A Referee Shortage is Killing Sports

February 23, 2020

There is a epidemic facing us all. I am not talking about Coronavirus or the flu. A referee shortage may be the death of sports. You could not pay me enough to be a referee. People share articles and blog posts on social media about how tough it is to be a referee. These posts are a child’s perspective. Posts talk about how their parent is a ref and that it is hard to hear insults hurled at their kin. Seeing firsthand how nasty people can be, I now understand why there is a referee shortage.

Ed Hightower, Sourpuss

“Ed Hightower, Sourpuss” by acaben is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As my wife and I sat in the stands, with our 5 year old, we heard everything short of death threats towards the 3 person reffing crew. The vulgarities being spewed were quite loud and coming from fan base of the team who did not receive the benefit of the call.

In the opposing team area, it was downright scary.

The noise was almost deafening. Both crowds cheering, as it was an intense game. The momentum shifted towards the “guest” team and they were looking strong. They had mounted a large second half come back and a key three pointer tied the game at 50 points apiece. The crowd roared! With a few possessions for each team, the visiting team was ahead by one point!

After a missed shot from the home team, two players jumped for the rebound. Neither player was able to grab the ball and it bounced out of bounds. The referee on the baseline called it bouncing off of the home team, the home team crowd reacted negatively. The referee (with the better line of sight) corrected the call and the ball was tipped out by the visiting team player. With the call reversed, people went nuts. There was a loud chorus of profanities ringing out and that was not the end of it.

It’s no surprise why there is a referee shortage.

On the next play, a missed shot ended with the visitors grabbing the rebound…then a whistle blows. A referee called a travel against the opposition. The call led to outrage followed by another round of profanities. At that point in the opposing team area it was downright scary. My son (who is not a fan of loud noises) was actually covering his ears and sitting packed in between his mother and I. My heart was racing and for the first time ever I felt very uncomfortable watching a sporting event.

We need to condemn bad behavior.

The home team managed to get a shot under the basket (which almost bounced out) and took the lead back by one point. Three seconds were left in regulation time. The stage was set for something amazing. What we got fell short of amazing. Two fouls ended the game without any last second excitement. The crowd booed. People yelled nonstop for the last three minutes of the game.

The game itself was definitely intense. The crowds were intense. No one handed out any scholarships at this game. If any college scouts were present, I would be surprised. I know that we as fans are passionate about our teams. We as parents want our children to do well and we want their teams to do well. The hate shown towards the referees was undeniably ugly and we need to remember this is just a game. If I didn’t know any better, I would have said the fans gave a bad reputation to a decent town.

There were no betting lines in Las Vegas for this game.

What gives grown folks the idea that it is ok to insult children on the opposing team? This behavior is disgusting, these are not professional athletes. This behavior is unacceptable. From fights at a little league game to riots over championship wins, we need to condemn bad behavior.

We know that referees can influence the outcome of the game if they desire. If you think this is not true, look up Tim Donaghy. I won’t lie, I think professional sports are often influenced by referees. High school sports is not the same as professional sports. The referees do not care who wins. It does not make a difference to them. They do not get a bonus or extra pay for influencing the game. There were no betting lines in Las Vegas for this game. A call against your team, does not mean it is a conspiracy. There is no reason to belittle another human being over losing a game.

These referees are people too. Humans make mistakes which is why they run a three person crew. This ensures that all calls are fair and limit mistakes. Referees train and take tests to ensure they know the rules and how to interpret situations given how the ball bounces and why type of momentum each player carries. Referees are trained professionals and that leads me to believe they are more competent than the average person in the stands.

Your out of control behavior not only makes you look like an ass, it is killing the sport you love.

Refs are doing this job to give back to the sports they love. They have put in the time and effort to learn the skills needed to call a game fairly and correctly. They know, and understand, that without referees, the games will not be able to continue. There is a shortage of referees out there, if you think you can do a better job get out there and do it. Dedicate yourself to the sport and learn what it really takes to work the game.

Referees have a hard job and I thank them for doing it. If more people would try it, they may realize that bad fan behavior is hurting amateur sports. Let the professionals do their job to call the game the way they see it. Being involved with reffing can be a positive thing and it will keep the game alive for many more years to come. It’s no surprise why there is a referee shortage. Your out of control behavior not only makes you look like an ass, it is killing the sport you love.

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-Adam