One of the realities of sports is that the officials (referees, umpires, etc.) are most effective when they are barely mentioned. In any game in any sport, the more talk there is of the officiating, the worse the situation will be. No team, or fan, really wants a game’s outcome to be determined by the officials. It should be determined by the players on the field. This danger was experienced once again Saturday in Liverpool, where the Merseyside Derby was played between the Liverpool Reds and their cross-town rivals the Everton Toffies. English Premier League soccer is the best in the world, but on Saturday it was not the quality of play, but referee Martin Atkinson that was the center of attention—and that is not where an official should ever be. In the 23rd minute, Atkinson issued a red card to Everton’s Jack Rodwell for what seemed from all the replay angles to be a clean challenge against Liverpool’s Luis Suarez—probably not deserving a yellow card, as it seemed to be, at most, just a simple foul. But the red card sent Rodwell off, reducing the Toffies to having to play with only 10 men the rest of the match. Eventually, Liverpool won and scored two very nice goals, but that wasn’t what was on everyone’s lips after the match. All that was discussed, argued, debated, and fought over was Atkinson’s overreaction in sending off Rodwell, and its impact on the outcome of the game. It was unfortunate to say the least (and I am a Liverpool fan).
Overreaction is a danger that awaits us in virtually every corner of life. We hear part of a conversation and make assumptions as to the full meaning of what was said. We see something out of context and make judgments about people, motives, and character though lacking any substantial information to support those conclusions. We overreact to hints, suppositions, or rumors to the harm of another person or their reputation. Wisdom challenges us to do better by one another. Jesus said, “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
While it seems terribly easy for us to overreact to limited information and pass judgments on others, we certainly don’t like it when others do that to us—and that should inform us. If we don’t like being judged by the premature overreactions of others, we should on principle hesitate before overreacting in our judgment of others.
Bill Crowder, Sports Spectrum Chaplain