Almanac Life Lessons: I must not argue with the umpire




Here is the dux of Heidelberg Primary School 1986. (Pic: October 2021).


I’ve been back around the old neighbourhood this past week. Original school building from 1854, when local landscapes of Tom Roberts, Frederick McCubbin and Arthur Streeton were still another 30-odd years off. In my day, prints of Heidelberg school paintings adorned the old corridors.


Good times. Captain of the school cricket team in Grade 6 – had a run of ducks to rival Greg Chappell (“playing well, I just keep getting out”).


One dispute with my teacher led to me writing 50 lines. We were playing a game called Cutter’s Out which was a 360° lord of the flies variation on poison ball. Everyone running around the gym. If the volleyball struck you on the full, you were out. If the ball bounced before it hit you, you were not out. If you caught the ball that was thrown at you, the THROWER was out. Brilliant. I was a gun at that game. Anyway, there were only a few of us left in the game one day, it was the business end, when the ball was thrown at me as I ran down the gym. The ball hit me. To this day, I swear the ball bounced before it hit me, but my Grade 6 teacher called: “David – you’re out!”


Well. I strongly believed I was not out. To this day, injustice and a sense of being wronged remains as a huge personal trigger. And uncharacteristically for me then (and for children generally in the mid 1980s) I argued back. “No way! That bounced!”


That course of action was never going to end well. It was the first and only time I was ordered from the gym. Sent to the classroom to write fifty lines of “I must not argue with the umpire.”


It’s a fair point.


But the ball definitely bounced.




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About David Wilson

David Wilson is a writer, editor, flood forecaster and former school teacher. He writes under the name “E.regnans” at The Footy Almanac and has stories in several books. One of his stories was judged as a finalist in the Tasmanian Writers’ Prize 2021. He shares the care of two daughters and a dog, Pip. He finds playing the guitar a little tricky, but seems to have found a kindred instrument with the ukulele. Favourite tree: Eucalyptus regnans.


  1. Well, if it worked for Bart Simpson…

  2. Loved playing poison ball as a kid. It was a real favourite.
    Nice reminiscence, e.r. Thanks

  3. Surely the,”don’t argue with the umpire” is just an anti-critical thinking, conservative idea to keep the sporting masses under control. Go McEnroe, go probably every Australian cricket captain ever and (this hurts) go Brian Taylor!

  4. Daryl Schramm says

    Oh Mickey. Really? Brian Taylor? The condescending know it all whose words too many believe. Now, I reckon Mark Taylor should have got a mention as a cricket exception. As for McEnroe . . . .
    No harm in learning one of life’s lessons at school David!

  5. OBP interesting and as a experienced maggot always gave more leeway to the kid-player who didn’t argue and all of a sudden disputed a decision I would have been thinking geez wonder if I got that one wrong

  6. Peter Fuller says

    Even though the memory of this injustice obviously still burns 35 years on, perhaps you could draw comfort from the story of the Chairman of the Scottish Rugby Union addressing a players’ dinner the night before an important international:
    “Gentleman, remember tomorrow that the referee will be right; he will especially be right when we all know that he’s wrong.”
    I think of you as impeccably fair and honest, so I don’t doubt that your teacher was in error.

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