Posted tagged ‘sportsmanship’

The Rightness of The Moment, Not The Headline

November 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                November 5, 2017

                          

When Coach Jim Franklin ran like a madman towards the end zone at the end of his Penn State football team’s heartbreaking loss at Michigan State yesterday I, like most people who saw him sprinting, thought he was going to chastise the officials for some perceived blunder. When it turned out he was sprinting to catch some of his players who were heading to the locker room without shaking hands with the Spartan players it was reassuring that in the intensity of the contest someone whose job depends on winning still had the right perspective.

Even though the cameras caught his mad dash it was not something that had been orchestrated. It was simply the right thing to do, the correct decision made at a moment’s notice. The integrity of the decision was amplified considering the game had been interrupted by a weather delay of almost three and a half hours.

How many of us would have lost our cool if we had to wait to catch a delayed flight for three and a half hours? Raise your hand! Both of mine are pointing skyward.

There seem to be a lot of people who are willing to preach what is right in the moment when the cameras are rolling, or the press has a microphone stuck in front of their face, but the list gets a lot shorter of people who are willing to do the right thing in the heat of the moment.

Recently my wife, Carol, was at a high school volleyball game. Liberty High School was playing one of their arch rivals at the opponent’s gym. She heard and observed some actions- or, perhaps inactions- of a group of students of the host school. One young man had made a comment to one of the Liberty players on the court that had explicit sexual connotations to it. The group he was a part of included several young ladies. What Carol noticed was that not one of the female students was willing to do what was right at that moment. No one was willing to confront the young man with inappropriateness of his comment.

Yes, they were just high school students! High school students who have had it drilled into them in recent years about what sexual harassment and bullying is. Sometimes, however, all the knowledge in the world won’t cause someone to do what is right in the moment. Embarrassing someone causes cheap laughter and integrity never seeks to humiliate. It is too respectful for that.

Each one of us gets faced with a multiple of decisions that have two or more solutions. Many of those decisions also have a dividing line. Think a volleyball court with one side being right and the other side wrong. There are clear indications as to which side the ball- the decided on response- is on. None of us make all the right decisions, but over the course of a day, a week, a month it becomes clear who are the people who have integrity and who aren’t. Who are the ones who understand the right decision, the right thing to say, at that moment; and who are the ones who lack character and moral substance.

As a pastor I wish I could say that Christians have it all together, but, alas, I’ve met and seen too many people who confess to following Christ and have no integrity- people who stomp off towards the locker room when they don’t get their way.

Jim Franklin gets paid a lot of money to make right decisions, but they usually have to do with deciding when it’s a good time to blitz the quarterback or do a fake punt. His sprint to the end zone yesterday wasn’t what Penn State had in mind when they paid him to make the right decisions, and yet it was probably the best right decision he made all day.

The Sinful Nature of Tee Ball Parents

July 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 12, 2017

                          

I was at my granddaughter’s t-ball game last night. It was a calm event, appropriately applauded by parents and grandparents alike. The game’s highlight was when the first baseman actually caught the ball that was thrown to him. Other than that it was a time of watching six year olds more interested in the plane flying overhead than the baseball that just rolled by them on the ground, baseball caps turned backwards, and kids carrying mitts about half their height. Six year old t-ball is meant to be about learning, having fun, and getting the post-game snack. A kid can belt four home runs in the game, but if he misses the post-game snack he will go home totally devastated.

Then there are the other games! In Cortez, Colorado several parents got into a fight at a t-ball game. Video circulated from the event showing women going after one another, profanity thrown around like candy, and, ultimately, the police called with one parent cited! If this was an isolated situation we could just assign it to “Ripley’s Believe It or Not”, but unfortunately it isn’t just a blip on the screen. It happens quite often.

One team in my granddaughter’s age group has parents who follow the attitude of their children’s coach…a bit arrogant and cheering that is a bit over the top. One player who fell and went to the bench crying…as any six year old well-adjusted child would…was reprimanded by the coach who yelled at him that he had two minutes to get his act together.

Being a basketball official for sixteen years I remember having a mom removed from a sixth grade boy’s club game. She had been sitting along the baseline yelling to her son, “Kill him! Kill him!” When I had her removed she protested that she had paid to get in.

What is it about their son and daughter’s athletic contests that make parents become prime examples of human depravity? It seems to be the fertile ground from which their sinful nature grows like a weed. The Apostle Paul had it right when he wrote to the people of Galatia that “…the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.” (Galatians 5:17)

     He goes on to clarify what the acts of the sinful nature are, and while not specifically naming “being a parent at a youth sporting event” he does list associated acts like “hatred, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, and dissensions.” Ahhh…yes, sounds like some of the ingredients of some sideline parents I’ve seen.

Last summer twenty adults got into a fight during a four and five year old tee ball game in Florida over a disputed call of the umpire’s. National youth sports organizations get calls weekly about parents or coaches…or both…who have gotten into fights at games.

Years ago we had a men’s team play in a church basketball league. I used to say that the teams would pray together before the game and pray together after the game…and play like we were demon-possessed during the game!

Let’s face it! Sports bring out the best in us…and the worst in us! Parents have a hard time keeping things in perspective. Winning is worshiped. Having character is devalued. It is no longer about enjoying the sport, it’s about annihilating the competition. Common sense has exited the ball park!

Some leagues have toyed with not allowing parents to attend. Others have gone to the extreme of not allowing parents to say anything, even cheering. Associations of sports officials are seeing decreasing numbers of referees. One of the main reasons given is the behavior of parents!

Going back to Paul and his instruction to the Galatians he contrasts what the “fruit of the Spirit” are with the previously mentioned acts of the sinful nature. That is, what are the evidences of someone being directed by the Spirit of God, as opposed to “that other me” that seems to emerge form time to time. In his list he mentions things like “joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Just an idea! They may not get it, but it’s an idea! What if parents start receiving a list of positive elements, like those just mentioned; and another list of unacceptable behaviors and attitudes. Perhaps some of them would recognize the spiritual connection…and file a law suit, citing religious discrimination! But maybe, just maybe, some of them would have their dusty light bulbs click on that would tell them how things should be, and one playing field intended to be a place of play would regain some of its purpose.

 

The Elevation of Cheap Shots

September 7, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   September 7, 2015

                                        

This past weekend a high school football official was blind-sided by one player and then speared by another during a game in Texas. Video footage of the incident quickly hit social media. A few moments before that two other players on the same team had been ejected. An investigation has been started.

Accusations began flying about what the official had done to precipitate such an attack, as if it made the actions justified. From the video it is apparent that the backsode collision was not an “oops” moment. In fact, it looks like the two players planned the attack and carried it out to perfection.

A few years ago at a high school basketball game in our area a parent bit one of the officials as he was leaving the court. Recently a soccer official of a men’s recreation league game…let me say that again…a men’s recreation league game, was killed as a result of being attacked a over-the-hill soccer player.

Having refereed high school basketball for thirteen years I know that the people in stripes don’t do it for the money. In our area a varsity game official gets $52. That $52 has been preceded by meetings, referee camps, clinics, rules meetings, and area meetings. Put all that together and it comes to a little less than minimum wage.

Some people argue that where there is competition there inevitably will be high emotions and intense reactions. Once again we rack up the list of excuses for people to act like lunatics.

I play hoop still, at sixty-one…and a half…at the local YMCA at 6:00 in the morning. Almost all of us have to go to work afterwards, but there have been a few guys who think it is the difference between life and death.

There’s been a few guys who have been ushered out of the gym. Our sarcastic sides tell those who have lost their grip on reality that there is are calls for them in the lobby from the Nuggets front office.

But then there are those who play for the fun of it, for the recreation, and laughter. Most of us know that we are has-beens or never-was’s…and we are okay with that. We go home to families who live us despite our lack of having a left hand and being a step slow on defense.

People need to be more like Mayberry, pretend that Floyd has a basketball court behind his barber shop or football field across the street.

When two high school players plan a team attack against a man with a whistle looking the other way it’s time to step back and ask ourselves what is going on?

A Passion for Good Sportsmanship

February 14, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        February 14, 2013

 

 

I was at the Air Force Academy basketball game last night where they hosted UNLV. This is my second year being a season ticket holder for Falcon home games, and I love it! Getting season tickets is a little easier here than it is for Duke, Kansas, Michigan State, or North Carolina. A year ago when I went to get them about two weeks before the season opener I was surprised to discover that our seats are in the fourth row in between the Air Force bench and the scorer’s table. Evidently there aren’t that many season ticket holders.

This year the Falcons are gathering more and more fans since they are doing well. Let me tell you, there were a lot of open seats around us for the Western State and Regis games back in November, than there are now.

Last night as Air Force pulled off a great win against the Runnin’ Rebels I was taken back by the obnoxious comments by some of the fans around me. Why do grown adults think that it’s okay to scream “You suck!” at players visiting from another university. When an official makes a call that goes against the home team, even if it is suspect, why should people express their rage with such hate and venom? It wasn’t cadets that were screaming obscenities, but it was fans of an institution that raises the call of integrity, honor, and service.

And the thing is it seems to be getting worse! At a recent high school game where the team I help coach was getting beat pretty bad, a couple of adults were screaming in the otherwise quiet gym as one of our players was shooting free throws. Not students, mind you! Adults! I’m even assuming they were parents, but can not confirm that. All I know for sure, is that it was two middle-aged women sitting in the top row cat-calling. Their team was up by 30! Our team was feeling deflated enough as it was, but to have two middle-aged women cat-calling…sad!

I don’t understand schools raising money to fight cancer by having students wear pink, or coaches wear tennis shoes, promote it with announcements…and then when the game starts hurl expletives at players and officials.

There seems to be a growing passion for obnoxiousness in sports. And it isn’t restricted to spectators by any means. Players and coaches have often signed on to act like jerks as well. The number of technical fouls for players taunting has risen substantially.

There needs to be a passion for good sportsmanship. It needs to grab hold of our athletic commitment and fuel the approach to the game.

The integrity of the game and the fun of simply playing the game must trump any desire to humiliate the opponent.

The passion for good sportsmanship must be one of the foundational principles for any competitive situation. It must be a non-negotiable!

Recently I had a situation where of my players had a momentary heated encounter with a player from the other team. I used it as a teachable moment to express my belief that our attitude and actions must not be compromised simply because of differing attitudes and actions of others.

Spiritually speaking, my commitment to Jesus does not get thrown into the backseat simply because I encounter a situation where our culture says it is appropriate to do what suits me. My commitment stays as the main thing.

As a Christian who coaches I understand that if I compromise my principles it communicates to my players that its okay for them to compromise theirs as well.

Bottom line, a passion for good sportsmanship must be rooted within us. Sadly, it is becoming so unusual these days that I think more and more people don’t know what it is or what it looks like.