Coaches, Referees, and People

Coaches, Referees, and People

I had the opportunity to speak at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Coaches’ Family Conference for the 11th straight year. I didn’t realize that I had delivered six messages a conference to college and high school coaches for that long. Coach Jimmy Reeves and his wife Lisa run this conference.

They bring in some outstanding people who give a witness at one of the services. This year one witness was given by Ronnie Baynes.  He was the high school coach who won state championships in baseball, then started refereeing football. He went from college to the NFL where he spent fourteen years on the field as an NFL official, then another twelve years in the NFL home office overseeing officials.

Not all coaches have a great appreciation for referees. Ronnie Baynes reminded them that he was also once a coach. He had a strong witness to those coaches.

He told some interesting stories about officiating in the Super Bowl and NFL playoff games. He admitted that officials are human, and make mistakes, but he also reminded the coaches that sometimes they make coaching mistakes and occasionally they have a player who will make a mistake.

Making mistakes in life is a part of life. The important thing is that we confess our mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and try to become better at what we do and make less mistakes.

I am very proud that both Auburn and Alabama basketball teams have been to the Final Four. I remember watching the game when Auburn was playing Virginia in the semi-finals and had a small lead in the last minute of the game. A Virginia guard lost control of the ball in the back court and retrieved it and started dribbling it again. They scored a basket which ultimately led to Auburn’s defeat. Most everybody in the stands saw that the Virginia guard double dribbled the ball. It was quite obvious, but was not changed. Officials do make mistakes.

When I finished Seminary, I decided to referee high school basketball. I got my referee’s shirt and official patch. My first game was against Beulah and Beauregard who at that time only played basketball, but they played it thirteen months a year! They were bitter rivals. There were so many people at that game that folks were literally sitting on parts of the court. I was from Opelika, a few miles away, and most of the fans knew me. Every time I blew the whistle, half the fans didn’t like it. I actually refereed two basketball games—my first and my last!

As long as humans participate in sports, there will be mistakes on the part of the referees and the players and the coaches. As long as people are people, we will make mistakes. The Bible is clear that we “all sin and fall short of God’s glory.” (Romans 3:23) The Bible is also clear that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9) The good thing about the Christian faith is that we are not perfect, just forgiven. Because we are forgiven by God, we need to forgive other people. 

When you attend sporting events, please don’t yell at the referees and criticize them. Video replays have shown that most of the time they are right.

Remember, there is one Major Referee who will someday at our death, make the most important call that will last for eternity—He won’t make a mistake and there will be no instant replay. Your decisions in this life will make His decision easy.

Be sure His final whistle signals a touchdown and not a penalty!

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