starlings It’s, like, only the middle of the third quarter but you know the game is already over. It’s the first appearance for the Man team in the Darwinbowl, and they’re up against the veteran Earth team, on Earth’s home turf. Despite that, all the experts thought it would be a blow-out for the Man team. After all, the Man team has God on its side, and has the first ever Survivalball playbook, and for the first half they worked really hard and built up a commanding lead.

But early in the third quarter things start to unravel. The Man team loses control and keeps putting too many players on the field, allowing the Earth team to deploy its deadly Plague defence. The coaches of the Man team start arguing with each other on strategy and soon fights are breaking out on the Man team’s bench. On top of that, every Man advance is nullified by an unnecessary roughness or unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, and soon the Man team is in a deep hole, and they’re feeling hungry and sick.

Watching from the sidelines is agonizing. As a visiting fan, you’ve paid a huge price to see your beloved Man team kick Earth’s butt, but everything is going wrong. Some of your fellow fans have started booing their own team, and some have given up and left the game early. Meanwhile, the dissension among the Man team just gets worse, with the players and coaches all accusing each other of causing the problems, and attacking each other.

Right now the quarterback is insisting on calling all the plays, even though every play he’s called so far has resulted in a big loss, a fumble or an interception. The quarterback wants the dissenting players thrown out of the game, but he can’t get his team-mates to agree, so he picks up the team bench and starts swinging it at anyone who disagrees with him. Meanwhile, the coaches, who were fighting among themselves anyway, have all headed for the showers.

And there’s still more than a quarter of the game to play. But it’s hopeless, and you wish it would just be over. You wish you’d left at half time. Everything that’s happening now is disgraceful, you’re ashamed to be a Man supporter. The referee had explained the critical rules of Survivalball to the novice Man team at the outset, but the arrogant Man team didn’t listen. “If you play to a tie, both teams win. But if you don’t, if you insist on defeating the other team, there’s a good chance both teams will lose.” Those are the strange, unacceptable rules of Survivalball.

The Earth team has always played for the tie. They’ve had the Darwinbowl trophy in their trophy case forever, since the sport was invented. And despite how much they’ve suffered during this one recent game, and the outrageous behaviour of the visiting team, they’re still prepared to work for the tie. The tie that will let both sides win. But the Man team can’t hear them, they’re so busy shouting and fighting with each other. They’re not even paying attention. And slowly the clock is running down…

Inspired by George Bush’s War on Nature and the State of the World.
Illustration of starlings from Linda McLaren’s Headwaters Sketchbook, published in In The Hills magazine

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3 Responses to LOSING THE GAME

  1. I’m not a big fan of sports analogies, but this one is righteous.

  2. Dave Pollard says:

    Thanks. An Internet *high five* to you.

  3. spy for sanity says:

    “If you play to a tie, both teams win. But if you don’t, if you insist on defeating the other team, there’s a good chance both teams will lose.”i really like that; great explanation. this also seems to be how it works when the manteam scrimmages as well, no? we can all (humans) win or we can likely all lose?

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