As we enjoy the time between the holidays, it’s a chance to reflect and be a little creative.
It’s been a good year for area athletes and sports teams and you’ll read about them in upcoming issues as we present the year in review. There was quite a bit to put into the stories.
On the creative side, I’ve been pondering the “12 Days of Sportsmas,” in the spirit of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” I’m not the first one to think of this concept, but will try to apply a local version.
Here’s the working copy of which applies for each day:
• No. 1 ranking;
• Two points for a takedown;
• Three-point basket;
• Four Rivers Conference;
• Five golden rings (St. Francis Borgia Regional boys basketball state titles);
• Six volleyball players waiting for the serve;
• Seven innings of thrilling softball;
• Eight lanes of swimmers;
• Nine on the diamond, defending against the batting team;
• 10 playing basketball in front of a crowded gym;
• 11 football or soccer players fighting for the win; and
• The 12th man, which gives the games atmosphere and cheers their teams to wins.
Sometimes that 12th man can give a little too much atmosphere to the game and the fans are never shy about letting an official know that they feel he or she missed a call.
Of course, by virtue of passing through the gate and paying their way in, all fans are blessed with extraordinary vision to see exactly what happened on the floor or field, no matter how far up in the stands they’re sitting.
Fans never have been shy about letting officials know what they think. In the unfiltered atmosphere of today (thank you social media), it’s gotten even worse.
And maybe that’s why there is a crisis at the high school level among officiating numbers. Many of the longtime officials are retiring or deciding that it’s not worth the grief to do the job anymore.
Young adults seem to be of the opinion that they don’t want to step into that situation. I don’t blame them. Who wants to stick their arm into the alligator’s mouth?
I can remember my college days at Southeast Missouri State. There was a progression in knowing how desperate things had become in a game was gauging who the fans were screaming at. Normally, they would just ride the opposing players. Then they would criticize the officials. If things got really bad, they would yell at us sitting courtside on press row, mainly because we were a convenient target.
Schools are even having trouble finding people to staff the score tables. There isn’t much turnover among people working scoreboards, running the clock or keeping the book. I’ve seen those people harassed through the years if they’re not right on the mark. Heaven help the local schools if shot clocks are added to high school basketball.
Both officiating the games and working at the tables or in the press boxes have a steep learning curve and because it’s at public events, they’re probably yelled at more by fans than anyone else.
Everyone naturally wants to be a fan, to come and go at their leisure, and to do what they want.
It takes something extra to step up and do what’s necessary to officiate or work the other important positions.
If the crisis continues, MSHSAA might want to consider cutting down the size of officiating crews. There were many years where the two-person basketball crew was the standard. I think we would rather see that than the other option of making seasons shorter.
Other changes need to happen as well. The erosion for those in official positions really has played a part in the officiating crisis. People need to show more respect for those working the games. They don’t always get the calls right, but they’re the ones in the situation to make the judgments and use their training accordingly. Trust that judgment.
That means thinking before you blurt something out and potentially even rile up the fans near you to contribute. Then, things can get ugly and nobody wants that to happen.
If you let the officials do their job, you’ll have them concentrate on making sure the game is played fairly. And that’s what everyone is there at the games to see.
Behave and we’ll have enough officials to make sure there are games for us to see in the future.