Have you ever seen an official make a bad call?  I have.  In my life of playing and coaching sports I’ve seen a few calls that made me wish someone else was reffing or umpiring our game.  And I know I’m not alone.  There are some officials who make some really bad calls sometimes, and sure, it can be frustrating.

But what if there were no officials?  Think about that for a minute.  What if no one was willing to call these games?

For all the questionable officiating I’ve seen in my life, I’ve seen a whole lot more questionable behavior from coaches and spectators.  Back in my younger days, I certainly engaged in some of the questionable behavior myself.  All over the country, youth and school sports are currently dealing with a shortage of officials, which creates stress and logistical headaches for schedule makers.  The reality is, as a player, coach or spectator, it’s way too easy to take the officials for granted.  For most of my life, I would show up and just assume someone would be there to call the game.  In recent years, I’ve made the effort to stop taking them for granted.  Even the ones who make calls I disagree with.

All this really began to click into place for me about three years ago, when one of my sons was playing baseball.  The players were 11 or 12, and the plate umpire was about 16.  The umpire was trying his best, but he wasn’t doing a great job.  The strike zone was a little too small one inning, and then maybe a little too big the next.  Like I said, it wasn’t great.  It also wasn’t awful.  The kid was doing a better job than the guy sitting by the fence apparently thought, because he was all over this kid pretty much the whole game.  It got bad, to the point where the kid umpiring the game had tears in his eyes.  Now maybe that kid needs thicker skin, and maybe he was misplaced and should have been umpiring younger kid games, but so what?  What kind of 45 year old fake tough guy verbally badgers a teenager who’s making 15 bucks a game?  What was that guy trying to accomplish?  It was pathetic.

Apparently this isn’t simply an American issue either.  Check out this video from Britain designed to promote civil behavior toward soccer officials.

If an official is doing such a poor job that it requires a comment, can we not make the comment after the game, or at least respectfully during a stoppage of play?  I fear the day when the only people willing to officiate our kids’ games are egomaniacs crazy enough to be willing to put up with verbal abuse.  You might not think much of the job they’re doing, but can we agree to treat officials with decency before they’re all gone?