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Nonfiction Matters
Inside Nonfiction Matters


It was a rough weekend here in our house — at the crossing point of many binary decisions. Sasha is preparing for his first middle grade midterms; Marina has been reading very carefully through the scope and sequence of our ELA program for those same Middle Years; the NFC and AFC playoffs filled a good part of Sunday, and ALA has been meeting in Dallas. By much too late Sunday night when the Giants defeated the 49ers, Sasha collapsed in sobs (the two teams which lost Sunday — San Francisco and Baltimore — are coached by brothers, he had been desperately rooting for both, or at least one, to make it to the Super Bowl. He’s a Jets fan who cannot forgive the Giants for having beaten his team); Rafi was thrilled to be been allowed to stay up; Marina finished her report and joined us, and I was wrung out.
There is nothing as agonizing as these win/lose moments — games, tests, prizes, judgments. It reminds me of Schroedinger’s Cat — that famous mind-bending thought experiment in Quantum Mechanics. As you may recall, Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle tells us that on the subatomic level — we cannot know both the speed and position of a particle. The more precisely we know, and measure, speed, the less we know position — our very act of measuring has that effect. Schroedinger said, well, what if you had a cat in a sealed room, and there was poison gas that would be released into the room if even one atom of a radioactive substance changed its state (decayed from one form to another, as radioactive particles do). You could not know if the atom had decayed (and thus if the cat were alive or dead) until you looked. Thus, until the act of observation changed the state of the particles, the cat would be both alive and dead — two states superimposed on one another, until looking affirmed one and eliminated the other.
That is what these binary moments feel like: elation and agony superimposed on one another, both true and until only one is true. That is what was so hard on Sasha — both brothers losing left no room for hope, just that double sock in the stomach. He did, though, do well studying, and Marina got her detailed analysis done, and Rafi had the thrill of staying up late and understanding football, and so we all got through it. The cat is alive — though Sasha is refusing to watch the Super Bowl — it is just too sad.


  1. That the Giants won was a true miracle. The right Eli showed for the game and that odd shaped ball bounced just right for Big Blue. I also thought about the brothers and, yes, despite being a longtime Giants follower, wondered what they were feeling and had a sense of lose for them. I know this isn’t great consolation, but we saw four very talented teams battle it out and those that came away winners know it was only a matter of inches that changed the outcome. As for the Super Bowl, I hope Sasha watches. Buffalo wings, chips and dip, and other salty (unhealthy) snacks can ease the pain. Good luck to you and Marina at Midwinter. Jim

  2. Sue Bartle says:

    Sasha’s sensitivity and concern for two brothers is commendable.
    I can appreciate this as I have five brothers and always wish them to succeed but unfortunately life doesn’t always comply with my wishes.

    It reminds me of the often misquoted – It’s not about winning or losing – but how you play the game.
    The real quote by Grantland Rice from his poem “Alumnus Football”
    “For when the One Great Scorer comes
    To write against your name,
    He marks – not that you won or lost –
    But how you played the Game.”

    Sasha should take heart that both these brothers coached great games and will be back to try again. It is the art of the competition that we need to admire. As a Buffalo Bills fan (four Super Bowls loses in a row) I have learned to gracefully appreciate this.

    As far as not watching the Super Bowl – well at least watch the commercials!