Somewhere around 25 years ago, probably longer ago than that, I got a traffic ticket. To be honest, I got quite a few tickets during that time of my life. A lot of tickets. Most of which I deserved. But I’m reminded of one in particular from way back then this week that was questionable whether or not I deserved it. I was behind a vehicle going 20 mph in a 35. It was raining, but the vehicle in front of me was being overly cautious. If the driver was that uncomfortable, they should have pulled off the road. I found it very annoying, so I passed. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, I saw flashing lights. I pulled over to the side of the road and waited for the police officer to come stand in the rain next to my car.
He asked for license and insurance card. While I was handing that to him I asked why he pulled me over. He informed me that it was unsafe to pass a vehicle in the heavy rain. I pointed out that I didn’t even have to break the speed limit to pass because the vehicle in front of me was going so slow. Plus, the fact that we were not in a residential area. The police officer acknowledged that I had not exceeded the speed limit but that I would still be cited for, if I remember correctly, something called “failure to use due care.” It’s like reckless driving, but not as bad.
I was not happy with the police officer’s decision to give me a ticket when I honestly felt like I didn’t do anything wrong. It was a judgement call, it was his call. And he deemed it unsafe and wrote me a ticket. I didn’t argue with him. I respected his authority even though I think he was wrong. I could have contested it, taken my chances in traffic court, but just ended up paying it. Back then that violation wasn’t a very expensive ticket. And I’m guessing he must have really wanted to write someone a ticket that night even though it was raining fairly heavy. He probably had rain gear on, but I’m sure he was getting soaked anyway standing there next to my car.
This week I attended my daughter’s middle school soccer game. My girl’s team played very well in their loss. If you are a parent of a student-athlete you know that sometimes calls on the field (or court) get missed, wrong calls get made, and the referee will hear about it from the parents in the stands. It did seem that the majority of the calls favored the other team, but in his defense, he missed about the same number of calls for each team. One of them he missed on our team could have drawn a yellow card. One of our girls lowered her shoulder before plowing into her opponent. No call. That’s when the parents of the other team yelled at the ref. I don’t envy his job.
During one play, a girl from each team was going for the ball as it headed towards the sideline. Our girl (the blue team) was trailing another girl (the yellow team) to get to the ball. The yellow girl started to lose her footing. The blue girl slowed up and instinctively put her hands up to show she wasn’t making contact with the yellow girl. The yellow girl eventually slipped on the ball and fell to the ground. The referee called a penalty against the blue girl. This happened right in front of the bleachers where all the parents were sitting. The referee was much further away from the play. But from his view, his angle, he saw a push that caused the yellow girl to fall.
We, the parents of the blue team, vocally shared our disdain with call. That’s perfectly fine. No one was ugly about it, no one used profanity, and then play resumed. Well, except one mom in the stands. She got a little ugly about it, but didn’t use profanity. Once play resumed she should have let it go. It’s perfectly fine to disagree with the call and be respectfully vocal about it. After the ball was put back in play, the mom continued, attacking the referee’s character. She was beginning to make a spectacle of herself. The ref blew the whistle and halted play, walked over to the seats and asked the mom if she would like to watch the rest of the game from the parking lot. She declined. The ref put his hands to his chest, then extended his arms straight out as if to stay this matter is over.
I ended up talking to the referee after the game. In the men’s room of all places. I started by telling him not let the parents get to him, that he did a good job. He’s a volunteer that officiates middle school and high school soccer games. Give the guy a break. I did tell him that I thought he got the call wrong, that the yellow girl tripped over her own feet. He explained to me that call was pushing from behind that led to her falling. That’s what he saw. I was in a much better place to see it, had a much better angle, much closer to the action as it happened on the sideline. But he explained what he saw. I couldn’t argue with him, nor did I want to. He’s the authority figure on the field. It was a judgement call, his call. He got it wrong, but it was his call to make so it counted as a penalty against the blue team. That’s life sometimes.
All my children play or have played organized team sports in school and city leagues. They aren’t the biggest, fastest, or strongest, but they compete hard. We have had talks about “bad officiating” over the years. I try to explain, and I think they understand for the most part, that at the middle school and high school level, the referees aren’t professionals. I think some of them, especially the football officials, get a little something for their services. But I believe most of them do it out of love for the sport, or for the kids, or possibly as a hobby. They aren’t perfect. But they are doing something that makes a difference for the young people competing.
I want my children to fiercely compete in whatever sport or academic team event they are part of. If they win, great. If they lose, I only ask that they gave it their best effort. I want them to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. And I want them to respect the officials in charge of calling the game. If something needs to be said to the referee, let the coach say it. Let the parents yell from the stands. But you, my child, my student-athlete, shake it off and keep playing. Play hard and do your best.
Life lesson: Not everything that happens in life is fair. God knows I’ve gotten away with a few things in my life, but I’ve also paid the price for things that weren’t my fault. It’s a balance. Sometimes that balance tips one way or the other. Don’t get bogged down with the minor things in life that aren’t right, that in reality won’t matter later anyway. There will always be a bad call or a questionable traffic ticket in life to deal with. Shake it off and move on. Save your energy for the battles that matter.
Thank you for reading this week’s post. Good day, God bless.
Other posts you might like