by Ryan Snaadt
We have all been at a sporting event and someone yells this:
'Get off your knees ref, you're blowing the game!'
'What kind of call was that Blue?'
Get that guy a new pair of glasses!'
We all support our team, our our kid, or our hometown and want them to win... I get it. But, for one reason or another patrons of sporting events put so much negative focus on the officials' calls, that they miss out on the actual game.
Lately this has been on my mind in leu of watching the Super Bowl, live college basketball, semi pro ice hockey, and high school ball games. I will sit in the stands and without fail, there are clusters of extremely negative fans that seem to only attend to spew vulgar comments at officials and blame them for everything that is wrong in the world.
During most sporting events I walk away feeling uncomfortable siting around these toxic personalities. I physically cringe when people are celebrated and join in mocking, blaming, or shaming officials.
The cold truth: it is easier to place blame on things out of our control than to own up to our mistakes, learn from them, and get better. In a crowd's case, focusing solely on negative aspects of a game can have disastrous outcomes.
Control the Controlables
Nobody is perfect, especially referees. They have blown calls, I have personally lost many games to where the officiating swung the end result to some degree.
All of the calls don't go your way - as is true in life.
In high school I was a 3 sport athlete that played football, baseball, and basketball. I also ran track senior year. Sports were a large contributing factor to the man I am today.
A recurring saying that has stuck with me is 'Control the Controlables'. It boils down to putting your effort and energy into the outcomes you can control including your performance on the field, attitudes to the officials, and handling challenges and struggle.
Tainting Our Culture
This toxic attitude towards officials taints our culture 3 main ways:
Conditions players (often times children) to only focus on the negative. This WILL translate to other areas of life.
Drags down overall morale and excitement of a game. This makes games less fun to attend for all that are there.
Provides teams on receiving end of a bad call a scapegoat to stop playing as hard. Now that the attention is on the calls, they can take it easy because losing 'isn't their fault now'.
Crowds, players, and officials all have a hand in this problem.
My Days as as Student Section Cheerleader
My senior year of high school I chose not to play basketball and ran track instead. During the basketball season I was hired by the athletic department and basketball boosters to organize and promote the student section at games. (I was proudly voted 'Most School Spirit' by my graduating class).
Our student section focused on encouraging our team (and reminding the other team's point guard that he air-balled)
Even then, at my ripe age of 17, I drew the line at boo-ing refs, making quips at them, etc. Three main reasons why I did this:
1. We were representing the school and had to act civil to some degree. Rowdy as all get out, but still civilized.
2. Refs get upset when they get badgered and are more likely to continue issuing poor calls when egged on by the crowd.
3. Our school was known for having terrible crowd attitude and officials would avoid working games at our school. (this point was the reason the Athletic Department had me organizing student sections in the first place)
Our toxic negativity was literally scaring away officials from working our games because they didn't want to subject themselves to it.
College Intramurals Fist Fights
Fast-forward to college and I was on staff for the campus recreation sports team both playing and officiating games. I also was the head of marketing for the group - again no surprise there.
IM's were know for having two types of players; people there to have fun and people there to win.
The later almost always had negative attitudes towards the officials (their student peers performing their work study duties calling games).
There were times that the games would get heated and players would get physical with refs.
I would grab these players by the shoulders, look them square in the face and say "Dude calm down - this is D3 sand volleyball. Get a grip."
Our staff had to physically escort a few hot heads out of the college fields because they were badgering officials. Yeah, in intramurals.
This mindset is not limited to the crowd. It is also present in players.
How Can We Fix It?
So clearly there is a problem with attitudes towards a situation or things out of our control because it is easy to complain about. But what can we do? I never point out a problem without offering a solution. Here are my top 3 tips for patrons at a game:
Hold Yourself Accountable by staying positive
2. Hold Others Accountable by asking them to show respect
3. Make an Effort to be the voice of positivity, especially during lulls in action
The purpose of sports are to teach us how to be competitive, work together, and improve ourselves over time by working in the offseason. Sports don't build character, they expose it. The same can be said for those who watch games as well as play in them.
So the next time you are about to scream at the TV, badger an official at your kids soccer game, or project negativity on others - Check yourself.
Or get ejected from the game by those of us that only accept positivity in our lives.