For the Love of the Win, and Not the Game

by Lisa Douglas

It’s no secret that we’re a sports family. We’re active folks with active children and crazy-busy lives shuffling kids to-and-fro. I know I have a lot more gray hair from it, but I feel my children are learning some wonderful life lessons from it. Mostly. Except when the referees ruin the game for them (and us).

Saturday’s soccer game was a rain-out make-up game, one we were slated to play October 8th, against a team my husband had looked forward to playing, as a guy he works with had a kid on the “green team,” and they’d looked forward to facing each other all season. Smack talk around the office, “You’re going down, Douglas!” and the like (kidding, of course). Our unbeaten U12 team against their self-proclaimed win-some-lose-some team. However, I’d seen their team play last week, and felt they had a legitimate shot, they had some fast forwards and a decent goalkeeper. Despite our record, nothing’s ever certain. I, too, looked forward to seeing the match-up.

Unfortunately, the excitement ended almost as the game began, and there were many things wrong with the game that day.

First, unbeknownst to us, it was S.A.T. weekend, and our kids now had refs that weren’t trained/qualified in their age group, who didn’t know all the rules. So when the green team’s substitute goalkeeper flubbed her goal kick twice, and kicked it to herself? That should’ve been two penalty kicks for us, but no penalties were called.

The ref did eject one of their players, though, after an angry little girl with elbows a-throwin’ finally tried to take a punch at my son. Yeah, my husband praised God I missed that one! I was too busy taking a toddler to the bathroom, but came in to see my son hysterical on the sidelines because of how abused they were getting on the field, with parents cheering them on to do it! And as the girl and her mother left the field, passing us? Several foul words flew out of their mouths, at my son, at our team, at the ref. And the other team continued to encourage each other to play dirty, and the ref did absolutely nothing. The other team’s parents cheered their children on to hurt our children, and the refs did nothing. In fact, several times we could have had penalty kicks, and didn’t, the ref simply didn’t call anyone over. I was besides myself.

Cheat to win, by any means necessary, eleven- and twelve-year-olds, as declared by your parents, anyway. You know, we looked forward to playing here in San Antonio, escaping the protect-our-own mentality the locals had against us military folks at Fort Polk. It stung a great deal to see it happen here, too, where soccer costs more than double for our children to play. We paid MONEY for this?

I wish I could say my disappointment with refs ended there, but it didn’t.

Another game we’d looked forward to this weekend was the Steelers-Ravens Sunday Night Football game. A rivalry always exciting to watch, even if you aren’t a fan of either team. It’s been hyped all week, “best rivalry in the league,” and we know it first-hand, being Steelers fans. And yet, it’s another disappointing game because the refs couldn’t officiate their way out of a paper bag.

If you didn’t watch the game, let me give you some of the “highlights” – the refs called helmet-to-helmet penalties when Steelers players committed the penalty, but not on the Ravens. Bogus penalties against us, grounded Ravens balls said were ruled “completed catches,” yet ours never were, to include two “pass interference” calls when the Ravens receivers HAD CAUGHT the ball (isn’t it supposed to be called when someone holds you, preventing you from catching it?!) and the suspicious game-changing “delay of penalty” against us at the end with a broken play-clock to work with.

Even the announcers, who kept replaying would-be penalties and incomplete passes, were shocked by the refs calls when they themselves were reviewing the same footage we at home were.

Folks, when did we become this “Sweep the leg, Johnny” society in which we must win at all costs? Cheat to win, by any means necessary? Don’t you think we have enough corruption in our lives with our politicians, wall street/banking industry/corporate buyouts and greed? For some, this is the only relief they get from all the day-to-day corruption.

We pay good money for the NFL Sunday Ticket and satellite to sit down, as a family, to watch these games. Fans pay good money to purchase jerseys and game tickets to attend their favorite teams’ games and watch. Our hard-earned money is spent to watch referees blowing calls and “fixing” the game. Refs need to start being held more accountable for their actions (or lack there-of) and start realizing what they’re doing is cheating.

My kids are watching! This isn’t the first horrific travesty in NFL officiating I’ve ever witnessed (or written about) with my children watching, either.  Do you know what this shows our children who aspire to be NFL players? That no matter how hard you play, if the refs don’t call the game properly, no matter how hard you try, you can and will lose. “Sweep the leg, Johnny!”

I wanted a fair game called (I always do). If a team is going to win, I want them to win on their own merits. I wanted to see these two games match-up their best with their best, and go at it and throwdown as they always do. And if the Ravens beat us, again, because they played better, without the refs assisting them in BS calls, then so be it, then they’d rightfully deserve the win. There was no doubt the first game this season they came to play and deserved that well-faught win, but this game? This game should have a big, fat asterisk (*) next to it, because to me, this wasn’t a “win,” this was a loss for everyone who watched, who played, who supports the NFL’s wallet. And every fan, Ravens, Steelers or other, should be ashamed of the NFL for allowing it to happen unpunished. Roger Goodell better get on this officiating issue once and for all, and finally do something about these horrible refs fixing games. Maybe if the refs were fined for every bad or “missed” call, like they do with players and illegal hits, maybe then  we’d get a game called fairly? What do you think?

As parents, we teach our children right from wrong, black from white, work hard, play nice, study well, and you will succeed. And then they watch stuff like this time and time again, and it’s hard to continue to drill into little minds that the good guy will always win, and that cheaters never do.

I’m sorry, but having to tell my children “life isn’t always fair” when the outcome should’ve been and could’ve been different just doesn’t cut it for me. We, as a society, as role models for our children (who will once take over our society), need for us to do better, to be better than that, or the cycle of corruption will continue and then what the hell are we watching and participating in any of this for?

And any Ravens fan who feels last night’s game was an “ass-whooping” and well-faught win is no better than the green team’s parents cheering on little kids throwing elbows and cheating their way to victory. I demand better for my kids, and the kids of my friends, why don’t you?

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