It takes a special person to be an official. Whether they are umpiring a softball game, refereeing a football game or officiating a basketball game, no matter what they do, somebody is probably going to be mad at them.

But, for competition’s sake, they go out and attempt to be as impartial and fair as possible. Depending on which side of the call you are on, it might not feel that way, but I would like to believe they are always doing their jobs to the best of their abilities and without bias.

Of course, they are human, and they make mistakes. Sometimes, there are obvious errors, and other times, there are critical blunders. It happens.

The last thing anyone wants to see is an outcome decided by the officials. Every player and every coach deserve to have their fate determined by their actions and their opponent’s reactions and vice versa.

So, when bad calls arise, it is natural to voice one’s displeasure, especially by those seated in the stands. And, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with a little heckling of officials when warranted.

There is a line, though, and, unfortunately, I have seen it crossed several times of late.

Without mentioning the fanbases involved, I have heard some rather unruly words directed at officials during recent games. Nothing worth repeating, but enough to make me take notice, and I have a rather thick skin.

So, if it made me raise an eyebrow, then I’m assuming the person on the receiving end was fighting back the urge to raise his fists.

It is sad that people think it is acceptable to talk to others in such a manner. Right call, wrong call, it does not matter. Everybody deserves respect, and high school students, both in the game and in the crowd, deserve better role models.

It is hard for a coach to instill a sense of respect for an opponent when such disrespect emanates from the stands.

I am all for fans being loud, rowdy and a little rambunctious at games, but it can be done civilly.

Personally, I do not know how some referees put up with it all. Even when done considerately, the continual grind of being ridiculed, second-guessed and called out over the course of a season would be too much for me to handle.

Heck, sometimes opening my email and reading unhappy responses to one of my stories is enough to make me want to crawl back in bed.

For the most part, I do not encounter anything questionable when it comes to comments directed at officials. Typically, it is just good-natured ribbing mixed with some sporadic, irritated outbursts and no harm is done.

A majority of crowds are model fans, simply supporting their team, but it only takes one loose cannon to make a scene. Hopefully, those people realize they are tarnishing everything sports strive to teach — self-discipline, pride, leadership, accountability and confidence.

So, the next time a call rubs you the wrong way or the rookie referee botches decision after decision, just remember officials are people too. More importantly, without them, sports as we know them do not exist.

Contact Clay Whittington at

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