Earlier this week, I attended a high school basketball game and utterly lost my mind. I was embarrassed, my mother would have been mortified, everyone was looking at me in my head. It was just awful.
Now, I am very well aware of the woeful state of sports officiating. We all think it can’t get worse and then, of course, it does. It’s sort of a disorder where I can’t learn, and that means I am continually surprised. I imagine that that referees/umpires gather after games, heads down, disappointed, wondering if and how they can approach a passable level of competency. But I know some of them personally, and their posture is one of arrogant defiance, so that imagining I do is simply that, a dream with no basis in reality. Maybe they are great men, great dads, husbands, community leaders – in fact, I’d go so far as to say probably they are. They spend so much of their time in high school gyms and fields in service of these student-athletes, and that is no small feat.
It’s a pretty thankless job. Like in most things, we notice the bad and ignore the good. We scream in righteous indignation when the food is cold or the cashier is rude, and otherwise stay silent. In addition, with sports, the officials are dealing with delusional could-have-been’s living vicariously at the top of their lungs. They deserve our respect and kindness.
And in that thankless job, most officials are very, very bad. Both things can be true, and in this case, both things are. I spend most of our time post-game unpacking with my boys excusing the referees/umpires, reminding them they are human beings, how hard the job is and to remember that blame wasn’t helpful in Genesis 3 and it isn’t now.
So why was I crazy the other night? Sometimes bad calls are just bad calls: missed a strike, called a player safe, stepped on an end line, missed a travel. But sometimes, poor officials can lose control and put all of the players in danger of injury. It is no longer wins and losses, the issue is safety. The visiting team wasn’t very skilled so their game plan was much like the ‘80’s Pistons, MMA instead of basketball. I asked for fouls on both teams, tighten everything up, just something, anything, to protect the teams from each other and themselves.
When I wrote that I had lost my mind, that wasn’t entirely accurate. I hadn’t lost control, and certainly not everyone could even hear my comments. But I was embarrassed. Now what to do with that?
In the past, the old tapes would have ran rampant through my head, telling me how ridiculous I am, how I am one of those parents, how I’m a quick-tempered rage monster and I always would be. Those things aren’t true. I’m none of those things. As a teenager, there were holes in my bedroom walls because I didn’t know how to process my fear, hurt, and inadequacy. I am not a teenager anymore, and now I can understand me and my heart. I am not overwhelmed with my own lack of worth anymore. What I am is a work in progress, but what I also am is new. Both of those things can be true, and in this case, both things are. Those old tapes do not apply, they are obsolete. Those statements of identity no longer describe me.
I am grateful. The self-loathing is mostly gone, taking my crippling inadequacy and insecurities with it. The tapes are quieter and quieter, sometimes I can’t even hear them at all. The cool thing about growth is that if we keep our eyes open, there are teachers on every corner, even high school basketball games and incompetent officials to show us how far we’ve come and how far we’ve yet to go.