Perhaps it was the nearly 40 years of reading Spider-man comics, but for better or for worse, I am fueled by an insatiable need for justice. Sometimes I’m rewarded because I do the right thing and things work out as they should.
But sometimes, it renders me unable to move past something that just isn’t right.
Today, my daughter played a basketball game against another local program out of Stanwood, Washington.
I’m still relatively new to the State of Washington when it comes to things like knowing regional school systems, but it didn’t take too long to understand that the Stanwood program has a very bad reputation for being thugs, dirty and dishonest. I really have no idea if they’ve earned that or how true it is, but the reputation’s there, anyway.
Today, our 5th grade girls played theirs. They’re also known for having a good basketball program, and sure enough, their team was very solid. That said, we were up 21-16 in the third quarter and they had the ball.
One of their players took a shot that hit an over-hanging cord that’s attached to the hoop and went in. The rules state that the cord it out of bounds, so the shot should not have counted. It wasn’t clear that it did count because the score was not added to the scoreboard for at least two more possessions.
During that time, I was waiting to see if it was counted. It didn’t appear to be, so we didn’t really say anything.
And then, there it was. 21-18. The score had been counted and added to their tally.
As soon as we saw this, we called over the refs and stopped the game. We asked if they were counting that basket and both said they were. We told them it hit the cord, but neither saw it. So they asked the scorers, but they didn’t say anything. Then I looked at the Stanwood coaches, and they didn’t say anything either. Then I looked at the attendees, and while our parents were saying it hit, the Stanwood audience was silent.
So, with the referees not having seen it, and no one of any official capacity saying anything, the basket counted and the score was now 21-18. I knew right then that this score was going to be the difference in the game. This is simply how life goes.
Sure enough, the game ended 27-25 with us on the losing side. People can say, “well, you should have kept them from scoring or should have scored one more.” But in that close of a game, that score can dramatically alter the players you play and the way you coach the last minutes of the game.
After the game, I asked the two people at the scorer’s table if they saw the play. They both very quickly said, “oh yeah, it hit the cord and shouldn’t have counted.” I then asked the Stanwood coaches, and they both also said they saw it hit the cord.
And this is what has me so frustrated and awake at 3am writing this post. You have four adults who have a chance to do the right thing in front of a bunch of kids, and none of them could bring themselves to do it.
Who knows if we would have gone on to win. If it’s all fair, I don’t even really care. But the fact that those people can go merrily on and live with themselves and not think twice about this bewilders and frustrates me.
Sure, a 5th grade basketball game is a small thing and has probably already been forgotten by many who attended. But to me, it’s these small teachable moments that can make a huge difference in the children we raise and who we are as a society.
I would like to think a simple sense of right and wrong would have led someone to step up and do the right thing. I don’t hold anyone to any standards to which I don’t hold myself. If that situation would have been reversed, we would have told the refs it should not have counted. It’s just that simple.
It’s funny, because our other coach wanted to talk to me about how we did and assess the final minutes. But I can’t even remember them. All I could think about after that was that there wasn’t one responsible adult around to admit what they saw.
Perhaps what they say about the Stanwood program really is true and it permeates throughout all of their coaches. I have no idea, and it doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not me who will suffer. And it’s not our kids – they’ve probably already forgotten.
It’s the kids in their program who will never have a decent set of role models in that program who will suffer. Hopefully, they’re finding good examples elsewhere and might still turn into solid and upstanding adults.