The “Salvy Splash” has become a tradition for the Kansas City Royals. It’s an act of celebration for all fans to anticipate and enjoy. Today I want to tell you about a different kind of Gatorade shower.
I have been a basketball official for the better part of the past two decades. I work from high school varsity down to rec ball of all ages. This weekend I worked two 2nd grade games before the Championship games of a boys / girls varsity tournament. Throughout my career, I have experienced a wide range of emotions and reactions from game participants and fans. Overall people have been supportive and positive. I’ve had many people thank me after games which is always appreciated.
That said, officials have plenty of verbal abuse directed toward them. It’s just part of the job and something I’ve learned to take with a grain of salt. Generally outbursts are caused by emotional investment in a team, disagreement with our judgement, and a lack of rules knowledge. (For example, unlike football and soccer you are allowed to be the first to touch the ball after going out of bounds as long as you are not the dribbler, you have established one foot inbounds, and are not otherwise touching the boundary.)
I ignore 99.99% of the fans who shout out at a game & the rules say the coach deals with the other .01% at the direction of the officials.
Unfortunately there is a line that some people cross. I’ve heard parents threaten to “kick someone’s ass” after a game and while I’ve never felt physically threatened, this weekend an official at a tournament had to deal with a .01% fan who expressed displeasure at being ejected by hitting the official with a thrown Gatorade bottle. Not the type of Gatorade shower you expect, and one I’m hoping will keep that person from attending future games.
Years ago I was coaching my son’s basketball game. I did not agree with much of what the official was doing and was plenty vocal about it. I don’t remember what I said to him at the end of the game, but it wasn’t a compliment and it certainly wasn’t warranted. His response was priceless and launched my love of being a basketball official. He handed me a whistle and a plastic striped vest and said “Since you think this is so easy you have the next game.” Two decades and several thousand games later I’m still wearing the zebra stripes.
Over the years there are a number of things I’ve learned from my experience as an official.
- Everyone makes mistakes. Even professionals at a high level aren’t perfect (as evidenced by the no call on the travel at the end of the KU / K State game in Lawrence this month.)
- In many cases, your opinion isn’t nearly as important as you think. You can disagree with others and still have a civil discussion.
- There will always be people who are critical of your work. Unless they understand what you do and can help you grow, or hold some authority over you, ignore them.
Next time you want to judge someone’s work, walk a mile in their shoes first.