Between the Rows: It’s Not Fair!

Published online: Feb 27, 2020 Between the Rows Tyrell Marchant, Editor
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This column appears in the March 2020 issue of Potato Grower.

It just didn’t make any sense. This was supposed to be their time. My time. Now, it appeared, all the fervor, all the love, all the faith would be for naught.

Just a minute ago, I had been jumping around in unbridled, adolescent jubilation in front of the TV. Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals was on, and with 42 seconds left on the clock, the Utah Jazz’s Karl Malone had fed John Stockton for a wide-open three-pointer to break a tie with the Chicago Bulls.

It took Jordan less than five seconds to cut that lead from three to one.

With the Jazz still nursing a one-point lead, Malone got the ball in his pet spot on the left block. But Michael friggin’ Jordan…with 21 seconds to go, he snuck in from behind, double-teamed Malone, and stole the ball. Even as a hopeful, faithful 10-year-old Jazz devotee and ardent anti-Jordanite, I already knew exactly what was about to unfold. Nothing at that point in history was more inevitable than Michael Jordan doing something amazing to win a basketball game. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened. If you don’t already know exactly how those last 21 seconds played out, feel free to YouTube it. This is getting too painful for me. Suffice it to say that any sense of triumph I may have been feeling dissipated rather quickly.

Since before I was born, the Jazz had been doing things the right way, building around their two homegrown stars and tough-as-nails coach, guys who almost never sat out a game, who were tailor-made to live and thrive in the relative anonymity of the Intermountain West. They deserved to win at least one championship.

It wasn’t fair that Malone picked that exact moment to choke. It wasn’t fair that Jordan’s push-off to get open for that final jumper wasn’t called. It wasn’t fair that the Bulls had already won five of the last seven titles, even poaching fans from my own fourth-grade class in southern Idaho, a mere three hours from the Jazz’s home arena in Salt Lake. Most of all—and this was the hardest to admit—it wasn’t fair that Michael Jordan was just flat-out better than my guys. Not fair at all.

It may not seem like it, but I really have moved on from the bitter disappointment of the ’98 Finals. And over the years, as any semi-functioning adult human must, I’ve come to accept the fact that life simply isn’t always fair. In fact, more often than not, it’s pretty darn unfair. Whether you’re 8 years old in Grenora, N.D., or 88 and retired in Boca, even the most ordinary day is filled with catch-22s, ethical paradoxes, unanswerable questions, and people who are just better at stuff than you are.

As any semi-functioning adult human must, I’ve come to accept the fact that life simply isn’t always fair.

Maybe it’s not fair to Bill and Heidi that none of their kids are interested in coming back and taking over the farm—the farm so carefully structured to support the family for generations. But it also wouldn’t be fair of Bill and Heidi to guilt those kids out of whatever their own hopes and dreams may be.

Maybe it’s not fair that college tuition is so expensive now that almost no four-year degree will ever pay for itself. But it’s also not fair to expect someone else to pay off loans you probably never should’ve taken out.

Maybe it’s not fair that one generation of teenagers spent their summers moving hand lines and setting siphon tubes, and another only has to learn how to push the right button on their phone.

Maybe it’s not fair for a consumer base to demand that its producers increase efficiencies and decrease their impact on the environment, all while decrying the evils of genetic modification and economies of scale.

When Thomas Jefferson wrote “that all men are created equal,” he certainly didn’t mean that all men are the same. (Few in history, for example, could be deemed Jefferson’s intellectual equal.) He didn’t mean that the poor man’s child was entitled to a share of the rich man’s inheritance. He certainly didn’t mean that “Governments are instituted among Men” so that everyone would get an equal slice of every pie—that everything would always be “fair.”

You see, even when we do our best to ensure fairness, we of necessity focus on unfairness. And that makes it tough to see the blessings right in front of us—the indicators of how things might be unfair in our favor. Blessings like the smell of freshly plowed topsoil. Or the unobstructed view from the front porch of the sunrise over the mountains. Or a home that encompasses a couple hundred acres your granddad’s granddad’s homesteaded. Or 18 years of John Stockton and Karl Malone.

Nope, life isn’t always fair.

Thank heaven for that.