For What It’s Worth

Let’s not make morals, values like officiating

Our morals and values today too often are like basketball officiating—uncertain and variable.

Basketball—college, not pro—can be an exciting, fast-paced game. Any given game can change momentum many times, and your emotions as a fan can soar or plummet rapidly. Despite all this, I am becoming less and less of a basketball fan each year. Especially, I am not a fan of the pro game. What’s exciting about a bunch of one-on-one match-ups being passed off as a game and super egos trash-talking, pounding their chests, or otherwise saying, “Look at me! I’m great!? Though I don’t watch entire games, I do on occasion watch portions of the Thunder games. I am impressed by Kevin Durant’s skill and the fact that he sees no need to run down the court after a basket pounding his chest.

The college game also has too much trash-talking and egotistical displays (today it’s often called exuberance; when I was a youth, it was called poor sportsmanship or being a hotdog), and these are turnoffs for me. The poor free-throw shooting of many college players also dismays me. But the real frustration, the number one reason for my diminishing interest in the game lies in one thing.

Officiating.

I simply cannot understand it. It seems to vary from official to official, from crew to crew, from game to game, and, often, from one half to the next. All too often, I hear analysts and play-by-play announcers, many of them former players or coaches, talk about the need to call a game tighter or comment on how the officials are calling the game tight at the start to set a tone for the game or are calling it differently in the second half than they were in the first half.

What? Where is the logic in this? The equality? The fairness? A rulebook exists to identify what is a foul. To my knowledge, there is not a clause in the rulebook saying that officials may interpret the rules as they wish or vary their interpretations from time to time or from situation to situation.

If something is a foul in one game, it should be in the next one. If it’s a foul in the first half, it’s a foul in the second. Otherwise, there really is not a rule and certainly not equality or fairness.

Particularly illogical are those in the final minute or seconds of a game: “That’s not going to be called a foul now; the officials are going to let them play.” “Let them play, they don’t want the officials determining the outcome of the game.” That’s all hogwash. If it was a foul earlier in the game, it is a foul at the end of the game. And, despite protests to the contrary, that is not allowing the players to determine the outcome of the game, it is the officials determining the outcome. Calling the foul at the end of the game is no more or no less determining the outcome than is calling the foul earlier in the game. Regardless of when a foul or whether a foul is called, it is a factor in determining the outcome.

Can we, as Christians, apply our morals and values in the same manner as officiating a basketball game, adhering strictly to them at times and at other times not adhering as strictly? Do we have the flexibility in adherence to our morals and values as basketball officials do to their interpretation and enforcement of the rules?

Clearly, the manner in which officials call the games affects how the game is played and what its outcome is. Similarly, I think the way in which Christians, and actually non-Christians, adhere to or follow their morals and values affects the way they live their lives and the outcome of those lives. Viewers of basketball games will react to the officiating and the results of the games, and those viewing your life and mine will react to what they see. Will seeing us be steadfast in adhering to our professed morals and values positively influence them? Or, will they be frustrated or negatively impressed by seeing us vary in the way in which we adhere to our morals and values?

What we do with our morals and values is our call.

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