I don’t know what it is, but there’s something about me that sports referees don’t like. perhaps it’s my caustic wit, or maybe it’s my devil-may-care attitude — possibly they’re even intimidated by and/or attracted to my chiseled jaw, beefcake physique and classical good looks. Whatever it may be, the simple fact is, I seem to annoy the heck out of sporting officials.
Last year, I had an altercation of sorts at a Y-league basketball game my brothers were playing in. One of the refs there made a couple really bad calls, and I expressed my opinion about them from the sidelines. The ref turned and gave me a technical foul. Me. The spectator. I was baffled, to say the least.
Today, at my daughter’s soccer game, the ref was a high school student, as is typical for youth league sports games. I arrived late and sat near a couple other parents I knew, and we were doing our typical sort of chatting throughout the game.
Then, the ref made a really bad call. Inside the goalie box, a girl from the opposing team kicked the ball right at one of our players. The girl on my daughter’s team put her hands back and the ball hit her squarely in the chest. Perfectly legal — yet the ref called a hand ball.
All the parents along the sidelines were rather upset about the call, and the grumbling went on for sometime. Notably, not long after that play, a similar thing happened where one of our girls kicked the ball into an opposing player’s midsection, only that girl’s hands were down — an ambiguous case, but much closer to being an actual foul than the previous call. No whistle. So I, in all my wisdom and equanimity, yell out:
“How is that not a hand ball?”
I wasn’t the only one who commented on the missed call, but I may have been the loudest. I definitely meant for the ref to hear my comment.
Later in the game a third incident occurred where one of our players very clearly raised both of her hands and knocked the ball down to the ground. The game pretty much stopped because nearly everyone on the field and on the sidelines expected the call, and the call should definitely have been made. No whistle. After a few moments of stunned silence and confusion, the game went on.
Now, those are the calls. Let me add that at halftime, the ref came over to the sidelines and started talking with parents of kids on the other team. It was clear that the ref knew the other people, and it wasn’t that big deal. Until we heard what the ref was saying. For most of the halftime break, the ref complained about our team’s coach. I didn’t hear the whole discussion, but I heard the ref call our coach “crazy,” among other things. Several of the other parents heard it as well.
Ultimately, despite the poor calls, our team won (2-1), and at the end of the game everyone started packing up their chairs, etc. I was ready to go, chatting with a few of the other parents and waiting for my daughter to walk over, when the opposing team’s coach walks across the field directly towards me. He points at me and asks if I have a second to talk. I said, “Sure,” not really sure what he wanted but as I was just waiting, it was no big deal. He walked a little ways away from the sidelines where I had been standing, and I followed him.
He then proceeds to lecture me about how the refs of the youth league are just kids themselves, and how the ref heard the comment I had made. (He didn’t know precisely what I had said, but I’m assuming it was the “How is that not a hand ball?” question I shouted.) I got a bit defensive and stated how pretty much all the parents were talking because there were a number of bad calls, etc. He tried to back off a bit and say he wasn’t blaming me for anything, so I replied:
“Look, you singled me out and asked to talk to me. Now, you’re saying you’re not blaming me for anything. The fact is that, yes, I said something about the ref’s poor calls. So did a lot of other parents. If you want to talk to everyone, then do it. You’ve said what you have to say.”
Then, I walked away. A few of the other parents asked me what went on, so I gave them a synopsis. I hadn’t brought up the halftime conversation between the ref and the opposing team’s parents, but they did. The coach called one of the other parents childish and dismissed the ref’s unprofessional conduct as irrelevant when the other parent mentioned that halftime conversation.
And that’s that, I guess. Maybe I was wrong to yell out at the ref (there’s a clause in the youth league rules about disagreeing or “harassing” — one of those equivocal words that means “not doing anything the ref dislikes” apparently — refs in the league), but I clearly wasn’t the only one on either team to do so. Yet somehow, I was singled out by the ref.
QED: Refs hate me.
Okay, now I need to go do some work to get ready for the launch of Kat & Curt’s TV Re-View on Monday!