Don’t Ref Angry
I was proud of myself going into the 2nd playday of a Fall Ball tournament weekend. The strategy of asking questions was making a difference in my tournament experience. More detached, with less frustration about calls or plays. There was a zen quality to filming and speaking to folks. This week---referees. I asked the question of officials----"What is your worst Laxhole parent story?" The first couple of referees I spoke with were intrigued and a bit shy about sharing their experiences. I imagine it takes a thick skin to do what they do. I know I wouldn't like to do it, even though I think referee training should be given out as community service or remedial driving school for repeat-offender Laxholes like myself. The first referee explained that his worst experience was a parent who followed him to the parking lot, arguing the whole time and not letting him in his car. Kept him there far too long debating the calls, insulting him, and overstepping a clear boundary. All Laxholes have wanted to change the referee's mind, to explain to him how badly he/she understands what is obvious to the rest of us, to get it right. How hard can it be to hear plastic, see that ward, somehow see the offsides behind them, etc. I think once "your" game is over, you just need to flush it and move on. There will be no instant replay coming to youth sports anytime soon. The scary thing is I heard this complaint of stalking parents a couple of times. The next referee explained that he deals with angry parents by asking them to leave the field. But, he had a story that highlighted a theory I have about laxhole kids modeling laxhole parents. He called a penalty on Junior, a high school player who blatantly cheap-shotted a kid on the field, causing injury where the kid had to be helped off. Flagged Junior for a 2 minute unreleasable, after which Junior started dropping F-bombs on his way off the field. So, the ref threw Junior out of the game. After the play ended, Junior's Dad found the ref on the sidelines. This ref is built like a brick wall, has played lacrosse all his life, and seemed to be solid and steady on the rules. Junior's Dad screamed that there was nothing wrong with the cheap shot or his kid's language. He continued to get louder and more obnoxious, and also started dropping F-bombs. So, the ref asked the parent to leave the field. Security was happy to help out. Laxhole Dad creates Laxhole Kid. Not sure I want to tell the last story, as it feeds into the myth of the lazy, arrogant ref. But, after watching this guy for a couple of lazily-called games and listening to him complain about the long day, I think I'll go ahead. When I asked this Ref about his favorite parent story, he told me the following. After a game, a "heavier" Mom walks up and accuses the ref of being the "worst in the history of lacrosse" as her boyfriend looked on. After a few minutes of abuse, the ref tells her that she can "call the 800 number to complain about the job he's doing". She of course asks what the number is....and he tells her to "call 1-800-JENNY-CRAIG." He grinned the whole time. What a Laxhole. We have seen refs handle the crowd of Roid-rage Dads and Tailgate Karens like a bullfighter with jokes and class, or with stone-faced almost stoic resolve. Seen refs shut down a game to lecture parents or coaches. Witnessed other refs try to argue why it wasn't a slash or trip or even offsides when we can all count to 3. If you believe what you hear everyday, then each of these referees must be legally blind. Could they see more with our friendly help, probably not. Even coaches don't sway most refs into making a call they wouldn't. I hate to see kids get hurt needlessly due to clumsy or reckless play, and appreciate the refs who call a safe, clean, consistent game. Most of them hear "That's a Slash!" or "Are you blind?!" from that first 8am game until the lights come on-- with few breaks in between. For many, this is their passion, and they love the sport. For others, it is no different that working a long double-shift at the WaWa and the coffee maker is broken. Which is better? The referee that ignores tackles and helmet hits, or the one whose calls lead to 14 man-downs in a game? I think better safe than sorry, but I'm sure I'm in the minority on this one.