Every now and again, a story makes it into the national news about a crazed parent (or parents) fighting each other or attacking a referee after a youth game. Always, our reaction is one of disgust – disgust at adults that can’t control themselves, disgust at bad role models, disgust at someone who takes a kids’ game too seriously.
But the truth is, we don’t always know the story behind the story.
I caught the second half of a high school girls basketball game yesterday, a playoff game between two well matched teams. In the packed gym, I took a seat next to a fan of the winning team. We started up a conversation, and he immediately admitted that the officiating had been so lop-sided that he was feeling genuine guilt.
It only took 45 seconds of the 3rd quarter for me to see exactly what he was talking about. When one team had the ball, the game was called extremely tightly; on the other side of the court it appeared that the refs were letting anything go.
The losing team’s best player fouled out with two minutes left in the third quarter, on an offensive off-the-ball foul, no less. With that foul-out, and a 17 point difference, the game had definitely been decided. The winning side was already in the double bonus for the half, while the losing side wouldn’t even get to the double bonus at any point in the game. But at some point in the fourth quarter, as if to add insult to injury, the referees suddenly seemed to try to make up for the inequality. It was too little and far too late, but it only seemed to prove that they knew they had really screwed up.
I will admit that I was not an unbiased observer. So, for those of you out there in blogosphere-land, you can choose not to believe me when I say that this was one of the most biased officiating I have seen in any sport at any time (strangely, it was in favor of the visiting team). I can only offer up the testimony of the fan next to me in an attempt to prove to you what I’m saying.
I have no idea what was going on with the referees in this game. I can only tell you that something was absolutely not right. I could run through all of the potential reasons that would lead them to commit this wrong – but I have no idea what the truth is.
As for yours truly, I am a cool-tempered individual with a commitment to non-violence. So while I can’t claim that I bit my tongue during time-outs, I can tell you that when the final whistle blew, I simply tried to put the disappointment behind me and move on.
I can’t say the same for my fellow fans – I saw at least one mother chasing the referees down the locker room hallway. I watched the losing team shed their tears at this terrible conclusion to a season – their facial expressions all seemed to say the same thing, “Why couldn’t we get a fair chance at winning this game?” They had a great season, and were a very fun team to watch as they found ways to be even better as a whole than they were individually. The feeling that they had gotten cheated from the opening tip-off left a knot in my stomache.
I watched the local news last night. I’ll confess that I almost hoped to hear a story about some altercation following a high school basketball game. Because, to be honest with you, if one of those moms happened to get a swing in – those men had it coming.
Side note: if anyone reading this happens to work for the MIAA, please take a look at the Marshfield vs. Newton-South game tape and take the appropriate actions.