Interrupting the disorder

Mac McPhail Contributing columnist

March 9, 2014

Have you ever heard about the second law of thermodynamics? (Until recently, I didn’t know there was a first one.) The law states that disorder increases over time unless it is interrupted. While this law applies specifically to physics and science, it also can apply to life, in general. An example is the last five minutes of a 9 and 10 year old basketball game with the Clinton Recreation Department. If you went to any of them this year you know what I’m talking about.

I’ve just finished up another year officiating basketball for the Clinton Rec. Dept., primarily working the 9 and 10 year old league. At that age, the kids are really starting to develop basketball skills, and I saw a lot of improvement in their game as the season progressed. But most of them still haven’t mastered ball handling skills. During the games, we officials make a lot of calls. But we know if we call it too close, the game wouldn’t be fun for anyone. So our goal is to be consistent, keep the game under control, and let the kids have fun.

Keeping the game under control when you are dealing with 9 and 10 year olds can be difficult. Especially when you add screaming parents and fans in the stands, along with the vocal coaches on the sidelines. League rules only allow two defenders outside the three point shot line on the court, and those two defenders can only guard inside the half court line. This slows down the pace of the game and helps keep the ball players under control.

This all changes during the last five minutes of the game, when full court defense and fast breaks are allowed. If there was a close game, (and it seemed like most of them were) and you add the screaming parents, the yelling coaches, the clock running down, and the excited, sometimes out of control kids, the second law of thermodynamics kicked in. Disorder was definitely increasing over time. It was our jobs as referees to try to interrupt that disorder, keep the game under control until the final horn blew.

I enjoyed working with the young players this year. They are good kids and fun to be around. (I know, you think I might think differently if I had them around the house all the time.) But I wonder what their world will be like when they become adults. What will it be like twenty years from now, when they are thirty years old?

Like the second law of thermodynamics, it looks like disorder is increasing, but it is not being interrupted. In basketball, there is a rulebook, and everyone on the court plays by the same rules. But what if the individual players made up their own rules as the game was being played, inorder to suit their own needs? The game wouldn’t be a game anymore. Coach K at Duke and Ol’ Roy at UNC may argue with the referees, but they know basketball wouldn’t be much of a game (and they wouldn’t make their million dollar salaries) without them and the rulebook.

There is apparently no one set of rules in society anymore. Everyone determines their own rules in a way that suit and please themselves. And those individual rules and standards can change according to time, place, feelings, wants, or need. It’s called “situational ethics.” And slowly the concept of right and wrong fades away and disorder increases, as there is no one standard to interrupt it.

This increasing disorder is also showing itself in economics and those young ballplayers will probably be seeing its results in their finances when they become adults. The $17.3 trillion national debt is continuing to grow larger everyday. Politicians know that, while the American public expresses concern about the debt and its impact on the next generation, no one really wants a cut in government spending, if it affects them personally. Are you actually going to vote for someone who wants to cut your Medicare, farm subsidy, your favorite tax break, etc., inorder to lessen the financial burden on the next generation? So any possible real plan for debt reduction is once again delayed. Well, at least, until after the mid-term elections.

So the cultural and economic disorder will continue to grow because we have been unwilling to interrupt, stop and contain it. It’s the second law of thermodynamics at work. But maybe the next generation will. Those young ballplayers running up and down the court this season are pretty sharp kids. It might just be some of those same young ballplayers leading the way. I just hope they are not too bitter toward our generation for the mess it looks like we’re leaving them.