I don’t know about you, but one of the most annoying phrases that can come out of my son’s mouth is “It’s not fair.”
“You went to Starbucks when you got groceries?!? It’s not fair!”
“Daddy gets to play Minecraft when I’m in bed?!? It’s not fair!”
“Ellie went to Lincoln’s house when I was at school?!? It’s not fair!”
It ranks right up there with “I’m bored” and “We have nothing to play with.” My usual response is to sigh heavily and then remind him, “Life’s not fair, buddy. Get used to it.”
Last weekend Topher’s eyes were opened to the fact that life really isn’t fair – and that sometimes, it’s the adults who don’t play by the rules.
Topher is in his first year of competitive hockey. Nathan and I weren’t exactly keen for him to play. What if he couldn’t keep up? How would he handle the competitive aspect? He’s so sensitive! Would it be too much for him?
We needn’t have worried.
Okay, so he did cry when he got his first penalty (and his second …) - but he really came into his own this year. His coach called him “Mr. Bodangles” because of his incredible stick handling skills, and Topher nearly made our hearts stop when he scored the overtime winner to send his team to the finals of Minor Hockey Week.
He didn’t hide from the competition, it made him work harder.
In December, Topher had his first brush with an unfair aspect of competition.
He was checked by a player on the other team (which isn't allowed in Novice) resulting in Topher, crumpled on the ice for several agonizing minutes, unable to move. The hit happened behind the play and the referee didn’t see it, so there was no penalty. Topher sat out the rest of the game and ultimately he was fine– but the next day we found out that the other team’s coach had specifically told his team to “go after” Topher (and two other members of his team).
We were disgusted. Coaches, telling kids to go after other kids? They’re seven and eight years old!! Why can’t they just teach them the rules of hockey? The passion of the sport? And good sportsmanship?!?
Nevertheless … we moved past it. Topher learned to keep his head up and his elbows out, and we forgot about the unfair play by that particular team.
Until last weekend.
Topher’s team was in the playoffs – their last game to determine who would move on to the semifinals. They were up 5-4 with less than two minutes to go.
The other team took a penalty.
We thought the game was in the bag! The Warriors would be moving on!
The timekeeper for the opposing team stopped the clock. The referees didn’t notice, even though the stands were going wild.
The opposing team sent an extra skater onto the ice.
Again, the referees didn’t notice, even though the stands were going wild.
The other team scored, resulting in a tied game.
The Warriors were out of the playoffs.
After the game, the timekeeper laughed about it. “I cost them the game!”
My phone didn’t stop buzzing all afternoon. The parents from our team were outraged. Topher’s coach lodged a protest with the league governors, who agreed with him, but who couldn’t do anything about it since the administrative body above them refused to even hear the protest.
“It’s not fair!” was the overwhelming theme of the day. “Our kids worked hard! They deserve to move on! They played hard, they left it all out on the ice!”
But ultimately, there was nothing that could be done.
“It’s not fair!” Topher sniffled, as I tucked him in to bed that night. “They cheated, and they get to move on! That should be us!”
“It’s NOT fair,” I agreed, handing him a Kleenex to wipe his tears. For once, I had nothing else to add.
Life’s not fair – but how do you explain that to a seven-year-old? My head and my heart both ached.
Isaac dealt with unfairness.
Genesis 26 tells the story of how God blessed Isaac. He planted crops and took in a huge harvest and became richer and richer every day. He accumulated flocks and herd and servants – so many that the Philistines began to envy him. They got back at him by throwing dirt and debris into all the wells that his father’s servants had dug back in the days of his father Abraham, clogging up all the wells.
As if that wasn’t bad enough, Isaac was told to leave. “You’ve become far too big for us.”
It wasn’t fair, but he left. He camped in the valley of Gerar and settled down there. He dug again the wells his father Abraham had dug, but which had been clogged up by the Philistines after Abraham’s death.
Then one day, as Isaac’s servants were digging in the valley, they came upon a well of spring water. The shepherds of Gerar argued with Isaac’s shepherds, claiming, “This water is ours.” It wasn’t fair, but Isaac’s servants dug another well and there was a difference over that one also. So Isaac went on from there and dug yet another well. There was no fighting over this one so he named it Rehoboth (Wide-Open Spaces), saying, “Now God has given us plenty of space to spread out in the land.”
Later, Abimelech, the one who had told Isaac to leave, came back to him. Isaac asked him, “Why did you come to me? You hate me; you threw me out of your country.”
Abimelech said, “We’ve realized that God is on your side. We’d like to make a deal between us—a covenant that we maintain friendly relations. We haven’t bothered you in the past; we treated you kindly and let you leave us in peace. So—God’s blessing be with you!”
Isaac laid out a feast and they ate and drank together. Early in the morning they exchanged oaths. Then Isaac said good-bye and they parted as friends. (Genesis 26:1-6, 12-22, 26-31)
Sometimes the best thing to do is prove you care more about others and walk away from the fight.
What happened last weekend stinks. There’s no other way to say it. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t fair, and it should never have happened.
At this level, hockey is supposed to be fun.
The drama of Saturday afternoon took that away from our kids.
It was a horrible way to end the season –
But what a season our kids had!
They finished second in the Confederation Christmas Tournament.
They beat all the odds to make it to the finals of Minor Hockey Week, and earned silver medals.
They finished the season fourth in their division, with only five losses in twenty-three games.
Our starting goalie played almost the entire season in net and got a couple of shutouts. One of our boys rediscovered his passion for hockey. Another boy learned how to bend his knees and keep his legs moving, another learned to pass the puck and make plays, still another player excelled at defense. Each and every Warrior made great strides this season, as both a team and an individual player.
Rumour has it that Hockey Edmonton won’t get any better as our kids move up the levels. There will be competition, there will be politics, and there will be cheating.
I sat down with Topher yesterday and asked him, “Knowing what you do now – knowing what happens in hockey – do you still want to play?”
I honestly expected him to say no, but he grinned his widest, toothiest grin, and said “Of course, Mommy! Even the Oilers get robbed, sometimes.” He shrugged. “It’s not fair, but that’s life!”
That’s life, indeed.