The arc of history is long. The arc of a disallowed goal that hits the crossbar is short. Both bend toward justice. Such was the argument put forth by German midfielder Thomas Mueller following his team's 4-1 World Cup victory over England on Sunday, a match that saw the Three Lions have an early goal mistakenly nullified.
"This is the compensatory justice for Wembley [Stadium]," Mueller said, referring to England benefitting from a controversial goal line decision in a 1966 World Cup final victory over Germany.
Forty-four years after the fact?
No. No. A thousand times no. Mueller was born in 1989, more years removed from the 1966 Cup final than the same match was removed from World War II. (Speaking of compensatory justice.) As such, he's hardly in a position to be invoking sports karma.
In fact, it's high-time for a Sports Karma Statute of Limitations -- in part because invoking Michael Jordan's shot over Craig Ehlo every time the Cleveland Cavs and Chicago Bulls meet in a meaningless regular season game is getting old; in part because real life is not one of those Gatorade-sponsored, Icy Hot-fueled high school sports reunion games.
Herein, a few rules stipulating when sports karma should not be invoked:
When a majority of the principals are no longer involved: If Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins lead the Sacramento Kings over the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2014 NBA Playoffs, it won't count as revenge for 2002 -- not even if Kobe Bryant and (probably) Derek Fisher are still playing.
When circumstances have changed significantly: This year's Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals series was billed as payback for Boston's beat down of Los Angeles in 2008. Nuh-uh. The current Lakers are much tougher, thanks to Ron Artest; the current Celtics are way, way creakier, thanks to Father Time. Apples to oranges.
When the payback involves an ongoing feud: There's nothing just or karmic about sticking it to your rival, à la the New York Yankees topping the Boston Red Sox or vice versa. You get yours; they get theirs; rinse and repeat. It's simply expected.
When the person invoking payback was a child and/or zygote during the time of the original incident: see Mueller.