Tuesday, April 28, 2009

"Bishop, you Stink!"

I’ve spent many of the last 20 basketball seasons toiling as a church basketball official---euphemistically I have a “church calling” as a referee. Based on my years of high school and Church officiating experience, most objective observers feel this is one calling for which I’m well qualified.

Sometimes, like Single Adults to a Church dance, I return to officiating because I can’t help myself, but mostly someone finds out my striped secret and turns me in to the Stake President. Once I’ve been ratted out, a “calling” comes faster than a four-letter word from the mouth of a less active player (In the Church, all the less active members over 6′2″ get “fellowshipped” in time for basketball).

Usually I don’t mind refereeing a bunch of has-beens and never-weres but there are times when my patience wears thin (like when I called 911 to have Brother “I-pay-tithing-and-you-can’t-make-me-leave” ---leave). Back in the old days you could get paid for officiating church basketball but now it’s a calling–-same work, only "spiritual" pay. Some guys without the "call" get to referee by being asked to stay and officiate the game after theirs. They quickly learn that coming to the game with an excuse is as important as bringing a ball or basketball shoes.

Regardless of how you got roped into spending Saturday mornings refereeing a bunch of groggy and bedraggled members, it’s still a volunteer position in a church with a lay ministry. The enormous difference is, no one feels it’s necessary to scream at members holding other callings.

But let’s pretend. . .

Imagine yelling out at a Sacrament meeting sustaining (After all, it’s under the same roof) “Bishop, that’s a bone-headed call!” Or, at the Ward Dinner; “Sister Smith, this casserole stinks.” Or in a Bishop’s interview; “I know we broke different commandments but you’re not punishing us equally . . .moron!”

There are apocryphal accounts of members behaving poorly in other settings, but unlike basketball, it’s the exception rather than the rule. In basketball, even those who don’t yell at the refs can’t stop themselves from offering unsolicited advice. “That was a foul ref.” Or; “Ref, he’s over my back.” (No, he’s just taller, younger and still has a 30″ vertical leap.) I don’t offer advice to players and I tell players who want to help me to please wait until I ask…I never do.

Referees don’t get 100% of their calls right, no one does that, but today’s NBA leader in field goal percentage only makes 60% of his shots. I guarantee we get way more than 60% of our calls right. Any Ward team making only two-thirds of their shots would win every game. They never do, but that doesn’t make their losing the referees fault. We get over 90% of our calls right.

I’m as competitive as the next guy but I’m also old enough to realize that IF you win all your games you get crowned “Hogs Corner Utah North Region Basketball Champion.” What does this prestigious title get you? A Celestial promotion? A nursery calling? A Get out of Home Teaching Free card?

Nope. For all that exertion you get a cheap one-size-fits-all T-Shirt.

I propose the church either canonize the practice of screaming at every member who fails to magnify their calling—or universally abolish the practice. I think we referees will vote for abolishment.

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