The game was soon out of reach for the visiting team. They were losing by more than 30 points early into the second quarter. The relatively new referee working hard to stay focused on the lack luster game called a foul late in the second quarter as the shooter went up for a shot. It was not so obvious to the untrained eye but there was really no foul. Having scored only 4 points, the referee wanted to give the losing team a break by allowing them a chance to score from the free throw line.
The coach at the other end of the court immediately called the referee over to dispute the call. I know what you’re thinking – the coach ahead was so competitive he didn’t want the other team to get away with anything. That might be the expected scenario but today was the exception (at least from the ref’s perspective). It was not the coach of the team ahead by 30 points but rather the coach of the losing team that pulled the referee over to discuss the call.
He told the referee, “That was a terrible call. You and I both know that was a horrible shot. There was no foul and I know what you’re doing. These boys don’t need a break. They need to learn how to play basketball. I don’t want this team to be treated like victims. They need to be held to a higher standard so they can become the kind of basketball players and ultimately the individuals I know they can become. They can’t do that when you bail them out with a call like that.”
Now the referee could have defended his call and denied taking such action. But he knew the coach had caught him. He also realized the lesson the coach was trying to teach his kids and quite unexpectedly teaching him so he just respond “OK Coach, It won’t happen again.” The referee walked away realizing there is more going on in this basketball game than just basketball.
Incidentally, the coach was an African-American (Black) and the referee was Caucasian (White). This was a great reminder that not all Blacks play the victim and not all Whites are prejudice. Most of the time life is about learning lessons from each other if we care enough to listen.
The referee by the way was my son who shared this compelling story with me. When I sent him a draft for his review he said he hadn’t even thought of this being a “Black vs. White” issue. Neither should we being thinking Black vs. White on so many of the challenges we are now facing. Lets us continue rather to learn from each other “Life’s Lessons.”