Write Again . . . “Don’t quit your day job!”

Published 8:33 pm Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Included in my athletic background are varied experiences as an “official.” For most sports, people would say “referee,” but in football and basketball there’s actually only one “referee” on the field or court.

That’s just a minor point, however. One not important enough for further explication.

Even though I coached at the high school level for many years, to include football, basketball (girls and boys), cross country, and track and field, I think it’s fair to say that many, if not most, coaches don’t know the rules as well as perhaps they should, nor nearly as well as most experienced officials.

That doesn’t stop some coaches from complaining and whining about this or that call, in some instances where they – the coaches – are just plain wrong.

Enough of that. Allow me to share with you a few tidbits from my officiating “career.”

At a recreation league softball game many years ago, I ruled, as a base umpire, that a ball that stuck in the fence was a ground rule double.

Oh, my. A player-manager of the team at bat challenged my call, and stood almost in my face, with a bat raised over his head. He was so angry he was shaking. The plate umpire backed up my call, and helped to defuse the situation.

That was my last rec league umpire experience. I “retired” after that night.

Then there was the volleyball game between two Christian schools here in our county. Two really big rivals. Some of my calls were liked by one school’s fans and not the others. And vice versa.

Then I made a big mistake. I asked one very vocal man “Do you thinkyou can do better?” “Oh, yes” he immediately replied. Was I dumb, or what?

Later someone in the stands admonished, “Hey, ref. Don’t quit your day job.” Good advice, and thanks, thanks a lot. God bless you, anyway.

One night when I was calling an adult men’s rec league basketball game a fight broke out involving four players, two from each team. I mean, this was the real deal. Someone was probably going to be hurt. For sure.

No one was able to break it up. So . . . I walked to the back of the gym, flicked the light switches, and plunged the gladiators’ arena into total darkness, and walked right out the back door.

It was later that I learned that right after the lights went out one of the combatants connected with the jaw of his opponent, and really put his lights out. Not good.

Once, while officiating a basketball game – adult men’s rec league again – I blew the whistle for some reason or other, but one of the players kept right at it. I blasted the whistle again. He didn’t stop. One of the players evidently indicated to him to stop. I admonished the offending young man

a bit, letting him know just what a blown whistle implied. Yes, sir. I told him.

That was when one of the players said, “He can’t hear you, ref. He’s deaf.”

One night at a high school football game in Robersonville, one of the coaches was consistently vocal in his criticisms of our crew’s officiating. This even when his team was winning.

Immediately after the game ended two deputies came up and said they would escort us off the field.

One of the fellows in our crew asked a deputy “Were we that bad?”

“Oh, no, sir. It’s like this at every game. We always walk with the referees to their dressing room.” Mercy.

For the most part calling high school games is far easier than rec league games. And little league? Forget it.

There were also many satisfying experiences along the way, but not nearly as enjoyable or rewarding as those that came my way when I was coaching.

I will say that track and field, and cross country, competitions are almost always totally devoid of any acrimony, or coach or fan discontent. It’s a whole different environment. Wholesome and positive.

So. What did I learn from these varied experiences?

I learned that it would be a good thing if all coaches and all fans had to officiate a few sports competitions.

A good thing, indeed.