Before I answer that question, let’s define some terms.  When I say “argue”, I mean to complain to the referee/official about a call they’ve made.  This is not just intellectual disagreement but a voiced complaint (which is usually accompanied by anger and frustration).

So, with that in mind, let me answer the question: When is it right to argue with referees/officials?

Never.

I don’t expect everyone to agree with my opinion but please do keep reading because I would love your opinion and feedback in the comments section below.

I have heard lots of explanations on why coaches think this is necessary part of the job and all of them are flawed.  Perhaps I will deal with them in a later blog post.  The question I’ve always asked coaches in relation to their arguing with referees is this:

How does your arguing bring glory to God?

I have yet to hear a good answer to that question yet.  I’m not saying that arrogantly, I’m just saying if a good answer exists to that question, it has yet to be brought to my attention.  I have racked my brain trying to think of a good answer myself and I haven’t come up with one.

To understand this better, lets break down the concept of glory.  What does glory mean anyway?  1 Corinthians 10:31 commands us to do everything for the glory of God (which includes sports).  Bob Schindler offers this explanation of what glory is:

When it comes to God, the Scriptures show us his glory has two components:

  • The inherent nature, the internal possession, the inner quality of his magnificence, his absolute unparalleled greatness – the glorious splendor of his majesty
  • The outer recognition of this inherent greatness

We will call the first component – His flame.  The second – His fame.

We can’t add anything to God’s internal majesty but he does call us to make him famous by what we do (His fame).  We should strive in our coaching to make God famous by how we act and think.

Is there anything glorifying to God in arguing with a referee/official?  When I reflect back on my own past when I’ve argued with an official, I can attest that glorifying God was not at the center of my desires.  My own pride, selfishness, and idolatry was. My arguing was ultimately about ME, not about GOD.  Obviously, this does not make God famous.

This is not to say that there isn’t a place for having a calm, collected conversation with a referee about rule interpretations (or even poor officiating).  It’s rare, I can tell you that.  The question still becomes, what is on your heart as you have this conversation?  You can be calm and collected on the outside but still have sinful/idolatrous motivations.  Remember, God is concerned just as much about our hearts as he is our actions.

I would love to hear from you though.  Is there anyway arguing can bring glory to God?  What are you motivations when you have argued with a referee/official?

 

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About the Author

Tim Briggs is the Creative Media Pastor at Church at Charlotte in Charlotte, NC. He blogs regularly at Church Sports Outreach. He also regularly writes about ministry, the church, technology, culture, and creative stuff. He is married with two children and is currently pursuing a M.A. in Biblical Studies from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.

  • http://flickr.com/decom Andre

    MY reasoning might as well be flawed, but if someone questions a referee about a wrongful call, one might bring glory to God in the sense that God is just and true, and a wrong call by a referee might be unjust, and thus that call may be corrected and truth and justice will prevail…

  • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

    Andre, thanks for the comment. I have thought about this myself and it does make sense at the surface. However, I do have to question if a coach’s motivation is justice. Here’s why: Justice, by definition, has to be blind. It can’t be prejudiced or biased. If a coach really cared about justice, then he/she would not just argue with referees about calls that went against his/her team but also calls then went for his/her team? Make sense?

    Say for example that you’re coaching baseball and one of your players is called “safe” at first base when clearly they were out. If you are truly about justice, then you would argue with the umpire about that call. Even at the expense of your own player, and your team’s own performance, you would just as adamantly complain about that call as you would a call that went against you.

    I’ve never seen a coach come even remotely close to this. This is why I don’t think a coach’s motivation is justice. I suppose you could call it selective justice but, again, that’s not really justice. I know from my own heart when I’ve coached that it’s not been about justice for me. It’s about how the call an ref/official/umpire makes impacts me and my chance of winning or performance.

    Would love to hear your thoughts though.

  • Sam Y

    Came across this via Challies. As a recreational basketball player, I disagree with you.

    I agree that frustration and even anger can be a result of disagreements with referee calls. As ambassadors of God, this doesn’t reflect the sentiments of love and respect that God calls us to. Bt I think it’s naive to think, God will have ultimate justice, therefore it doesn’t really matter how this game is called.

    Most arguments stem from a judgment that the call was a poor or biased one or the game is being refereed poorly. I think in this instance, which is most instances that arguing would even occur, arguing for the integrity nd equality of the game is not only fair, but also needed. The game and the referee themselves stand for the same principles

  • http://flickr.com/decom Andre

    I completely agree with you, Tim. My point makes sense in theory, but just not in practice… Just like you, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player or coach question a wrong call that was in his team’s favor (and thus it’s hard to believe in justice as the motivation…)

  • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

    Sam: Great points here.

    First off, I agree that God’s justice shouldn’t lead us to not caring about the game. I think we should care about the game and even, as you said, care about the quality of the officiating. I think we should want officials to do the best job and make the best possible effort they can (for the glory of God).

    As I mentioned above, I do think there is a place for having constructive conversations with referees about the job they’re doing. I just rarely see it happen.

    I just know from my own heart, my concern for the referee’s performance is more about me then it is about them and glorifying God. Like I mentioned above with my comment with Andre–if you’re really concerned about the referee’s performance, then you would address their poor officiating even if you benefited from it (not just when the other team benefited from it). I’ve never seen a player/coach from a winning team address a poor performance of a referee/official after the game. Only losing players/coaches.

  • http://divinesatisfaction.com Daniel

    Of course, you didn’t even mention the fans disagreements with the Refs….talk about anger and frustration.

    Have you looked at it from this angle: The coach is, as it were, an advocate for the players. Part of his job is to advocate for “justice” on behalf of his players, just as the opposing coach is advocating on behalf of his players. Ideally the idea is that if the ref makes a bad call that hurts your players the coach appeals to the ref ultimately bending to the refs decision. If the ref makes a bad call that benefits your players then the opposing coach will be appealing to the ref. A coaches primary concern is loyalty to his team, not to referee the game. As such it’s not the coaches job to referee the referee but to fight for the interests of his team.

    Practical application: In the “safe at first” illustration above: You wouldn’t expect the coach of the “safe” player to make a scene trying to correct the ump. Nor, when the opposing coach starts berating the umpire for being one eye short of a cyclops, would you expect the coach of the “safe” player to jump into the fray defending a player who was clearly out.

    On top of that add to the picture that “justice” in the sports arena, especially apart from instant replay, is very subjective.

  • Justin Garcia

    I like how you just came right out of the gate with “never.” Here’s something I was thinking when reading your article in respect to the glory of God in all things. By the same token that it is never a good idea to argue/yell at the ref, is it ever okay to groan out-loud when a call does not go in favor of your team? We’ve all seen or been a part of a home crowd when that instant replay is not the right call. Or that should have been a foul and the entire stadium erupts in a boisterous outcry. If we look at it another way, is the glory of God offended or marred in any way when in the midst of routing for our team, we cry aloud to voice our disagreement? It could be very well be that it is wrong. But is it?

  • AH

    I agree with some of your arguments however I do think that there are stituations where discussions with officials should be done; and it happens more frequently than you lead on.

    Example: In soccer, it is for the safety of the players if a certain player on another team is trying to injure a player by breaking the rules, therefore the coach would be sinning to NOT go and let the official know that his players are in danger. Maturity is obviously key as well as proper word choice. I understand that some would say there is an inward motivation to get calls but not if the motivation is for the safety of the players.

    I think from a practical standpoint, to argue with officals is futile because there is not one official in the history of officiating that would logically change their mind when a coach is complaining. Its just a coach venting the unfairness of the officials decision. Therefore, to argue is stupid but I am not ready to call it sin.

    Lastly, there are many situations where a coach will get a technical because of his persistence with a call or non call in basketball. It is generally understood to be good coaching if the end result is to fire up his team into playing better. This is simply a strategy that good coaches have learned to master over a career. It is no different than selecting a play or defensive formation. I would look at that coach and consider him a genious for giving his team the motivation to perform better. I then argue, that this is God honoring because he is doing his job to God’s glory in his coaching duties. (I Cor).

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      AH, great point about injuries. That principle could certainly be abused (you could argue for the safety of your players on every foul/play if you wanted to) but I think there is a place to have a conversation with an official about that. A calm, collected, and constructive conversation. I don’t think it would look like arguing though.

      In regards to a coach arguing/making a point with an official as a strategy–I would agree that it may be a good strategy to win the game or even have your team perform better. However, we need to be careful to not let pragmatics drive our coaching. The question shouldn’t be, “does it work?”, but rather, “is it right?” As a Christian, the job of a coach is not to win but to glorify God.

  • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

    Daniel: I have thought about the exact scenario you are mentioning.

    The scenario you outlined about each coach advocating for justice for their teams does make sense. Here’s something I’ve wrestled with: Is it really the job of a coach to advocate for his players? In other words, is it his/her job to “fight” for the players? By “fight” I mean to stick up for or defend?

    That language implies that there is a battle going on, right? To advocate/stick up for/fight means there’s an adversary. Is there really an adversary in sports though? Thinking that way could lead to you seeing the other team or refs/officials as “them.” I’m not sure that’s a good thing. I think you should see the opposing team and the officials as co-competitors. You should see them as people who you are striving with to bring the best out of each other for the glory of God. With this perspective, you see refs/officials and opposing teams as people who you are trying to “unearth treasure” in. This is a view of competition we offer up (read more about it here: http://www.csosports.org/was-there-competition-in-the-garden).

    All that to say, your scenario could work. If the coaches had the correct mindset though, I don’t think it would look anything like the arguing we often see throughout the course of the game. It would look and sound far different.

  • AH

    @ Justin:

    I argue that the action is not wrong because we simply disagree with the ref. However, I think Tim will say that the motivation is selfish and therefore wrong…

  • Zach

    I’d like to bring a different perspective to this discussion; I am a high school football official in Virginia, and I get to see the best and worst of coaches (and officials).

    Athletics are a necessarily competitive environment. I believe athletes are most able to be “His flame” by competing to the best of their abilities, displaying sportsmanship, and striving to play within the rules. As an official, I am able to do the same by calling the best game I can, carrying myself in a level-headed professional manner, and maintaining a game environment that promotes sportsmanship.

    In my opinion, coaches give glory to God by giving their team the best opportunity to succeed, in a rule-abiding, sportsmanlike manner.

    Now, one of the ways a coach gives his his team that opportunity to succeed is by being their advocate. I’d like to say that I work perfect games and never miss a call, but we all know that’s not true. I miss a holding call. I call a block in the back that was actually on the side. If a coach doesn’t let me know he thinks I made one of these mistakes, then I may never have the opportunity to catch it.

    When a coach comes to me and says, “Mr. Official, please keep an eye on the left tackle, I believe he’s holding my end,” I appreciate that and will try to keep an eye on the situation he’s alerting me to. Even if he thinks I made a bad call, he can respectfully tell me he thinks I’m wrong without it being an angry argument. In both of these cases, I think the coach is simply advocating for his team, which is worthwhile, productive, glory-giving thing for him to do.

    However, it’s very different when a coach yells and kicks and screams, tells me to “open my eyes” or asks me “what game are you calling?” This kind of arguing is counter-productive (if not inevitable given the emotions associated with sports) and certainly doesn’t bring glory to anyone.

    I guess what I’m saying is that a coach shouldn’t have to turn the other cheek in order to bring glory to God. By giving his players, the parents, and anyone else in attendance an example of treating officials with respect while advocating for his team, I think a coach is absolutely acting for “His fame.”

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Zach, well said. The scenario with holding in football is a good example of healthy advocating for your team. I don’t see anything wrong with that. Again, we always have to examine our hearts but I can see that scenario being a good thing for everyone involved. I don’t see that as arguing.

  • http://divinesatisfaction.com Daniel

    “If the coaches had the correct mindset though, I don’t think it would look anything like the arguing we often see throughout the course of the game. It would look and sound far different.”

    ^^That of course is a key point.

    Advocate has a legal connotation. If I’m on trial, I have a lawyer, or an advocate. When he makes an appeal to the judge (who, like a referee) is making a ruling based on pre-existing rules/laws) he does so not on the basis of the judge being the enemy, but on the basis of what the rules/law says.

    Continuing this line of thought and going back to the question you postulated in the title of your post – I would agree that a coach should never “argue” with a ref, just like a good lawyer isn’t going to argue with a judge. A good coach however may/should appeal a ruling he feels wrong and is detrimental to his players. If the coach doesn’t show how to graciously appeal perceived bad rulings I’d guess that the chances are fair that the players might feel the need to represent themselves to the referee’s – something that I think is not wise or helpful either.

    But you’re right, it goes back to the attitude and motivation of the coach.

  • Pastor Kevin

    I am a pastor and a referee for multiple sports, primarily basketball but I officiate other sports, too. I am a good referee – just finished working the state high school basketball tournament. (As to being a good pastor, I’ll let others make that call). I have 3 points for the discussion here.

    First, as a referee, I want justice (as defined by the rules) more than the coaches or fans do. When I miss a call, I know it before anyone else and I feel miserable. Sometime, there is no correction available to ‘fix’ a call – to do so would violate a different rule, which sets a slippery slope.

    Second, many times, what they complain about is not a foul or is OK in that game (allowing more traveling in a middle school game than the book strictly permits in order to let the kids play). If they did not have a rooting interest in the game, they would agree with if the call. When my kids play the game, I know that I see the game differently that if I have a whistle in my mouth. I tell coaches that, too – after the game, they will agree with me (but not during). Some actually apologize (especially those in my church).

    Finally, almost all officials have played the game and get the dynamics – legit questions or instantaneous moans don’t faze a good official. However, whining and complaining will get you nowhere. Moreover, it is a HUGE HIT TO YOUR TESTIMONY!!! I can’t stress this enough. One reason that I officiate is to be ‘in the world’ and try to share the love of Christ with other officials. When the coach or school is Christian and their behavior does not line up with Christ… boy, is it hard for some officials to see Christ through all that – it make witnessing and evangelism all the more difficult. Please, please – all fans and coaches, think about that and how your actions affect your testimony and how it impacts those who are trying to win their souls for Jesus.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Kevin, I agree with you completely regarding the testimony. I recently just wrote about that – Sports: Our Apologetic to the World

  • bryan

    Tim,
    This is my first time on your website -another Challies blog referral- and I am looking forward to learning more about you guys.

    First of all, thanks for the stimulating thoughts. As a (retired :) former collegiate soccer player at a Christian university, I have probably sat through hours of SMT (sports ministry training) wrestling through some of these same questions.

    And yet just yesterday, I watched a game where I berated an official to anyone who would here me, and then left to officiate another game across town. This is still a very hard thing to live out, and I was convicted while reading and thinking about this again.

    I think I agree with your point, and the following is why:

    If a player gets called for a foul, the only words out of his mouth, (if any) should be words of apology. A quick, nod to the ref, with a “I’ll turn it down a little bit next time- my bad on that one” kind of a look, all while helping the player up off the ground, and then going back and playing as hard as possible within the bounds of the laws of the game, and the ref’s allowance of physicality, is probably the best possible response for a Christian.

    This excludes all: “BUT he….” and “I didn’t….” or hands raised questioningly.

    It gets hard and the ‘exceptions’ start coming in because of Referee error. Sometimes it really looked like something that it totally was not, and sometimes, the ref really was wrong (because of being out of position or he just missed it.)

    Ok… Then what? As a Christian, what is our response when we are wrongfully accused? (and also tried and convicted in the case of sports… :) And the other team is given the ball, and you KNOW you did nothing wrong? Or the ball wasn’t out? Or you weren’t offside?

    Now while the ref is not your enemy, he is at least our neighbor, but either way we are to love him. And the greatest context of love that we can love anybody in, is in the context of the love of God displayed to us through the Gospel.

    The Gospel reminds us that we have done innumerable wrongs against God, of which we have not ever paid for because of what Jesus has done. If ever anyone had the right to raise his hands and say- ” I don’t deserve this, I didn’t do anything worthy of this punishment” – it was Jesus.

    But he didn’t. Hebrews 12:1-2. Jesus is our example. What he did for us at the cross, and in the Gospel, informs us in how we live. This would be one application.

    Is this hard. Yeah! Really hard! Because we didn’t push him down. Honest. We weren’t offside. The ball really did cross over the goal line. We deserve that that call be reserved. We deserve that our opinion, our rights, our honor be upheld.

    But strangely, this is not what Jesus did. His rights were completely laid down (and he surely had some serious rights!)

    The Gospel is (should be) the foundation of our lives. It should affect even our reactions in sports.

    Argue/complain about a call in a critical, selfish, prideful way? Never.

    Why? We live for the fame of Christ.
    Can we do this perfectly on our own? No. Will we still mess up? Yes. But thank God for Christ, who is our perfection. Thank God for his Spirit which convicts, and points to Christ, and thank God for his promise to keep working on us until we are complete as we live out the mystery of the ‘already, but not yet’.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Bryan, what a great word, “The Gospel is (should be) the foundation of our lives. It should affect even our reactions in sports.” Amen.

  • http://facebook.com/davidmatthewjones David Jones

    Obviously, coaches shouldn’t be throwing temper tantrums at the officials. But to say that the coach should not advocate for his team (I agree with Daniel that part of the coach’s job is to advocate for justice for his team) because he will always have the wrong motives is mistaken. Do you really want to say that you should have your motives perfect before you are able to do the right thing? Should a Christian wait until he has perfect motives before he tithes? Then he will never tithe! We should instead stand in the truth that God has forgiven us and in faith do the right thing. I disagree that seeing yourself as an advocate for your team necessarily puts yourself in a negatively adversarial relationship with the officials or with the other team. But frustration for everyone — players, fans, and, yes, even coaches — will certainly be the result if no one advocates for justice when bad calls are being made consistently. The coaches are in the best position to do this fairly and effectively. If you feel that you must call out the referees when they make bad calls in your team’s favor in order to be able to call them out when they make bad calls against your team, then you should do so. Personally, I think that the other coach will do just fine advocating for his own team. But I don’t think silence is a better option.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      David, thanks for the comment…You raise a great point when discussing motivations. Our motivations are always a mixture of dignity and depravity, aren’t they? I agree with you, if we waited for 100% pure motives, then we would never do anything!

      I think everyone would agree that we should pursue justice. So, what does justice look like when an official makes a bad call (if we are really trying to glorify God)? I don’t think it’s arguing. As I’ve said in the comments, as well as in the blog above, I can see a place for a calm and collected conversation with an official over the disagreement with a call. I wouldn’t call this arguing though.

      One last thing in regards to justice. This is a rhetorical question for all coaches: How does your passion for justice on the court/field compare to your passion for impoverished people? Or say even the lost? When I look at the emotions and passions of a coach/player/parent who says they are fighting for justice, I usually see an extreme amount of anger and frustration. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t address an official/referee in the pursuit of justice (as you’ve mentioned above) but nonetheless, it’s something to wrestle with.

  • Bill Graham

    Uh-oh what a wretched man I am. As a manager who has been in baseball for the past 25 years I have had many discussions with umpires over calls that I felt were wrong, but never to the point of verbal abuse, just a discussion on the side after the play. In the heat of moment when the play happens it is natural to get upset, but I can say that a prolong arugement is not good for the team or the Umpire. Their is No glory to God in any arguement to an Offical, except of course when he is wrong.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Bill, I’m the victim here of faceless communication. I can’t tell when you say, “…what a wretched man I am,” and “…except of course when he is wrong,” if you are serious or not.

      Regardless, I think having a discussion with the umpire as you mentioned above could very well be a God-glorifying experience. If you are going to address an official, I think that’s the way to do it.

  • Troy

    I write this response not from the position of coach, but as a spectator, and that of high school athletics and below. At these levels, there is a focus on improvement and development. When officiating is inconsistent, unclear, and generally poor, not only is this purpose hindered but occasionally even thwarted. I have personally seen young athletes get so frustrated with officiating that the desire to continue in the sport be dampened and a few times even extinguished. Really, who would want to continue in any competition knowing that one is not going to be judged fairly? Our young, developing athletes deserve honest and fair officiating that they might learn not only the game, but also sportsmanship and fair play. Officiating impacts these things, both negatively and positively.

    To point out something to the official, with the above being my sole motivation and not for reasons of winning and losing, and doing so regardless of which team it positively or negatively affects, I believe is right. Isaiah 1:17, Psalm 82:3 How I do so, however, is critically important as a Christian as it affects my testimony. Done rightly, it can have and has had a positive impact on the game while the Christian witness not be tarnished. This is easier said than done, I understand all too well.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Troy, thanks for the comment. I think everyone wants a fairly officiated game. Officials, like everyone are imperfect though. Missed calls are a part of sports. As I’ve said in the comments, I can see scenarios when a God-glorifying conversation with a referee can happen after a game (or even during) addressing the referee’s performance. That’s not arguing though. For what it’s worth, I will also say that I haven’t seen anyone address a referee after a game from the winning team. It always seems to be the losing team that addresses the official’s performance…

      I can sympathize with kids who get discouraged because of officiating. However, I think this is a great opportunity to leverage sports to teach kids about the reality of life. Something like this:

      “Kids, I know the officiating was poor today. Don’t let that discourage you or even affect your effort though. In life, whether it be at school or at a job, unfairness and poor performances by people routinely happen. You can’t control those things but you can control how you react to them…”

      You get the gist. Harness the power of sports to teach the kids life lessons.

  • http://www.RedBarnChurch.org Brian Sayers

    As a pastor, coach, and part-time referee…

    I am fully aware that NO referee will ever be ABLE to see clearly every bump or violation. I watch film of my games taken at an angle different than my view on the bench. In my first few years of coaching many of my “arguments” were about calls that looked bad from my angle on the bench, but which were either correct, or not able to be seen from the angle of the referee. Mistakes are human, and are never a justifiable cause for anger or frustration. If they seem to be missing the same call repeatedly, I will often ask them what they are seeing that I am not, and tell my kids to adjust accordingly. Coach, don’t argue.

    I will use a time-out, or half-time discussion, to verbally question (not yell about) anything that puts the safety of the kids at risk (two recent occasions come to mind: (1) repeated shoving to the floor, and (2) a push in the back while in the air–which both resulted in injured players). If the ref is not respectful enough to listen to my concern, I will calmly inform them that I may send a complaint to a higher authority (the organization that certifies the referees in your state/league). I have never had to do so, as virtually every ref is respectful when treated in like manner. But anger and frustration still isn’t appropriate.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Brian, I like the way you handle the referees as a coach–during breaks. I think that’s great. Those type of conversations are a good thing.

  • Eric S.

    You assume this principle in your argument: If an action isn’t motivated by a desire to bring glory to God, that action is morally wrong (or sinful, or in some way not ok). But this principle is false. I tie my shoes all the time without giving God a thought. Have I sinned? Surely not. I cook dinner without giving God a thought. Have I sinned? Surely not. (If you say “yes” to these questions, it follows that you sin close to once every couple of seconds. If you you think that’s true, fine. But it seems obviously false to me.) The point: a coach’s arguing a call need not be motivated by a desire to glorify God. If it’s motivated by some other (non-sinful) desire or reason, then it’s permissible to argue the call.

    • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

      Eric, I can tell you put some thought into this. I can follow the logic however I think I ultimately disagree. Romans 14:23 says, “…everything that does not come from faith is sin.” According to the Bible, tying your shoe without faith is sin. Cooking dinner without faith is sin. This is where 1 Corinthians 10:31 is so helpful: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Something as simple as eating and drinking can be done for the glory of God. If so, then tying your shoe, cooking dinner, or even coaching sports can be done for the glory of God. Paul is assuming that everything we do is for someone’s glory. The question is, whose glory is it for?

      You say, “a coach’s arguing a call need not be motivated by a desire to glorify God.” I think from Romans 14:23 and 1 Corinthians 10:31 that God clearly says otherwise.

  • http://www.briankiley.net Brian Kiley

    Tim,

    This is a terrific post. I appreciate both the points you make and several of the points made by you and others in the comments. As a sports fan (who is also a pastor and who refereed soccer for nine years growing up) I hold two strong feelings in tension: 1) I find listening to someone complain about officiating in a sporting event to be almost insufferable. It is particularly irritating when people claim that officiating cost their team a game, or when their view of the officiating is clearly biased by their rooting interests. 2) It is very frustrating to see the result of athletic contests affected by officiating errors. I’m even frustrated when the team I’m rooting for is the beneficiary. All of that being said, I agree that there is never a time when it is appropriate to argue with an official. It does not bring glory to God, and as any of us who have attended sporting events can attest, it makes the arguer look silly.

    There is certainly a place for more calm conversations with referees, but I agree with you that even those conversations should be used sparingly and should be preceded by a careful examination of our motives. I believe that one unique way that Christians can glorify God in their interactions with officials is by valuing honesty, even when it is not to our advantage. There is no reason why we can’t commend an official for a good call that goes against us, or otherwise encourage an official in a way that shows honesty, character and integrity. Those sorts of counter cultural behaviors do bring glory to God, and help demonstrate that while competitive sports are fun, they are not our ultimate prize.

  • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

    For those who are interested, I just posted Part 2 of this blog: http://www.csosports.org/when-is-it-right-to-argue-with-refereesofficials-part-2

  • Eric S.

    Tim, Paul says “Whatever doesn’t proceed from faith is sin.” He never says (or implies) what you need for your argument which is “Whatever doesn’t proceed from the motive of glorifying God is sin.” 1 Cor 10:31 won’t get you that either unless you take it super-literally. If you insist on taking it super-literally, then you’ve got to take Paul’s injunction to pray without seeking equally literally. Thus, every moment you’re not praying, you’re sinning. My guess is that you don’t take that one literally. Second, my guess is that you don’t really believe that actions not motivated by the desire for God’s glory are sinful. If you really thought that, you’d repent of those times you tied your shoe or made dinner or drove to work without being motivated by God’s glory. But (my guess is) you’ve never confessed or repented of things like that, because you don’t really believe you’re sinning in those times (absent any evil motives). And I think you’re right about that. You’re clearly not (again, absent any evil motives).

  • John

    “Come on, ref! That guy had me by a mile! I was totally out! I can’t believe you called me safe! That is absolutely the worst call I have ever seen in my life!”

    “Do you see this, ref? I’m holding this guy on every play! Why are you not throwing your flag on me? I have held him every which way ’til Sunday! Throw a flag on me!!!”

    “Ref, I’m traveling! Can’t you see me traveling!! I’m traveling so much I should get frequent flier miles! The ball hardly ever hits the floor when I touch the ball! I should put a bonnet on the ball and call it my baby!!!!”

    The only time I ever argue with a referee is when I think he is being unfair to me. Me, me, me. Me, me, me, me, me, me. That is what is coming out of my mouth when I am arguing a call. The official offended MY sense of justice and what I think is right, so me, me, me, me. And quite frankly, when I think about it later, I am embarrassed at myself. You guys who think you’re “arguing for justice” or wanting the game to “be played the right way” need to check yourselves. We need the gospel to change our hearts so that we can enjoy the game with the bodies that God gave to us.

  • Sue

    I agree with the folks that wrote when it relates to unfair sportsmanlike conduct that could result in injury = then a comment may be heard with anger and frustration because it is your player that is the victim. It frosts my britches when a ref continues to let “dirty” play occur over and over. Our coach once told our more “excitable” parents in the stands this, “Would your actions/comments affect someone’s walk with the Lord?” Nothing worse than our Christian school team playing a public school team and no one can tell the parents apart = ouch! Great article.

  • Todd

    Tim, first off great thoughts and as I see a lot of passion around this topic. I will be honest I have not read all post and comments so this may be duplicated so I apologize if it is.

    I read a lot about all of this and have seen all sides of this as I coach, ref and train coaches and refs. We spend a great deal of time on this topic to our coaches. We always let them know that some point during the season you will be tested. We don’t tell them maybe will happen or it could happen, it will happen. It is a coaches reaction to a situation that will send that message is it ok from the stands or to the players to be critical, or be positive and supportive. I think the comments on here are great and just a lot of great insight.

    One thing we see as well is the little snyde (spelling?) comments about the officiating that to me is no different than yelling at the ref. ex. Player upset about a call that was or wasn’t made. Coach doesn’t argue with the ref, but tells his players calmly that look I can’t do anythign about the bad call, we just have to play the game. The ref missed that call and didn’t see it not much you could do. In my opinon that is no different than just arguing the call. The coach is not doing himself or his player justice by saying those things.

    We see this a lot where a coach may not argue a call to the ref, but he will make comments to his players and kind of does it with a smile on his face. I hope you guys understand what I am trying to say with it. Think this is being looked at one way, but lot of other sides to it all and it is not easy.

    Overall great topic to discuss and respect the input from everyone.

  • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

    Todd, thanks for your two cents. I would agree fully with you that the snide, passive-aggressive comments are no better than the overt yelling. They both undermine the referee, show a lack of respect, and fail to glorify God. Coaches think it’s not as bad because not many people can hear the comments (which is true), however, if the glory of God is your motivation (which it should be) then it’s hard to justify the snide comments.

    But, most coaches don’t bring this perspective into coaching. They often times played for a coach who yelled at the refs and they watch TV where coaches yell at the refs all the time. So, it’s a difficult topic to broach but it’s one that must be tackled if one seeks to have their Christianity impact every area of their life.

  • http://www.csosports.org/tim-briggs Tim Briggs

    Sue, thanks for the input! I think I may have mentioned this before but when the health/well being of your players are in danger, I don’t think it’s wrong at all to address the referee. As always, you have to check your motivations though. Is this about the health of my players or about something else? Is it about losing? Our performance? Etc. I think there certainly is a way to glorify God though by addressing this issue to a referee.

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