If young animals whined like human children

Zebra Mom: “Eat your grass, Jimmy.”

Zebra Kid: “I don’t like this grass. I like that grass over there.”

Zebra Mom: “There’s a lion over there.”

Zebra Kid: “Can you ask him to move.”

Zebra Mom: “No. I’m not asking a lion to move so you can have grass that’s exactly the same as this grass.”

Zebra Kid: “Just ask him.”

Zebra Mom: “No. I’m not asking. This is the same grass. Just eat it.”

Zebra Kid: “His grass is in the shade. I don’t like this sunny grass. It’s too hot.”

The grass is always tastier on the other side of the lion.

Zebra Mom: “How would you know? You haven’t even tried it.”

Zebra Kid: “Come on, Mom! Can you just please ask him. He’s not even eating grass.”

Zebra Mom: “If you don’t start eating, so help me God!”

Zebra Kid puts the tip of his tongue on one blade of grass: “This grass is way too dry. It’s like desert grass. You expect me to eat desert grass? Aw, man! Now I need a drink. I’m going to the watering hole.”

Zebra Mom: “You stay right here. There are crocodiles at the watering hole.”

Zebra Kid: “Ack. Ack. This dry grass is burning a hole in my throat. I’ll die if I don’t get a drink fast. Oh, there’s Dad. I’m gonna tell him what you’re doing to me.”

Zebra Mom: “Be sure to show him the hole in your throat.”

Zebra Kid approaches Zebra Dad: “Dad, can I go to the watering hole?”

Zebra Dad: “What did your mother say?”

Zebra Kid: “Nothing really. I think it’s okay with her if you let me go.”

Zebra Dad: “Oh. Okay then.”

FIVE MINUTES LATER

Crocodile Mom: “Ethan, eat your zebra.”

Crocodile Kid: “I don’t like zebra. I want gazelle.”

Crocodile Mom: “It’s all mammal. It tastes the same. Carcass is carcass. Now eat it.”

Crocodile Kid: “This one has stuff on it.”

Crocodile Mom: “What stuff?”

Crocodile Kid: “Look. It has all these black lines.”

Crocodile Mom: “All zebras have black lines. It’s just how they’re seasoned. You won’t even taste it.”

Crocodile Kid: “It’s disgusting. I can’t eat that. It makes me wanna hurl just looking at it.”

Crocodile Mom: “Eat around the black lines then. You’d better eat it before it gets cold. It’s not gonna be any good cold.”

Crocodile Kid: “The lines are touching all the other parts. Their gross juice is gonna be all over everything.”

Crocodile Mom: “Ethan, there are starving crocodile children in the next water hole who would give anything to have food half this good.”

Crocodile Kid: “They can have it.”

Crocodile Mom: “Don’t you dare come to me in an hour and tell me you’re hungry.”

TWO MINUTES LATER

Vulture Dad: “I can’t believe somebody just left all this delicious carrion here. Animals are so wasteful these days. Well, they’re loss is our gain. Dig in, Judy.”

Vulture Kid: “Um. You know I don’t like the kind with the white stripes.”

A game nobody wins

The oldest boy is playing basketball this winter. I am happy to report he appears to have a brighter future as a basketball player than he does as a soccer player. For one thing, he’s taller than most of the other kids. Now if he would just learn that he’s allowed to jump for a rebound, he’d be on the road to stardom.

My son’s team is made up of role players. On a team of 1st and 2nd graders, every kid (my boy included) is convinced his role is to shoot the ball as often as possible in each game. If this means picking up his dribble, taking a large hop to one side, then resuming his dribble in the clear, in order to get a better shot, then that’s just the strategy adopted. Passing the ball to a teammate is the last resort, only to be considered when one is in danger of being crushed by five closing defenders.

It occurred to me that if I were the coach of such a team, I would tell the boys, “If you want to win games, you’ve got to work as a team.” Upon thinking this, I realized I would say no such thing, and for one simple reason: Nobody wins games in our league. There are no winners or losers, just a bunch of elementary schoolers running around the gym, each craving the chance to add to the number of baskets he’s scored.

Nobody keeps score. Officially. Some of the parents keep it quietly in their heads. The kids try to keep it, but their tallies vary widely. They are much more precise at counting the number of points they have scored individually, which bodes ill in this team sport.

Your 1920 American Industrial League Champions

You’ll never become Industrial League Champs if you don’t learn to work as a team. Also, you may to keep score in some of the games.

Not keeping score is society’s admission that it no longer trusts parents to teach sportsmanship. There may be good reasons for this lack of trust, but it is a mournful admission just the same. It means society doesn’t trust itself to produce humans that are, on balance, kind people. That’s too bad, because nothing improves that doesn’t trust itself.

In our league, and probably most leagues like it, we have limited the chances of gloating, hurt feelings, and the other disappointing aspects of competition. In doing so, we have limited the opportunity to experience the inspiration of contributing to a team effort, and the ideal of putting the team’s success ahead of one’s own. Is the tradeoff worthwhile? Can they make up for lost teamwork concepts when they’re older? I’ll have a more fully developed opinion on that in a few years.

Meanwhile, there are rumors that the refs are going to crack down on traveling and double dribbles. This has to keep the coaches up at night. I would much rather have to teach these kids good sportsmanship, citizenship, civics, and probably even advanced mathematics than how to resist the urge to shuffle a few feet to the right to get a clear shot at the hoop.