Sunday, March 22, 2015

A Sharp Tongue

Recently I had the privilege of officiating a high school lacrosse tournament.  The tournament lasted two days and teams from Idaho, Utah and Nevada participated. Lacrosse is unique in not allowing unsporting behavior from the players, coaches or fans. When teams play in a tournament like this one it is easy for habits from other sports creep in and the tempers can heat up and people give in and start complaining. Times like these show what people are made of. Do they give in and start the blame game or do they own the situation, good or bad, and make the best of the situation.

I have never understood why anyone thinks that yelling at officials will convince them to make calls in their favor. Officials do not care which team wins or how much the fans complain and harass, it will not change the way calls are made. From a fans perspective it may appear that the officials are biased when calls are not going the way they want. I have often wondered how fans would enjoy a game where officials changed the way they called the game based on comments from the fans or coaches. Players would have no idea how to play because the rules would not be consistent. Everyone involved would become frustrated and lose interest.

Officials work hard to understand the rules and call a game by those rules with their primary goal to provide a safe environment and allow players from both teams to display their talents fairly. No official will call a perfect game. Mistakes will be made on calls and in my opinion that is part of the game. Teams need to learn to accept mistakes that players make and move beyond them or they will get frustrated and lose focus. The same thing can happen if they are focusing on what the officials are or are not calling, they will not be able to execute properly and they will get even more frustrated and complain more.

One of the lacrosse teams in this tournament lost control so much that their foul mouths had the officials ending the game with the leading team forfeiting the match and ending their championship hopes. This team was one of the better talented teams in the tournament and had won the championship in previous years. After the game parents from the losing team came on the field and started berating the officials (I was not on this game) and threatening that they were going to contact the tournament sponsors with their complaints.

In one of the games that I officiated, we experienced one of the greatest acts of sportsmanship I have seen in a long time. One team was behind by several points and the other team out matched them with their experience and skill. The team that was losing had a player that was autistic. The team that was in the lead found about the autistic player and they called a time out. They talked to their players and asked them to allow the autistic player to score a goal when he got the ball.  A few minutes later the player received the ball and he weaved in and out around the defenders and made it to the goal. He shot and scored; players from both teams surrounded the player and with high fives congratulated him. He was so excited; there was not one person that did not have a smile on his face. That one goal did not make a difference in the game, but it did make a difference in a young athlete that found success in a sport he loved. Just before all this happened I saw this player with his mouthpiece hanging down. I did not know that he was autistic, but instead of penalizing him with a 1-minute penalty I just told him to get the mouthpiece in. Had I flagged him and sent him to the penalty box he would not have been on the field to score the goal. Sometimes even officials make the right call by not going by the book.

Life is seldom fair. When things are not going your way how will you respond? Will you cry foul and lash out at those who appear to have the advantages or will you lift up your head and move on and make the best of life’s curves and bumps? David said in one of his Psalms: “Thy tongue deviseth mischiefs; like a sharp razor, working deceitfully.” (Psalms 52:2) and in the New Testament we read:

Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!

 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.

 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:

 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.

 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. (James3:5-10)

Marvin J. Ashton spoke in general conference of the common practice of bashing others. He said:

In the world today we are victims of many who use their tongues as sharp swords. The misuse of our tongues seems to add intrigue and destruction as the media and private persons indulge in this pastime. In the vernacular of the day, this destructive activity is called bashing. The dictionary reports that to bash is to strike with a heavy, crushing blow.

Such a popular behavior is indulged in by far too many who bash a neighbor, a family member, a public servant, a community, a country, a church. It is alarming also how often we find children bashing parents and parents bashing children.

None of us need one more person bashing or pointing out where we have failed or fallen short. Most of us are already well aware of the areas in which we are weak. What each of us does need is family, friends, employers, and brothers and sisters who support us, who have the patience to teach us, who believe in us, and who believe we’re trying to do the best we can, in spite of our weaknesses. What ever happened to giving each other the benefit of the doubt? What ever happened to hoping that another person would succeed or achieve? What ever happened to rooting for each other? (“The Tongue Can Be A Sharp Sword”, Marvin J. Ashton, General Conference, April 1992)

The Savior was the greatest example of how to react to those who wanted to kill him. He refused to give into their taunts and lies and held his peace and would not answer their questions (Mark 14:61). Even when Pilot questioned him, he would not answer his questions (Mark 15:5). Earlier while teaching his disciples he told them to love their enemies and to bless those that would curse them and to pray for those that would persecute them (Matthew 5:44).

No one likes the player or fan that constantly complains and cries when the referees seemingly are out against them or their team. Most of the time all we want is for them to go away and let the rest enjoy the game.  How we respond to the difficulties we experience in life will determine if we are accepted or rejected by those we come in contact with. The tongue can be a sharp sword or it can be used to bless and find joy no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

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