“B-37,” one of the moms in my son Eli’s third grade class called out.
“Bingo!” Yelled Samantha. I enjoyed watching the victorious young lady’s glee as she celebrated her triumph.
“N-11,” the mom loudly announced over the myriad pronouncements of joy and despair by the remaining players.
“Perhaps she doesn’t know how to play this game,” I thought to myself.
“G-7,” she continued calling.
“Bingo!” Yelled Taylor. There were more “ahs” and “darns” from the ensemble.
“O-63,” she went on.
She must be on auto-pilot, I worried. Maybe being the Valentine Bingo caller was too taxing an enterprise for her. I decided to leave my post at the bagel and cream cheese station to see if I might be of assistance to her.
Quietly I whispered, “Someone’s already won.”
“N-11,” she proclaimed as if she hadn’t even heard me.
“There’s already a winner,” I spoke out with conviction.
She looked at me askance. “Everyone has to win,” she stated matter-of-factly. “We can’t stop until every child gets Bingo and wins a prize.”
At first, I thought she was joking. I mean I’m well aware of eternal T-Ball ties and even-Steven itty-bitty basketball games. But even in 3rd grade Bingo we aren’t allowed to have winners and losers?
I returned to my bagel station dejected and disillusioned. This is what’s wrong with the world today. We insist on perpetuating a ridiculous myth of equality when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.
In Bingo, someone wins. This also implies the converse. Someone, (usually several someones), lose. It’s a game! That’s the whole point. One person gets the lucky numbers first. That’s why it’s fun. It’s not skill. It’s not personal will or sheer determination that dictate the outcome here. It’s a silly game of luck. Why are we shielding our youth from this reality?
No Junior, you will not always win. Life is about losing some times. It’s about learning resiliency, bouncing back, accepting defeat and fighting to win the next time around.
Instead we are raising lazy, pathetic people who expect prizes for failure and unlimited chances to win. That’s not how life works. Why are we doing this?
Later that night when we were sitting around the table I asked Eli, a fiercely competitive child, if he noticed anything unusual about Bingo. “It was really fun,” he concluded. “But what do you mean by unusual?”
“Well, who won?” I inquired.
“Nobody,” he answered plainly.
“But I kept hearing kids yell ‘Bingo’,” I asserted. amazed that he had missed something so obvious.
“But we were playing ‘Black-Out’ Bingo, mom” he clarified, “You know, where you have to fill in the whole card before you win?”
“Ah ha,” I smiled. “So nobody really won? That’s interesting.”
“Why mom?” he questioned, “Tell me why you’re asking.”
“Just curious,” I replied, unsure if I should reveal the truth or not. Maybe it’s better this way, with him believing in the illusive golden ring that remains always a bit out of reach.
“But everyone got a prize,” I just couldn’t leave it alone.
“Yeah mom,” he laughed to himself, “Everyone always gets a prize. That’s just how they do it these days. But don’t worry, I know that nobody really won. They just don’t want to hurt the kids’ feelings. I think it may have to do with law suits or something.”
I shook my head and giggled. “Yeah,” I said, “You’re probably right.”
So while most kids walked away feeling like winners, my competitive junkie filled in the blanks a little differently. I guess competition really is in the eye of the beholder.