What happened to “Fair & Square” ?

May15/ 2000

Remember the term Fair & Square?  I’m not sure of the origin of the phrase –  an adaptation of a Visigoth oath … an Amish prayer ?   I’ve never heard Kid say the phrase.  When I was a kid we said it a lot.  It was usually said to and about someone who had bested you in some competition –

Well, you beat me  fair & square  so you get my baseball card collection and my Green Hornet decoder ring.  I want a rematch.”

The competition could have been thumb wrestling, marbles, naming the twelve tribes of Israel, or running for treasurer of the sophomore class.  Later in life it might be making a sale or getting that promotion to the Richmond office or the hand in marriage of the lovely Tricia.  When a competition was decided the winner was adjudged to have “won it fair & square”.

It’s 2010.  I haven’t heard “fair & square” this millenium and probably well back in that prior century.  Along with “23 skiddo” and “razzamatazz”.

Is the demise of the use of the term because:

•    The winner of anything nowadays ALWAYS cheats.
•    Can we no longer graciously accept defeat in even the most meaningless of competitions?

That answer depends upon one’s perspective.  If you are adjudged to have bested me, then certainly the first phrase applies.  If I best you then you are incapable of accepting that reality ergo the second phrase.

Duke under Mike Krzyzewski has accumulated a bushel of national championships.  The odds that not a single one was won “fairly & squarely” is a statistical anomaly of epic degree.  A bitterly disconsolate UNCer accused Duke

…not A SINGLE ONE was won “fair & square”?

of a litany of dastardly deeds in that 30+ point butt-whupping last February in Cameron.  If THAT ONE wasn’t “fair & square” ??

Politics, of course, never has a “fair & square” decision.  Truman pulled some flim flam on Dewey.  Wally Mondale is every bit as bitter in defeat as Algore and George McGovern and ol’ Bob Dole.  Even the insipid concession speeches never contain “beat me fair & square”.

What replaced “fair & square” in the modern parlance?  Maybe sorry referees, umpires on the take, biased Supreme Court Judges, or, for NC Staters, simply the name – John Swofford.

As our societal hand basket descends ever lower towards Hades’ sub-basement I wonder – Is the inability to accept a besting a contributing element to our rapid descent?

Not admitting a “fair & square” defeat is akin to the inability to utter the words:

“it was my fault.  I’m sorry and I apologize.”

More people have choked on THOSE WORDS than all the pieces of meat in all the Ruth’s Chris’ on Earth.  Do we need a Heimlich maneuver to get folks to cough up “it was my fault” once in a while ?

Bless her heart, Kid hasn’t said that too often either.

The all-time best line about admitting mistakes came from former N&O publisher Frank Daniels Jr. – “If we admitted all our mistakes it might affect our credibility.” Not admitting them affected your credibility too Frank..

Re: the recent discussion of philanderers.  If possible I avoid philanderers and certainly would never trust them on any matter of importance.  Likewise with people who are unable to say “ya beat me fair & square” and “it’s my fault”.  My contact list is not nearly as large as it once was.

Here’s a fun game:  You see two people in a heated arguement – husband/wife, kids, two guys in a bar, whatever – walk up to’em and say “excuse me but it was my fault. I apologize.”  – Will it stop the arguement?  Probably not, but anyone who sees you do it will think it was quite awesome and will tell others.  Thats how legends grow.

I challenge each one of you to say “ya beat me fair & square” and “it’s my fault” at least once before you die.  E-mail me with a picture of the other person’s stunned facial expression upon hearing you say it.


Congratulations to all our Spanish buddies & babes.  Celebrate your World Cup victory in the fashion you do such things.  In America we use such occasions to destroy other peoples’ property and create general mayhem. But that’s us.

Congratulations to The Netherlanders/Holland/Dutch.  Finishing 2nd in a World Cup is a pretty big deal.  It is GRAND that such a really big sports event does not need “us” to make it really really big.  Whether we ever embrace soccer or not should be of no concern to the rest of the world.  Enjoy Soccer !

I would rather America be known as The Freest Land of Opportunity on Earth. Your countries are virtually bankrupt and being overrun with muslims.  Forgetting that for a few days to celebrate soccer is probably a good thing.

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