The search for blame chokes us

By Roger Grossman
News Now Warsaw

There are a lot of things wrong with the world we live in. Only a fool, or a politician, would claim to be able to fix them all. 

I don’t think I am either, but there is one thing I would like to try to tackle. It won’t change all at once, and it would be foolish of me to think I can cure the whole world of it. 


We must blame someone for every single thing that goes just the slightest bit wrong. When the bagger at the grocery store puts the pork chops on top of the bread. When the neighbor’s leaves end up in your yard. When the promotion goes to the other person. 

Of course, in sports, where the whole point is to produce winners and losers, someone has to take the blame when your favorite team doesn’t win. Someone has to be responsible for the failure. 

They do … don’t they?

No. No, they don’t. 

We’re not talking about a coach or a player on a team analyzing with film study or other means why they are coming up short. Teams do that every day in most sports at most levels, and moderately skilled coaches can take a negative moment and turn it into a learning moment. 

Winston Churchill famously said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Albert Einstein is widely credited with saying, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.”

We should all seek to be better—better husbands and wives, better moms and dads, better bosses and employees, better neighbors and friends. 

But too many of us now refuse to begin the search for what went wrong within the framework from which we operate. 

A boys’ basketball team’s run through their postseason tournament ends before they had hoped or expected. The janitors aren’t even done sweeping the popcorn off the floor before various opinions are born in the minds of parents and fans and soon begin to percolate in their inner circle. 

A senior baseball player runs out to his position at second base for the first game of the season. Mom is cheering as he takes the field, but dad just shakes his head. In his mind, he should have been a pitcher and played shortstop. His little league coach never gave him a chance to pitch. 

A volleyball player who will be in eighth grade won’t come out of her room. She just got a crushing phone call that she will be on a lower-level spring volleyball club team than she thought she should be. Now she doesn’t know if she wants to keep playing the sport or not. 

These are scenarios that play out this time of year all over the place. Don’t think it happens? Ask. It’s real. 

So here is where this goes sideways. 

The conversation around the dinner table or in the van or wherever is an open gripes session, led by at least one parent, in which we bemoan the leadership for misusing and undervaluing their family member. Phrases often heard in those sessions include “if they would have had you in when the other team won the game it would have been different”, “I don’t understand what that coach was thinking”, and “don’t worry, it wasn’t your fault”. 

In those moments, what we are teaching our kids is how to play the blame game. 

When I talk to kids about the 3 filters to put their social media posts through before they send them, you really could put all interactions through those same tests. 

The first one is “Is there a genuine problem, and does this help solve it?”

It doesn’t.

We all want our kids to be successful. We all want our teams to win and we want our kids to be a big part of why they were successful. 

But it just can’t be like that for everyone. Not everyone can be a star. Not everyone can be the center of attention. Teams win because they have role players willing to pay the price and do the little things required to succeed. I am talking about bunting, playing on special teams, being the center fielder but not batting. 

Kids who do those things tend to grow up to be better spouses, parents, employees and role models. They understand what the cost of being successful is, and they are more likely to share the importance of that in their adult lives.  

Not everyone accepts that, and that’s ok. 

But the life those kids are headed for is life as a “taker” and not as a “giver”.

And one is just better than the other.