Apparently, It's Not "Just A Game" To Everyone

Another disturbing incident involving a soccer game, only it's in this country.

I suppose I should write this week about the ongoing story about the three missing (and now found) women in Cleveland, not far from where I grew up. But just about everyone is doing that.

But there's another disturbing incident, this one involving the death of a referee in a soccer game last week.

Violence at soccer matches has sadly become commonplace-in Europe and South America. But this incident happened in the United States. To be specific, in a suburb of Salt Lake City, Utah.

A referee issued a relatively routine caution-one step from ejection from the game-to a 17 year-old player. The player then punched the referee in the face; apparently hard enough that the ref went into a coma and died a few days later from his injuries.

It was Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach, who supposedly said (he often denied it) that "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing." But I think even Lombardi, if he were alive today, would be horrified at how emphasis on winning has led to incidents like this.

The referee, or umpire, is always the least loved person in an athletic contest. Refs themselves know this and even joke about it at times. And their decisions are second-guessed more than ever. As I write this, there's a controversy over a Cleveland Indians-Oakland A's baseball game which was decided by an apparent home run which an umpire misjudged to be a double.

And there's one story after another about a parent at a kids' athletic game who got into a fight with an ump or ref who made a disputed call involving one of their youngsters. At one time, such contests were about having fun and not winning championships or even athletic achievement. But apparently not any more.

Incidents like this, often with tragic consequences, happen more and more often. But, up to now, they haven't taken place on athletic fields. All of us, including myself, have to remember that only a small percentage of people go on to play professional sports or win national or world championships.

It is "only a game". And no one should have to die for it.

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