Making Decisions and Chalking up for a Scratch

"The Hustler" by Arthur Sarnoff (1912-2000)
“The Hustler” by Arthur Sarnoff (1912-2000)

It’s been a while since I’ve been feeling the itch to write, instead opting to lean back against my streetlight and watch the world outside the light it casts. That isn’t to say I haven’t had much to say; in fact, I feel I have too much to say but don’t really care to share it. No, I’ve just been observing life around me, watching the Seven at the Golden Shovel, and wondering who will notice that the shots we need are the ones hanging in the pocket  and not  dog the nines.

It seems that instead of making decisions people are merely selecting options, and the options are often poorly chosen.  Those in place who are responsible for decision-making are far too concerned with how good they will look while choosing rather than how the choices will work for the common good. And how has this happened? Why have we fallen into a place where instead of making hard decisions we would rather make things hard?

When playing pool, a player “dogs the nine” when he or she has an easy shot on the nine (or any shot, really) but misses it due to pressure. Far too often, there will be a simple decision that should have been made but is completely fouled up because the person in charge folds under the pressure. This could be anything from a high-stakes political debate to a school administrator who gives in to parental pressure and doesn’t suspend a deserving student. These should be simple things that should be simply solved but we have created a pattern of complicating simple things in our culture that has paralyzed authority into inaction. Because of this, when some sort of authority does act one of two things will happen: either that decision-maker will over-react or the decision-maker will under-react. The community will then react accordingly.

For example, when this recent school year ended a local school high school came under fire for photoshopping some yearbook pictures.  According to the students with photoshopped pictures, it was to make them look more “modest” and it was done inconsistently.  Predictably, the media launched on this story and criticized the administration for “slut-shaming” and so forth. Frankly, media and community dogged the nine on this one. When school pictures were taken at this school, students were notified that the district’s dress code would be enforced during yearbook editing and all students are notified of the district’s dress code at registration.  This particular school district has a well-defined dress code that is quite reasonable. Students had notification that this was a possibility; they just didn’t realize that they would be the ones caught.

This brings me to another pool-playing term — “hanging in the pocket”.  When a ball is hanging in the pocket it means that ball is sitting right in front of, obviously, the pocket. An easy shot. There should be no reason why a person should miss that shot — unless the player dogs the nine. This same high school dogged the nine that was hanging in the pocket during this yearbook fiasco because all the administration had to do was notify the students who were about to have their photoshopped photos printed in the yearbook and allow them the option of having an alternate photograph taken with a digital camera. What a simple way to identify a ball hanging in the pocket and avoid dogging the nine. And yet, they didn’t. And yet, instead hanging in the pocket and recognizing that this was not an issue of “slut-shaming” or forcing modesty and only simple oversight, media and community dogged the nine by making this a larger issue than what it really was.

So why do we do this? I can’t think of one problem that has been solved by this cycle we have created. Instead all we have done is create a culture in which we accomplish nothing by trying to solve everything by shouting directions that go nowhere and then we end up not solving anything.

It doesn’t matter how the game racks up if we scratch on the break.

C. Streetlights
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Published by C. Streetlights

I wrote and illustrated my first bestseller, "The Lovely Unicorn" in the second grade and I've been terrified of success ever since. Published by ShadowTeamsNYC and represented by Lisa Hagen Books