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Get Your Own Whistle

December 23, 2012

By JOE SPAULDING   

    A traditional Get Your Own Whistle column usually appears at this time of year delivering our usual assortment of gag gifts and wishes to area friends and acquaintances.
    In reviewing that list, however, it struck me the list includes almost the same people every year and the "gifts" given are usually not understood except to only a few individuals so this year I'm going to deviate a little from the standard script of past years.
    This column will have little to do with officiating and perhaps will have a few more readers. One of my favorite Christmas movies is "It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, and a host of others.  In that movie there was a character named "Mr. Potter" (Lionel Barrymore) who was a crotchety old banker who used and abused people and whose main purpose in life was to make money.
    One of his sayings in the movie is (and I'm paraphrasing here) is when he said "I know most people don't like me, but that's okay because I don't like them either."
    Officials know when they walk onto a court there's a pretty good chance someone may not like them when the game is over. But, we have a job to do and that is to call a game to the best of our ability, to be impartial, and to enforce the rules to the best of our ability.
    Mr. Potter probably wouldn't have been a very good official. While he probably would have loved it when fans would scream at the top of their lungs at him and not cared one hoot about it,  Mr. Potter would not have done well in the handling of disputes, arguments, or other problems that occur on the field or court of play. It would have been his way or the highway.
    I suspect there aren't many among us who are a true Mr. Potter. Most of us, including myself, like to think we have friends who we can care about and in turn would care about us. I was astounded several years when I spent nearly two weeks in the hospital after undergoing one scheduled heart operation and then two days later an emergency heart operation. I received nearly 75 cards of well wishes from people. Some I knew well and some only from a distance.
    People do matter, Mr. Potter. People matter a lot.
    There have been a couple of instances in the past two weeks that have reinforced that notion to me.
    A young man armed with several weapons broke into an elementary school in Connecticut and opened fire on helpless children. Helpless children. Kids no older than six or seven. Kids looking forward to Christmas with their families.  Kids whose grieving family members are having to bury them this week, just days before Christmas.
    Such an atrocity is just unfathomable. How many parents or grandparents held their precious little ones this past week and thanked the Good Lord for the blessing they have. For the parents who lost a child and will never see that smile or hear that laugh again, a significant part of their life is gone.
    Another event that occurred in my family recently has also affected me. My little girl (not little anymore, she's 21, but still my little girl) underwent about seven hours of surgery to correct a spinal defect. A total of 12 vertebrae in her spine were fused together. To see her in pain after the surgery and having her plead with me to do something when there was nothing I could do but hold her hand, well that sorta got to me.
    But, she's alive and the doctors say the operation was successful. For that I am grateful. She will be able to return to work in about three months. Will she be home for Christmas is a question we hope will be yes, but we're still not sure.
    Take time during the Christmas season to let those you care about know how you feel.

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