Category Archives: Sports

What NCAA officiating can teach us about life

First and foremost, let me say congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heels for winning
the NCAA national championship in men’s basketball. They were a great team. Also, congratulations to Roy Williams on winning his third title. I have a soft spot for Ol’ Roy. He salvaged my Jayhawks from a potential pitfall back in 1989 when he took over as coach at the University of Kansas. He did a great job and I appreciated all his years of coaching. One of my greatest childhood memories is meeting Roy when I was delivering the Lawrence Journal-World newspaper to the University of Kansas athletic offices. My paper route, which I shared with my sister, was the entire University of Kansas campus.

But the national championship game was horrible.

It was exactly what a basketball game should not be. A plodding spectacle of whistles and blown calls. In a good basketball game you hardly notice the officials; they blend into the contours of the game. In this national championship game you hardly noticed the players; they were hidden behind the noise of the officials.

Meeks out of bounds as he ties-up the ball.

In just the last five minutes the officials assumed a three point shot had been tipped by the defender because it was such a bad shot (they were wrong); they reviewed a garden variety foul and called a phantom flagrant 1; they called a tie-up when one of the players was partially laying out of bounds (and they didn’t review even though the rules would have permitted); they called the ball in play even though a player landed with it out of bounds; and they let a player inbound the ball without ever stepping out of bounds.

My impression is that the officials were trying so hard to make the big calls in the big game that they failed to make the correct calls. They made up calls that were not there and they failed to call the little things that were.

The best officials do not step up their play when they officiate a big game; that is how you let a game get away from you. The best officials treat every game the same. It should not matter if you are officiating middle school B-teams or the NCAA national championship; the game is the same. When you treat one game as special, then you have already lost the ability to officiate it properly.

Now, it’s a lot easier to say that from the comfort of my couch then when you are standing in front of 40,000 people with a whistle around your neck. But it is a universal principal.

We need to treat every moment of every day with the importance it deserves. When we treat some moments as more important than others, then we lose the ability to live life in every moment. Every moment is special; we each have a finite number of them. The best way to make the most of thebig moments, is to approach every moment with same amount of respect. Do not try to make the big call in the big moment of life, try to make the right call in every moment. You won’t always succeed, but when the big moments come, you’ll have a better chance of being great.

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Judges 12 – Including outsiders

The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim. – Judges 12:5-6 (NASB)


The Battle of Lawrence

When I was six years old my family moved within six blocks of Allen Field House on the campus of the University of Kansas. I never really had a chance of being anything but a rabid fan of the Kansas Jayhawks. You can tell a Kansas basketball fan from most other fans. There is a certain amount of pride, which borders on arrogance, which seeps into any discussion of college basketball. We know our history and take pride in the history of the Kansas basketball program. And we hate Missouri. It does not matter that Missouri has left the conference and we no longer play the program to the east, we still despise Missouri. For the historical roots of this rivalry take a moment to read about Quantrill’s raid and the burning of Lawrence.

In college sports we have devised a number of systems to make sure we can separate the strangers rooting for “our” team from the strangers rooting for “their” team. Kansas fans wear blue and red, Missouri fans wear yellow and black. Kansas fans rally around our Jayhawk mascot; Missouri fans rally around their tiger. Kansas fans chant “Rock Chalk” in the closing minutes each home victory; Missouri fans have little experience in celebrating the closing minutes of a home victory. We have developed systems to know who is on our side. Whenever I see a Kansas hat or shirt at the gas station or at work, I stop and make a positive comment to my fellow Jayhawk fan.

People are very good at spotting outsiders. There is something in our brains which cause us to make a nearly instantaneous decision that a person is “one of us” or “one of them”. This tendency is not limited to our college basketball affinities. In fact this tendency has a very dark side and has been a plague on humanity resulting in genocide, holocaust, enslavement, discrimination, and all sorts of evil.

Bronze by Jenny Downing

Our first instinct should not be to look for an outward sign to know if a new person is to be included or excluded. Rather, our first instinct should be to care for the stranger and meet their needs regardless of their affiliation. It does not matter if the stranger I meet is a part of a different group. The thing that matters is that we were both formed by our creator and placed on this earth under a divine mandate that we work with God to create a new and greater world. The strangers I meet are as fully known by God as my neighbors. My enemies are as loved by God as my family.

When I look at a Missouri fan, it is important that I first recognize that they are valued by God and they are worthy of my love, respect, and assistance. It does not matter if they say Shibboleth or Sibboleth; what matters is that I have an opportunity to reflect the light of Christ into their lives.


  • Write down all of the people you walked by today without acknowledging their humanity (take your time, you’ll be surprised how many there are).
  • Make a goal for one day each week, that on that day you will not let a person go by without acknowledging their value.
  • Reach out to an individual or group you would normally exclude and be a part of their lives for one evening.


  • Who do I exclude?
  • Do my actions truly demonstrate that I believe all people are valuable and worthy of love, honor, and respect?
  • Do I actually help people? Do I only think about helping people? Do I even think about helping people?
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