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Soup of This Day #67: Sat On A Fence But It Don’t Work

September 13, 2011

A Russian firefighting train
A Russian firefighting train. The Noah loves fire engines and trains – Photo: Timur Mamedrzaev, 2010. Timur Mamedrzaev has no affiliation with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

There is a code you adopt when you become a parent. Most folks know about the code before they become parents but for some it’s only once you are in the job that the code begins to make sense. There are 2 items of the code that I’d like to reference in this post:

Item 1 is that you don’t criticise other parents. Oh for sure if it’s a major violation, like child abuse, then you don’t keep silent. What I’m talking about is the minor stuff. Like when you see a parent dealing with their kid in the toy aisle of the supermarket. They might not be negotiating the psychological enigma the way that you would but that’s their kid, they have to take them home and live with them. Let them handle it their way. Maybe give them a sympathetic nod.

Item 2 is that you’re going to talk about your kid. A lot. You’re going to find the things they do to be the funniest, most interesting stuff you’ve ever seen. And then you’re going to want to share it. With people who don’t love your kid as much as you do. Which is ok ‘cos they will as soon as they hear the funny, interesting stuff that your kid has done.

For today’s post I’m going to sort of break the code for Item 1 and reinforce it for Item 2. Yep, I’m going to criticise a parent (of sorts) and rabbit on about The Noah. Bear with me though – This does come back to sport.

Let’s start with the dude: When The Noah is surrounded by people who are talking to each other he does this thing. You see, he likes people to be talking to him too, not around and over him, which I think is fair enough to a certain extent. To break through the chatter he will plant his feet, gather his most stern and serious expression and say something like:

‘Guys! Wait guys! You’re not listening. I have something to say.’

If this is not successful he will continue, punctuating each point with a firm gesture of the hand:

‘Hang on guys! But guys, you’re not listening. Guys, I have something to talk about!’

This will carry on for a bit, until people break train and listen to him and he can articulate his thoughts involving fire engines or until people listen and he can’t articulate anything because he’s forgotten what his thoughts to do with fire engines were about. All of this will be done in a charming way that somehow allows a little man with a lot to say the right to be heard. This kid will grow up to be someone, you mark my words.

When he does grow up I hope that he plays a sport. Any sport. Whichever he goes for (Please not extreme cliff diving dude or even, come to that, non-extreme cliff diving. Let’s just say no to cliffs, ok?) chances are that the sport will require officials, such as referees. Some of them will be well paid, although at the highest levels they will be paid a small fraction of those that they are officiating. Most will be unpaid though, volunteers who give of their time to allow sport to be, well… sporting.

For my last football game in Carnarvon we had a relatively new, young referee. He was a pretty good player for 1 of the other teams and was still in school. I reckon he harboured dreams of making it big in football, he certainly knew the game and was well placed to officiate. In this game, 1 of the opposition, who we’ll call Billy because that’s not his actual name, took exception to him. Nothing major, mostly just sniping, arguing the toss, that sort of stuff. The ref, who we’ll call Bob because that’s not his actual name, then whistled for a foul perpetuated by Billy. Who chose to ignore the ref and play on, I guess because he thought Bob was wrong and a lightweight rookie to be brushed aside. Bob calmy waited until Billy was stopped by 1 of his teammates and then gave him a yellow card for dissent. Failing to heed the warning Billy exploded in righteous indignation. He swore at Bob and appealed to everyone else to rise up and depose the youngster from his position of offialdom.

He got nothing from any of us.

Or maybe ‘nothing’ is wrong – He got no help from any of us but he got something. A lack of respect. His own teammates told him to calm down and get on with the game. Swearing loudly 1 more time he turned away.

And so Bob sent him off. Just like that.

We all, including his teammates who were now a man down, clapped him off. Good riddance and good on the young ref for not being intimidated.

In Sunday’s 2011 US Open Final Serena Williams let fly at the chair umpire with a ridiculous tirade. She had conceded a point after yelling ‘Come on!’ while the point was still live. The umpire had deemed that this was ‘intentional hindrance’ and therefore the point would go to William’s opponent, Sam Stosur. This decision was later confirmed as correct by the match referee. Williams however felt that the point should have been replayed as she hadn’t intended to hinder Stosur. So when it wasn’t she got stroppy.

‘If you ever see me walking down the hall look the other way. You’re out of control, you’re a hater and you’re unattractive inside. Who would do such a thing? And I never complain. Wow. What a loser.’

There’s more and you can watch most of it here. It’s pretty much all ugly. The part that stood out though is when Serena asked for water, abused the ump some more and then demanded that the ump not even ‘look my [Serena’s] way’. Let that sink in. Serena has done something wrong and now the umpire must avert her gaze from her sphere of existence. Apparently.

In 2009 Williams was fined $82,000 and given a 2 year suspended sentence for a tirade against a linesperson at the US Open. That probation period covered all Grand Slams in 2010 and 2011. Despite this the USTA (US Tennis Association) has taken the view that this time the incident was not a major 1 and therefore Serena has been fined $2,000 of her $1.4m winnings with no impact to her suspended sentence. Crime committed and penalised.

Although the penalty in this case I believe is incorrect. But not because the monetary punishment was too small. I think it was too big. In fact I reckon the fine should have been nothing. That’s right $0 and 0c. Disagree?

But guys! Wait guys! Listen to me!

When The Noah hurts someone, physically or verbally, he’s required to stop, reflect and then give the victim a hug and a ‘sorry’. Which he does, each and every time. His parents and other caregivers require it of him. Serena Williams hasn’t actually apologised yet. Her excuse (there’s a difference), in part:

‘I think that, you know, when you’re an athlete, whether you’re looking at a basketball player or football player or tennis players, these athletes, we train all our lives since I was three — and I lie about my age a lot, but I’m 29. (Smiling). You know, we live for these moments, you know. Everyone lives to be, you know, in the final of Wimbledon or the final at the US Open. Whatever happens in that moment, you live for them and we breathe for them, and hopefully I’ll be back for them.’

That last sentence, that describes The Noah approach. Whatever happens in his moments, all of them, he lives for them and breathes for them. Man does he live for them, with an intensity that is self-consuming and vital and so right now.

He still gives a hug and a ‘sorry’ when he hurts others though and he’s barely a couple of months past 3.

And this is where I’m criticising another parent. Not Williams’ mum or dad (Also her coaches), although their daughter didn’t reflect well on them on Sunday. Nope I’m criticising the other ‘parent’ here – The USTA. They have a ‘kid’ who is consistently behaving poorly and in a fashion that is hurtful to others. A lot of other kids are watching too and they’re being indirectly told that it’s ok to do stuff like that if you’re good at sport and you’ve got the money to pay.

And this is why she should be fined nothing, because no amount of money excuses that behaviour. She should hug Eva Asderaki and apologise sincerely and publicly, preferably via a megaphone from the top of 1 of those extending ladders on a fire engine. The Noah and the other kids should see that there is not a price on basic decency towards others and that fire engines have a valid place in adult conversations.

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