We Love to be Unhappy

By Pete Robbins

The father of my close law school friend Denise loved Jaguar automobiles. He owned several of them over the years and belonged to a car club. From the way she told it, half of the enjoyment the car owners got out of meeting with one another was to complain about their cars’ quality control issues and mechanical flaws. When Ford bought Jaguar, the problems decreased, but the club had less to talk about. Some members actually seemed less enthused about belonging as their cars ran flawlessly.

I thought about the Jaguar club for the first time in a long time on Sunday morning at the dog park. Every Sunday that I am home I try to take our Australian Shepherd Rooster to a big park about a 25 minute drive from the house where a large group of Aussies congregates. It’s quite comical to see a posse of alpha dog herders all trying to herd each other in a circle. At times it looks like a canine Escher drawing – you can’t tell who is chasing who.

Dog people – and especially owners of the same breed – tend to be outgoing and friendly, and part of the fun of meeting up with this group every week is to compare notes about our dogs’ progress and maturation. The constant refrain is either “Does your dog do that?” or, more likely, “When did your dog stop doing that?” These are high energy dogs who were bred to work, and if you don’t tire them out with a constant string of jobs, they will find other things upon which to expend their energy, and that usually means trouble. Occasionally it means havoc or destruction.

As owners, having common problems over which to commiserate forms a bond that would not exist if our dogs were perfect angels – although there are plenty of times that I’d take a total angel over our ambitious whirling dervish.

This realization of course led me to the world of tournament fishing, where the only thing most fishing fans like more than ripping lips is complaining about the things that the tournament circuits do wrong. “FLW needs to do X,” your average gas station hanger-outer dude will declare. “BASS would be perfect if only they did Y,” says the guy in the tackle store who never buys anything. So my question is, if there was some way to perfect all circuits, to make everyone happy with every move they make, would people be less engaged with the results? Are the complaints, non-constructive as they may be, just signs that we care?