MOVING TARGETS OCTOBER 30, 2010
I Hear America Whining? Zip It, Pal
By JOE QUEENAN
In a thrilling move that could change the face of sport in this country, the National Basketball Association has instituted a ban on whining. If a player whines about a foul call, either by rolling his eyes or punching the air or waving his arms in utter disbelief or making any theatrical gesture that seems to belittle the official, he will immediately be slapped with a technical foul.
Should he protest that punishment, or whine about a different call later in the contest, he will be hit with a second technical foul and thrown out of the game. What’s more, if a teammate whines about the call that the original player whined about, he too will be given a technical foul, presumably for collusive tetchiness. The no-whining ban even includes whining in a foreign language, as the New York Knicks’ Timofey Mozgov found out when he engaged in proscribed Slavic whining during a recent game against the Boston Celtics, statistically speaking the whiniest team in the league. The object of the exercise is twofold: to increase respect for officials, and to put an end to the epidemic of histrionic whining that has plagued the league for years.
Wouldn’t it be nice if American society as a whole immediately instituted an across-the-board no-whining rule?
Can’t retire as early as you planned to because your 401(k) got obliterated by the stock-market crash? Don’t whine about it; nobody else can retire, either. Financially underwater after the housing market in Southern California cratered? Stow the tears; nobody told you to take out three mortgages on your first house so you could buy two more.
Can’t seem to fit into those extra-roomy 44-longs you wore to that Iron Maiden reunion last year? Just for a change, stop stuffing your pie hole with jumbo-sized Twinkies, you stegosaurian lardbutt, you.
By spreading certain items on bellyaching far and wide, the media bears special responsibility for aiding and abetting this national contagion. Some “whooshing” wind turbines making it hard for you to sleep in rural Massachusetts? Try living right next to the subway across the street from a nightclub in a housing project in North Philly. Upset because developers are building garish McMansions right next to your well-appointed colonial in Sausalito? Tell it to people living next to a garish crack house in southeast Washington. Moaning and groaning because you spent $150,000 on law school and now can’t find a job? Boo-hoo, sweetums; nobody told you to go to law school, least of all your parents, the ones you’re going to stick with the $150,000 bill.
In all of these cases, an overarching rule applies: Get yourself a real problem.
Whining has become such an accepted mode of behavior—perhaps even a lifestyle—in American society that the instinctive reaction to any problem, great or small, is to whine. A more productive policy would be to size yourself up in the mirror, take your medicine and shut your yap. Upset because reviewers trashed your book or made fun of your movie or ridiculed your cataleptic acting style? Don’t whine about it; try learning how to write or act or sing.
Furious that your company lost 90% of its value overnight? Don’t whine about nefarious short-sellers; sure, they’re nefarious, but they’re not the ones who told you to go public with a Mafia-backed company that makes defective 3-D solar-powered prosthetic noses. Broken-hearted because you got voted off “Celebrity Apprentice” or “Dancing With the Stars”? Put a lid on the tear ducts, Baby Blue, the public has other things to worry about.
Finally, if your party just got massacred in the midterm elections, don’t grumble and pout and bitch and moan about negative advertising or the incompetence of the media or the opposition playing dirty or the Supreme Court denying you a level playing field. Get up from the canvas, dust yourself off, and come out swinging next time. Leave the whining to the guys in the NBA. After all, they’re the pros.
Printed in The Wall Street Journal, page C11
Copyright 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. Distribution and use of this material are governed by our Subscriber Agreement and by copyright law. For non-personal use or to order multiple copies, please contact Dow Jones Reprints at 1-800-843-0008 or visit