Sunday, June 26, 2022 |
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Hey, faithful reader, come closer.This is not meant to be stated with any
sense of overt grandeur. Quite the opposite, in fact. In reality, this must be
said in a manner befitting a childhood secret, rather hush-hush, you know. But
I’m still going to set the sentence off on its own.
It’s a shame that there
is little accountability among referees, officials, umpires, line judges, field
judges – you get the point.
As a lover of sports, it’s an intensely hard
fact to swallow, but it seems the ultimate taboo in athletics is to find fault
with the intended overseer of the game’s – whatever it may be – sanctity, not
to mention safety.
Let me say this first: On a whole, nobody has more
respect for the referee than I.
Honestly, while it’s easier to chide
officials on the collegiate or professional level – as they are raking in large
paychecks for their services – in general, a round of applause is due the high
school, and especially, recreational referee. The gentlemen or ladies – while
traditionally still receiving some money – give of their time for the good of
children and adults alike.
Now, let me give you a quick island example of
the accountability I’ve mentioned. At the end of the January 2 KIF varsity
basketball game, Waimea trailed Kapa’a 54-52 with 15 seconds remaining in the
contest. After six or seven seconds of frenzy, the Warriors got the ball into
the hands of the guy they wanted fouled, the guy they wanted on the free throw
line with the game on the line. The Menehunes, about three of them, then spent
about five seconds slapping this guy’s arms and shoulders, clearly trying to
draw the foul. No whistles. Despite the bumps and shoves that had been called
all night, no whistles. The clock ran out, and Kapa’a won 56-52.
theme runs through every level of competition: A referee oversteps acceptable
bounds when the individual becomes part of the game, rather than remains an
objective outsider looking in. Admittedly, it seems to me human nature to take
a side, or to lose oneself in the emotion of an event. But the charge of the
official is to keep the kind of level head that allows for objectivity.
absence of this quality is not more evident than on the community or high
school level. I’ve seen it a thousand times whether watching or participating
in sport: one snide comment to this man or woman whom it seems may have a list
full of things he or she would rather be doing, and it’s lights out for your
team. The members of the offending squad may get tossed around like crash-test
dummies, but whistles will disappear. The team’s opponent may commit rules
violations at which Ray Charles would scoff, but the whistles have already been
At that point, the game may, in effect, be over, because the man
or woman on the playing field with the truest power to dictate the game has
Yet even in these situations, the official is, essentially,
untouchable. What a glorious position of power.
On the pro level, a
player, coach or organization may be fined thousands of dollars for remarking
on the officials’ performance. That’s cold, hard cash, for criticizing a man or
woman for having an off-night in at least one half of their chosen profession
(many referees work other jobs during the off-season). Shoot, doctors, lawyers,
journalists (!), athletes, coaches, actors, etc., etc. … All of these
individuals would be making dough hands over fist if they charged for public
criticism. It’s part of working under the microscope of the watchful human
On the collegiate level, there is a bit more leeway, but the rope
isn’t all that long. The NCAA does not look favorably on an institution whose
coaches and players are hard on officials. Believe me, they take note; the NCAA
takes note of everything.
Bad-mouthing an official is a clear indication to
collegiate athletics’ governing body that your program is run in the style of
the old Miami Hurricanes’ football teams.
The penalties for criticizing
officials at the high school or recreational level are not as severe, on paper.
But the blackmark that might be delivered to a team by the offended official
can drastically impact a season. I’ve seen it happen before. One early-season
tirade by a player, and any game of his that the official works for the year’s
remainder becomes an uphill battle before tip-off, or kick-off or first
It’s not that officials are not permitted to have an off-night, or
miss a call or even clearly blow it on occasion. We all do that in our chosen
walks of life. It’s the inability to acknowledge the mistake that irks me. And
even if one should happen to recognize an error, the system of recompense is
nonexistent at best.
Here’s a glaring instance of that nonexistence. This
season, the Pittsburgh Steelers were, in their minds, shafted in three close
games by the officials. Shafted to the point that the offending call or lack of
a call either cost them the game or severely altered the course of a game. The
shafting, in the organization’s opinion, was so great that it brought the
offenses to the attention of the national football league office. Upon review,
the NFL agreed the Steelers had been shafted all three times.
We’ll try and do better next time.
For the record, Pittsburgh ended the
season 9-7. Those three wins surely would have put the franchise into the
playoffs, where it could have benefited financially from tickets sales,
merchandise sold, etc.
For the record, if a pro or collegiate official
fails frequently to perform at least adequately, he or she may at least be
forbidden from working “the big games,” and may be demoted.
doesn’t make the official any more criticizable.
Again, I say all this in
a hush-hush tone. It’s a whisper, really.
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