Tuesday, August 24, 2010

'It's just a game'

My team lost our semi-final game in softball, last night, under some dubious circumstances.

We overheard one of the players on the other team (the only player not in uniform, no less) ask one of his teammates whether sliding was allowed. This was strange, because a) it's a semi-final, and you should know this rule by now, b) sliding is not allowed, and it's treated as a pretty big deal, so it's an easy rule to remember, and c) it's a playoff game, and not knowing the sliding rules suggests that he's a ringer, the use of which is supposed to earn your team an automatic disqualification. And so, after we learned his name I used an iPhone to look up their official roster list on the league's website - and, sure enough, he wasn't on it.

Long story short, our team decided to not report our opponents. I felt obliged, though, to let them know that we knew what they were pulling, even if we weren't going to officially call them on it. (Admission: This was not meant to be wholly selfless. Or mostly, even.) And, so, I got an angry response about how they didn't actually use the website (that's why the one player didn't appear there, evidently) and "it's just a beer-league", anyway.

I hate that response. The people who resort to lines like "it's just a beer league" or "it's just for fun" never actually mean it. And we know that they don't mean it because that statement is never followed by "...and so if it means so much to you, you can have the win". And that's because they're lying.

What "just..." actually means - implicitly, if not explicitly - is that they want to ignore or disregard the rules at will. The problem, here, is that the rules constitute the bare minimum in terms of what we can expect of one another: I can't expect you to be a good sport, but I can expect you know that you shouldn't slide. Except that for the "just..." people, particular rules - and which particular rules is unknown to us in advance - can simply be ignored. And that's the key bit: that we don't know you're ignoring a rule ahead of time. (Which seems like it should be obvious enough, and yet...)

Ironically, in the four years I've played in this softball league, no one who's deployed some variant of "it's just a game" has ever conceded the point that's being argued, much less the game. (If it's "just" a game, you wouldn't know it.) Even more painfully, it's always used exclusively where the arguer is pushing for some sort of advantage - to ignore a rule that would penalize them, rather than one that would reward them.

It's like the person in an argument who announces that they'll be the bigger man/woman by abandoning the fight and not having the last word. And, so, manages to grab the last word. I hate that guy.

1 comment:

Erin O'Brien said...

See the movie Beer League with Artie Lange and you will know that it is no joke to many people. :)