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Referees commit to thankless job PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Friday, 25 March 2016 17:05

By Lori Pankonin

We joined the buzzing atmosphere at the Nebraska state high school basketball tournament recently. Although we took interest in the spectacular Class A talent on the court, we weren’t dressed in school colors nor did we take interest in a specific team. It was half time that prompted our trek across the state.

Russ, my hubby, had received a letter from the Nebraska High School Officials Association that they wanted to recognize him for 25 years as a NSAA (Nebraska Schools Activity Association) basketball official.

My first thought was 25 years is a lot of years of getting yelled at. Technically he has worn the stripes and donned the whistle eight additional years other than those registered with the NSAA.

Next to golf, I’d say his referee experience is tops on his list of extra-curricular activities. He once commented it was his stress reliever. That one threw me for a loop. How can having people yell at you like you’re an absolute blind idiot be a stress reliever?

He definitely has a bonding with those he traveled and refereed with, sometimes spending seven hours of travel and game time in one evening. Take that times three nights a week. To this day, he chuckles when he gets messages from his reffing cohorts and will have a forever bond.

Maybe there’s gratification knowing you have the authority and what you say goes. You become more and more confident with experience. And ultimately it forces you to get in shape to survive.

Frankly, through the years I try to sit clear of referee critics. It doesn’t matter what sport or what level of play, it’s the same people who constantly nag at the refs. Seems to me the common denominator there is the yeller as the refs typically change with the games.

The interesting thing is I watched Russ spend hours reading basketball rule books. He went to camps and subscribed to referee magazines, taking a keen interest to learn, refresh and improve. I really questioned how many fans who made crude and often times rude comments had ever touched an actual rule book.

Think about it. There’s no official out there who makes it a mission to make a bad call. I’m always amazed at Husker games when there’s a play review and every camera angle shows a different scenario. Even after repetitive play backs, someone has to make the final call and not everyone agrees.

That just proves that it isn’t possible for human beings to see the exact same detail from different perspectives. And at the high school level when they don’t use play-back options, it’s a split second decision.

Yes, there are times an official misses a call but chances are the fan at the top of the bleachers didn’t see them all perfectly either. And again, do they even know the nitty gritty detail of every travel or foul violation? And do they want the job that would force them to run up and down the court for hours?

Someone once said there are ball players, coaches, fans and referees at every ball game. No person should try to play more than one of those roles at the same time. Wow! Wouldn’t it be great if fans cheered and put extra effort into encouraging the hard-working players rather than thinking they should coach or referee from the stands. What a concept!