Let them play

Published 7:39 pm Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Referees were front and center during much of Monday’s NCAA championship clash between North Carolina and Villanova. College basketball has cracked down on hand-check fouls this past year, which made Tar Heel fans irate when their team was whistled for eight consecutive infractions in the first half of the game.

Fans often plead with refs to “let them play.” It’s frustrating to see an official — sometimes even if it’s justified — take the spotlight from the athletes competing.

Such was the case in a recent baseball game between Washington and Ayden-Grifton. It was the backend of a home-and-home series between the two teams. The Pam Pack won the first meeting, 8-0, on enemy territory. The Chargers, poised to put up a better fight, threw out their ace pitcher when they traveled to Washington for a rematch on March 24.

What should have been an entertaining game between two good clubs became a laughing stock thanks to questionable officiating on both sides. Both coaches challenged the umpires and, at one point, an official admitted to not following the play.

Washington coach Kevin Leggett questioned a call made, which some away fans responded to by telling the opposing coach “it’s just a game.”

Yes, it’s just a game. It’s a game that should have been focused on the two quality teams on the diamond instead of the calls — or lack thereof — made by the umpires. It’s also a game that players on both sides put hours of practice into. It’s also a game in which the players have postseason goals set and perhaps even aspirations of playing after high school.

Yes, it’s a game, but no, it’s not just a game. It’s the culmination of hours of work and a chance to work toward something greater in the future. Referees, umpires and officials of all sorts aren’t always going to be perfect, but they owe it to the athletes competing to let them do just that — compete.