In professional basketball, a personal foul — contact with an opposing player not allowed by the rules of the game — is a violation and results in either free throws or possession of the basketball by the opposing team. A flagrant foul is a personal foul that is excessive or violent and could injure a player.
There are two levels of flagrant fouls. The first level, deemed less severe by the referees, results in a technical foul — free throws and possession of the ball by the opposing team. The flagrant 2 is the most serious, results in immediate player ejection and may also bring further suspension by the League office.
No dirty tricks, the NBA is saying. Basketball is not going to sink into violence. Players are to play by the rules, which admittedly allows some contact, but they aren’t to deliberately hurt anyone either by intentionally trying to do so or by playing so rough, that’s the inevitable consequence.
These flagrant foul rules came into the league a few years after Boston’s Kevin McHale close-lined Lakers forward Kurt Rambis and threw him on his back as he was going up for a lay-up. As I remember, McHale was called for a foul, received no technical, and was not ejected from the game.
Professional hockey used to be known more for the fights on the ice than any actual skating and scoring, but their league also took action and has done much to clean up the game so that it is growing in popularity.
Schools are beginning to call a flagrant 2 on bullies. No more purposeful, intentional, harmful bashing — physically or emotionally — of another student. The damage is too great and the repercussions are unacceptable.
The problem, however, is that the flagrant 2 is a penalty, not a prevention. Yes, in sports and perhaps in schools, the penalty may act as a deterrent. That would seem to be the case in hockey, and fewer players are being thrown on their backs these days in professional basketball.
But the flagrant 2 does not address the heart of the matter — the heart. Bullies of any stripe in any venue don’t care about the rules. They only care about not getting caught.
How else can we explain a professional football coach paying players to go out and hurt athletes on opposing teams? Rules don’t matter to guys like that, so no flagrant 2 ruling is going to change a person like that.
A heart transplant.
Chuck Colson, who died on Saturday, is proof of what a new heart can do. He was involved in the greatest political scandal of US history, and ended up serving jail time because of it. But in the midst of the finger-pointing and cover-ups, he found Christ, and the world began to see what a changed life looks like.
No, Mr. Colson didn’t turn his life around. His personal flagrant 2 didn’t set him straight or even scare him straight. He actually entered prison as a Christian, and as God so often does, He used what appeared to be the lowest point of Mr. Colson’s life to do something of greatness.
It was in prison that Mr. Colson came to understand what life was all about and what his purpose was for. A year or so after his release from jail, he founded Prison Fellowship. The change in this man’s heart began to have widespread affects, not just in the lives of the inmates who had the opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ but in the Church as it came face to face with the responsibility to reach beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone to our neighbors we’d rather flag with a flagrant 2 and be done.
Mr. Colson has given the Church far more than we may realize today. I suspect his legacy will be among the great Christian thinkers. Well, it already is.
“Precious in the sight of the LORD
Is the death of His godly ones” (Ps. 116:15).