In Sports and Life, Outcomes Not Always Fair or Right

Lyn Scarbrough

November 09, 2020 at 4:32 pm.

Here are a few thoughts to consider from significant people, especially applicable today:

** “Fairness is like a multi-faceted gem. Its appearance can vary, depending on the angle of the beholder.” – Roshani Chokshi, American children’s book author

** “When you see something that is not right, not just, not fair, you have a moral obligation to say something, to do something.”  – John Lewis, American Congressman and civil rights leader

** “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. – First written by Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian

** “Don’t change horses in the middle of the stream.”  – Countless people, including my great-grandmother Ma Waldrop

It’s interesting how things in sports are so often teachers of life lessons.

There are some basic truths that can’t be avoided and must be understood. The best team doesn’t always win. Good guys don’t always finish first. And, things are not always fair.

Of course, there is a difference in the way that unfairness happens.

Some things are not intentional, just bad breaks.

Consider Virginia Tech against Liberty this past Saturday. On the game’s last play with the teams tied, the Hokies blocked a potentially game-winning Flames’ field goal attempt, scooped and ran it in for the apparent game-winner. But just before the snap, the Virginia Tech sideline had called time out. On the retry, the Liberty placekicker drilled it, giving the Flames the upset win. Liberty fans saw it as justice. Virginia Tech fans not so much.

Some things are done intentionally, maybe not pre-planned, but injustice caused by humans all the same.

Consider the Missouri-Colorado football game in 1990, the worst case of unfairness that I remember in all of sports. The highly-ranked Buffaloes were near the Tigers’ end zone and scored the game-winner on a short run … on fifth down! Officials had allowed Colorado an extra down. Everybody knew it. It wasn’t in question. But since it had already happened, it was allowed to stand. You didn’t see Colorado offer to give back the snap.

Was that unfairness important? Only that at the end of the season, Colorado was named the national champion. Only giving them the biggest prize in their arena. You didn’t see Colorado offer to give back the championship trophy.

From my perspective, the semifinal game at the Final Four in Minneapolis in April, 2019 had a similar outcome, allowing Virginia to win the national championship, sending Auburn home one game short. (If you want to see my take on that one, check this link HERE )

But, there is another type of unfairness that should never be allowed.

Competition in sports, and in life, need to be played by the rules … the rules that were in place when the competition started. Not rules changed after the competition was underway. Neither opponent should ever be allowed to change the rules while the game is being played.

If you don’t like the rules, change them legally after the competition is over. Pass different rules, but not while the competition is mid-stream.

That would be like the Iron Bowl being played and at halftime officials decide that one side can have 12 players on the field, not 11. What team would ever agree to let their opponent have that advantage? Of course, none.

Those in charge of any competition have an obligation to insure fairness. Loyal fans have an obligation to acknowledge the final outcome of competition, but continue supporting their team.

But as much as we all should passionately want fairness, sometimes things just don’t turn out that way. Things can be done and decisions can be formed the right way, but things can still go against you.

It’s like the learned philosopher and comedian Roseanne Barr said:

“To expect life to treat you good is as foolish as hoping a bull won’t hit you because you are a vegetarian.”   

I think I’ll have a hamburger, hold the onions.