For most of you who have witnessed my basketball-watching antics in the past, I can hear you saying, “He's a fine one to talk about being nice to the refs.”
I'll admit I got pretty intense at times and thought my 20/20 vision was far better than that myopic Mr. Magoo out there on the floor blowing that whistle. I thought I knew all the rules to the letter and was sure to point out any mistakes the refs made.
John Jones, a ref who was tougher than John Wayne TP, convinced me I wasn't as smart as I though I was when he pointed a finger at me and yelled for me to “sit down and shut up” and that was before the warmups had even begun.
Now fast forward to today.
I have repented and atoned for my sins. I have done the 15- step thing and apologized to those refs. I had offended in the past. I have received complete forgiveness for my typographical and mouthographical sins.
There is a strain of thought in here somewhere, so I'd best get to.
Being a referee in any sport is a thankless job at best. There are reams of pages of rules and regulations a prospective ref has to memorize before taking a test to see if he or she is capable of putting on the stripes and officiating.
Once they are deemed mentally competent and know the rules and protocols of reffing, they are mostly assigned to jamboree, junior high and JV games for a couple of years.
I once had aspirations of trying out for the job, but a couple or more electro-shock treatments at Warm Springs chased those ideas away never to return.
Attending the girls state basketball tourney this year prompted me to write this article about refs, fans, players and coaches.
The most common comment I hear after every contest – be it volleyball, basketball or football – is this: “Man those refs really took it away from us this time” or “they called everything against us and nothing against them.”
As in this case, basketball, I sat right down front at the media table and directly in front of fans from several different towns there for the main purpose of jeering, harassing and yelling at the refs and the other team, or so it seemed.
There was not one single possession that the fans didn't question calls (or non-calls) or imagined infractions of the rules.
I heard fans behind me yelling about a call from high above in the cheap seats, a 150 or more feet away from the action. A basketball court is 94 feet long and 50 feet wide. The refs are right there in the midst of the action, yet a mom or dad, sister, uncle or grannie of a player at the far end of the court will yell at a ref for missing a call.
Maybe it was a blocked shot with the ref standing five feet away. The shooter is surrounded by players from both the opposing team and their own.
Someone goes high up and makes a block that looks clean. The hands contact nothing but ball, and the ref airs up his whistle.
Fans of the shooter are saying, “GOOD CALL REF!” – while fans of the blocker are yelling at the zebra, “ARE YOU BLIND!?”
What the fans didn't see from far away was the hip thrown by the blocker just as the shooter elevated for the shot, knocking the shooter off stride. And that was the call. Not the clean hand block.
And then there were the fans who loudly counted the ticks an offensive player was in the lane or the 10 counts it takes for the team with the ball to get across the time line. I'm sure the refs appreciated the help because none of them can count to 10 all be themselves!
Myron Malnaa, a long-time basketball ref, once told me, “ I tell the players at the beginning of the game that I will call a perfect game if you will play a perfect game. No traveling, no lane violations, no reach-in fouls, no missed bunnies or free throws and no bad passes. If you can do that, I will call a perfect game making no mistakes.” Sound advice indeed.
So here's the deal you should make with yourselves. Cheer FOR your own team – not AGAINST the opposing team. Give the referee's the respect they deserve and have earned.
If you are in the stands questioning every call, or missed call, imagined or real, and your kid hears you, pretty soon he or she will start thinking, “We're getting beat up by the refs” – or maybe, “Why keep trying? The refs will just take it away from us anyway.”
Remember, refs are not the cause of a team winning or losing games. Players and coaches are.
So in closing, I would say that unless you are ready, willing and able to put on the Montana Officials Association striped shirt, unless you are very thick skinned, unless you want to run up and down the court for 32 minutes watching 10 players at a time to see that they do nothing wrong to their counterpart, then sit down and be supportive of YOUR team.
I would much rather be remembered for good sportsmanship than bad sportsmanship.
That's it for now folks. Thanks for listening ... to the refs.