In a little over 25 years covering sports from Little League to high schools to a myriad of Division I events, I have seen and heard plenty of comments from fans during games.
Some have made me laugh, others have made me cringe and some have made me wonder what in the world they are watching.
Most of those comments have been directed at the officials tasked with keeping order and making sure the game is played within the rules.
Are officials at any level perfect?
Of course not.
We saw that clearly last Sunday in the NFL’s NFC and AFC championship games.
However, my conclusion, one that has formed over many, many years, that the officials are correct in their calls and understanding of the rules way more than John or Jane Q. Public.
I have tried to learn as much as I can, especially during Oregon State women’s basketball games, to educate myself thanks to the help of Pac-12 evaluator Chris Equinoa.
The rules are intricate so most fans don’t fully understand how or why a call is made.
Let me be up front and honest before I go any further: there were times in the past when I was that fan yelling at the officials.
I recall leaving the Boys & Girls Club of Albany one time some 15 years ago feeling a bit embarrassed by what I had said one particular night. And you know what, I was wrong on that particular occasion.
So I understand the passion that fans have for their sports teams.
At the high school level, however, it seems like fans — mostly adults — have crossed the line far too often and it is beginning to have a negative impact.
A little over a week ago, the Oregon School Activities Association sent out an email with an op-ed piece written by OSAA Executive Director Peter Weber and Karissa Niehoff, the executive director of the National Federation of High School Associations.
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The title was “Dear Mom and Dad: Cool it.”
The main point is that officials have had enough of being constantly yelled at throughout the course of games.
Weber and Niehoff wrote: “Make no mistake about it. Your passion is admired, and your support of the hometown team is needed. But so is your self-control. Yelling, screaming and berating the officials humiliates your child, annoys those sitting around you, embarrasses your child’s school and is the primary reason Oregon has an alarming shortage of high school officials.”
They go on to site a recent study conducted by the National Association of Sports Officials that three out of four high school officials say that “adult behavior” is at the top of the list for stepping away.
The piece also states that 80 percent of young officials last no longer than two years.
The reason: the abuse is just too much.
With so many veteran high school officials nearing the end of their time, and the younger ones souring so quickly, it could mean finding qualified officials will be a real issue in the seasons to come.
In fact, the piece claims that the shortage is severe enough in some areas that it has caused postponement and cancellations of some games, particularly at the freshman and junior varsity levels.
I know officiating is a thankless job, and one that is pretty difficult. I know I had to umpire a Little League game once and boy did I get caught napping at first base. I had no idea if the player was safe or out and let me tell you I heard about it!
They officials aren’t biased toward one team and they don’t really care who wins. They are trying to provide a service that allows youngsters and high schoolers a chance to play a game they love.
So the next time you catch yourself getting frustrated by what you perceive is a bad call by an official and are about to yell something out to voice that displeasure, take a moment and reconsider.
The odds are the official is probably correct. And if not, they probably feel bad about making a mistake.
Not only that, set a positive example for the younger crowd so that when their children are ready to play sports, there will be plenty of people who still want to be officials.