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It's the sort of cautionary tale you would hear on an episode of "Intervention."

It's about somebody who's gotten himself in trouble, but doesn't see that there's a problem. In the process, he's made some old friends angry and concerned.

For the moment, let's not use names. Let's call our subject U.

U was always a good kid, the pride of the school. U had a competitive spirit, frequently besting the other kids in the neighborhood, but always doing it with a friendly smile. Winning felt like a fiesta and made U happier than a kid who landed in a bowl of sugar.

Then, one day, some bigger, richer kids started talking in U's ear. "Come join us," the rich kids said to U, "and you'll have lots of money and become more famous than you ever imagined."

U listened to the rich kids and decided to join their club. The club's badge started showing up on banners all over town, and U was wearing one, too.

At first, U had a great time in the new club. The rich kids even made the clubhouse bigger to accommodate U and invited another new friend from Colorado to be U's playmate.

But within a few months, U noticed that the rich kids weren't always so nice. They were as competitive as U ever was, and they didn't always smile so much when they beat U at their favorite game.

In the meantime, U started ignoring the friends from the old neighborhood.

One friend — we'll call this subject Y — had gone off to form a one-member club, and U didn't think it was important to play with Y as much anymore, even though they had played together for as far back as either of them could remember.

Another friend, whom we'll call A, felt hurt when U decided not to come play at A's house anymore. U tried to soften the blow, offering A an expensive present to make up for it, but that didn't make A feel any better.

Through all this, U acted spoiled and a little arrogant, and everybody started to notice. Things got so bad that the next time U and A played together, a lot of people — even old friends who remembered U from the neighborhood days — had to smile a bit when A defeated U in a close game that wasn't decided until the very end.

But U still didn't get it. U, still acting stuck up, wondered how it could be that A — who wasn't even in U's new rich-kids club — could beat U in their favorite game.

Now, U is feeling a little sad. U is going to play with Y this week, but that doesn't seem like it's going to be as much fun as it used to be. Back in the day, the thought of U and Y playing made everybody in the neighborhood excited, but now it feels like the old playmates don't have as much in common any more. (For one thing, Y has started experimenting with weird substances, like soda pop, but that's a story for another day.)

Meanwhile, U also is thinking about the rich kids that U would be playing with when the weather gets cooler. U thought that by playing in their club, the rich kids would respect U more — but that hasn't happened yet. The rich kids, especially the tough ones from California, still look down their noses at U.

It's not too late to help U, but first U has to want to be helped.

U can still hang out with the rich kids, and over time U may be able to play as hard as those snooty Californians or even those fast kids from Oregon who wear the funny clothes.

But U should remember where it all started and remember the kids from the old neighborhood. Y and A are still trusty playmates, and remembering that would make U a better friend — and a real winner.

Sean P. Means writes The Cricket in daily blog form at Email him at Follow him on Twitter @moviecricket or on Facebook at

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