When professional sports playoffs occur, teams play each other between four and seven times to determine who the best team is, and because of that, the teams begin to know each other. The ebb and flow of a series allows for adjustments and then for people to complain about factors that people are against them in an attempt to adjust the outcome in the future. The teams can no longer surprise the other and, usually, the best team wins the game. This is one reason I like professional sports. They reward excellence. I get to see teams (particularly teams of approximately equal skill) go head-to-head in different environments with different circumstances as many as seven times, and upsets are usually because we over-estimated or under-estimated a team and not usually because of a lucky play or two.
The NBA Playoffs have been fascinating this year, setting many records for close games and close series. And just when you think home court did not play a role, home teams are winning almost every game in the conference finals. At any rate, these series are happening at a time in my personal life when I am bemoaning the wussification of society in general. I’m teaching a children’s Sunday School class and coaching a Bible Quiz team, and I sit in awe at the things that parents complain about and the things that parents allow their children to complain about. I detest it when people are always blame-shifting and not “manning up” and taking accountability for their own junk.
Against that backdrop, I come into sports watching them very differently than I did ten years ago. I watch them with my children (well, mostly my son and whichever of my daughters feels she can weasel her way into a later bedtime if she agrees) and hope to find teachable moments. I love it when people take personal accountability for how they perform. David DuPree says, “You have to respect the referees, and can’t blame other people for your actions. If you make mistakes it’s either on me or on you.”
So, with apologies to my Pacer fan friends, I must say that I have a new-found appreciation of the Heat. After Game 4 in which Miami led from tip to buzzer and never really felt in danger of not winning the game, Paul George blamed the refs. Roy Hibbert blamed the coach. Several players said Lance Stephenson had put them in a bad position, and overall, they just didn’t take blame. After Game 5, where LeBron James played less than half the game because of foul trouble, when at least four of the fouls look fishy to me, LeBron did not blame the refs. He said he wanted to play more, but praised his teammates for giving him a chance to win.
I will not comment on the potential benefits of complaining about the refs at this point. Instead I will say, that I want to keep a copy of that LeBron interview. I want to show it to my son. I want to tell him that this is how you act like a man and take responsibility. This is how you act. This is what I want you to do when you feel like you’ve been wronged. It’s the first step in peace making and it is a huge step in maturity. I personally believe you can learn a lot about a man by whom he blames when things go wrong. LeBron took the blame and did not complain. This is the way to behave in a world of finger pointing and blame shifting.