Missionary Elders playing basketball in 1974 in South Wales.
By Lynn Arave
IT IS SIMPLY A PARADOX why some players in stake-organized basketball games for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can leave their morality behind in the locker room and act on the court however badly they want -- and with no penalty outside of perhaps a free throw or two for the other team.
Why after decades of this happening has nothing improved?
This isn't just about sportsmanship, it is about totally inappropriate, violent behavior on the court.
EXAMPLE: My Bishop gave the ward a 10-minute or so sermon on January 31, 2016 on how service to others can help a person be happier and also move them beyond bad feelings that chase the Spirit of the Lord away.
This Bishop said he was playing in a recent church basketball game when a player on the other team simply shoved an opposing player to the floor and on his back after he got mad over a play. The shove was made AFTER the ball was dead.
No mention was made of any action taken against the violent player -- and although he didn't specifically say it, I think that is what bothered my Bishop the most.
(Even though that player's conduct bordered on criminal assault, the violent player "got away with it" BECAUSE "it was in a game and emotions were high.")
The Bishop said that the bad behavior by that player bothered him all day long and he struggled to move past it. Finally with service to others he got past it ...
Yet, the story should not have ended there ...
That violent player should have been kicked out of that game and warned that a future such infraction would ban him totally from playing church sports.
This kind of action probably never happens, but it should.
This kind of incident is why Church basketball is sometimes referred to as "Tackle Basketball" -- and I'm betting they happen periodically church-wide.
With a basketball court in most every LDS meetinghouse, it is the most popular Mormon sport.
-HERE'S ANOTHER incident of both violent and unsportsmanlike conduct in LDS Church basketball games: A brother of mine had his wrist karate chopped and broken as he went in for a layup in a Church game some years ago. The offender knew karate and was ironically the stake athletic director. My brother claims the player was never held accountable for his excessive actions.
-One of my sisters even had a tale to tell: When playing church softball in the early 1980s, she said her ward soundly defeated the opposing team. However, just after the game ended, a disgruntled member of the losing team threw a softball as hard as she could at my sister's head, knocking her out. And, once again, there was no penalty or any action against that violent player.
So, even women's sports in church play have problems and softball too is not immune to un-Christlike behavior.
-I've heard of other problems over the years too. I'm certain there are numerous more such tales out there ...
Such violent behavior in church basketball is simply an embarrassment to the Church.
In the one true Church of Jesus Christ, members should exhibit better behavior on the court or field. There are no exceptions here.
I've seen sporting events held by other faiths and the LDS Church has some of the worst offenders of them all.
Church youth need to be taught better sportsmanship and that such violent behavior is unacceptable. Then, if there were corresponding and instant penalties for bad behavior in church sports, the problem would diminish significantly.
(Some church members have joked over the decades that the Second Coming/Millennium would have come sooner had it not been for Church Sports.)
-My suggestions: The Church ought to draft a clear policy on violent behavior, profanity and even sportsmanship in church sports. That should be sent as a letter to all leaders, to be read in Sacrament meetings, so everyone will know of the changes.
It should be included in the next new General Handbook of Instructions.
When an incident happens on the court, the referee and any officials confer and decide what action needs to be taken.
(Perhaps there could be an UnChristlike Foul 1 and UnChristlike Foul 2 level of fouls, akin to college's Flagrant 1 and Flagrant 2 fouls ....)
Yes, church referees receive little or no training, but these matters of bad conduct are pretty basic -- no rocket science required.
If the player is kicked out of the game, his or her bishop and the stake president should be notified and he/she clearly should be told that one more incident and he/she could banned from church sports for life.
-Note that full-time missionaries who play basketball are encouraged NOT to keep score, in order to hopefully make the game less intense.