Years ago, in another life, I paced the sidelines as a college basketball coach. I never won a national championship, but I did win a few conference titles, and I never had a motorcycle accident with my 25-year-old mistress on board. So all in all, I consider my college coaching career a success.
I remember that during one road game in particular, some of the fans' ugly and ignorant comments were starting to get to me. When I admitted as much to my assistant, he reminded me, "Coach, you don't have to pass a test to get into the gym."
I've often recalled that sage advice as I've watched my own kids play sports, especially when they were younger and competing at the recreation level. Some of the comments that spectators (aka, parents) make about the officials, or even directly to the officials, reveal an astonishing ignorance of the rules.
What's even more astonishing, though, is the fact that so many of those parents are utterly convinced that their children are not only being mistreated but are actively being cheated.
Here in this space, on a peaceful Sunday morning, far removed from the heat of the contest, may I appeal to your reason? What possible motive could a pair of recreation league officials have to favor one team over another? Other than a motive that you give them during the game, I mean, by calling them names or cursing at them or acting like a fool.
In a high school, college, or pro game, where livelihoods are at stake, I can see how officials might be accused of subtly favoring the home team. In my experience, officials usually do favor the home team, for obvious reasons. Some might even say that's as it should be. Visiting coaches go into games expecting it.
But in a rec-league game, there are no livelihoods at stake. In basketball and baseball, there's not even a home team. The officials might indeed be bad. They might not know the rules. But if they're bad, they're generally bad for both teams, and if not, it's a fluke.
Here's something else to consider before you criticize rec-league, middle school, or even high school officials: people aren't exactly lining up to do those jobs for what they pay.
So you don't like the officials you have. OK, fine. Officials expect not to be liked. But I ask you: if you were to get rid of those officials, then what? Do you really think there's somebody a whole lot better out there just waiting to call rec games for $30 an hour?
What I always tried to teach my players, and my kids, is to focus on the things you can control, and don't worry about the things you can't. Officials' calls would certainly be included in the latter category.
Come to think of it, that's pretty good advice for little league parents, too.
Rob Jenkins is a local freelance writer and college professor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.