I shouldn’t have laughed.
I was sitting courtside near the score keepers, announcers and other impartial officials at the 1A state tournament taking my little notes and paying attention to what seemed like the 5,000th high school basketball game of the week.
But I couldn’t help it. Some things are just so ridiculous; I just couldn’t help myself.
I’ve heard all kinds of things yelled at officials through the years — “open your eyes,” “guess we know where you’re from” and “I’d blow that call too if I was your age.”
One is meant to assume that all these taunts, and many thousands of others, are meant to convey the message of, “Kind sir, I do not agree with your call. I respectfully request you please reconsider it.”
This particular taunt might have gone just a bit too far. Just as the audience roar had subsided, one gentleman’s yelling carried through the entire Sevier Valley Center — “Quit cheatin’ ref!”
It was a new one for me. I couldn’t help it, I giggled.
It was apparently a new one for the official as well. He stopped the game, and warned the coach if he heard one more word from his team’s loudest supporter, it would cost them free throws.
Then the official shot me a look … did he see me giggling?
I wasn’t laughing at him, just the absurdity of the situation. Clearly a man in his 40s would have such a vested interest in a girls’ basketball game, he would openly cheat in front of hundreds of people. It was ridiculous.
The ref did not see the humor in the situation.
It’s one thing to call high school basketball officials “blind,” “old,” “dumb” and “fat,” but to just outright accuse them of cheating? That crossed a line. It took the insult from being one based on ineptitude, physical appearance or parent’s marital status at the time of conception and turned it into flat out character assassination.
Rowdy McSuperfan sat down, folded his arms and sulked the rest of the game, while everyone around him avoided eye contact.
It did make me reflect on the things that set refs off. They can go for two hours being accused of having glass eyes, dementia and a potato’s understanding of the rules, but occasionally something hits them and it’s gone too far.
This last tournament, it seemed like someone had put something in the 1A water supply that was making the fans even more outspoken than usual. Games were stopped as officials threatened to call technical fouls for the behavior of fans, assistant coaches and even cheerleaders.
To be the devil’s advocate, it was a pretty intense tournament with games that went into overtime, double overtime and triple overtime. Emotions were running high.
Besides, yelling at basketball officials is just what some people do. I know of ladies who refuse to sit near their husbands at any high school sporting event. I really think it’s how some people work out their aggression. After spending two hours screaming insults at a high school basketball game, they go home and start a Boy Scout troop, cook dinner for a sick neighbor or build a church.
The worst is when the taunting is based on an officials’ actual name. When someone yells, “Hey Fatty, call it on both sides,” it doesn’t carry with it the implied threat of “Hey, STEVE, get it right.”
When actual names are used, it’s almost like the Rowdy McSuperfans of the world are saying, “I know who you are, and if you call another foul on my team, I’ll flatten your tires, torch your house and make a pass at your wife.”
It just kind of feels icky, and makes everyone a bit uncomfortable.
Plus, no one laughs. Not even me.
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