We have a problem with authority

Two Texas high school football players gained infamy recently when they intentionally and brutally hit an official who had ejected two of their teammates. A week later, another Texas player shoved an official.

Let’s simplify this. Everyone comes to a football game to see two teams play; those teams have all of the attention. But the truth is that the officials are in charge. Officials represent the University Interscholastic League, which seeks to promote fair contests of skill and will.

These contests generate a volatile brew of passion, and that passion can lead to anger. Usually it comes out in verbal attacks by fans, parents and coaches – often at officials. But sometimes that passion hovers close to violence.

After a Dallas Cowboys game in the early 1960s, police had to escort officials out of the Cotton Bowl in a squad car. The officials had just given the game to the Cleveland Browns when they ruled that Don Meredith had crossed the line of scrimmage before lofting a long touchdown pass to Tommy McDonald.

The place went crazy, and the craziness continued afterward at the tunnel gate. I was about 8 years old and just looking for autographs near the gate, but it was a wild and chaotic scene I still vividly remember more than 50 years later.

We had come to see the Cowboys play. The officials insisted the Cowboys play by the rules, and we fans didn’t like it. I’m sure the players didn’t like it either, but they were not storming the gate.

Despite all of this passion and anger generated by sports, players generally restrain themselves from violence toward officials. Videos of the two recent incidents would not have gone viral if such incidents were commonplace.

Sports officials do an amazingly good job in the midst of fast-paced games. The two football officials I know personally are solid men with solid judgment – and apparently tough skin. They are not your average Joes; they stand tall as men of integrity.

Despite the good job officials do, we often verbally abuse them and now some have physically attacked them. The truth is, we don’t much like submitting to authority.

Those football players are not the only ones resisting authority. Every time we speed along a highway we are saying, “Those speed limits do not apply to me. I will go as fast as I like when the cops are not watching.”

We resist authority when we seek to hide income from the IRS, when we cheat on a test, when we belittle a president or governor we disagree with and when we undermine a boss at work.

We also do it in our religious life. The people of Christ’s church resist God’s authority when we do not care for the poor and hurting, when we do not introduce others to relationship with Christ, when we ignore standards of personal morality, when we do not fight against injustice; and when we give more allegiance to political entities than to God’s kingdom. And the list could go on.

As we condemn the actions of the football players who attacked the officials, it is good for all of us to evaluate our own attacks upon authority, especially on God’s authority in our lives.

(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)


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