun. Marshall got a congratulatory fist bump on his way to the showers after he was thrown out of the "game." If he had stuck around for a couple more minutes, he could have seen the next batter up for Milwaukee clear the bases with a grand slam home run.
And maybe that's what we're missing here: That sense of just how things go around and come around when it comes to playing games. Every dog has its day and even a stopped clock is right twice a day and all those bits of wisdom that may not fully apply, but keeping in mind that it is, after all, just a game. Cheaters never prosper, unless their business happens to be cheating in which case they had probably better be very good at it. But that's not the message I'll be sending on the playground anytime soon.