Why it’s okay to rag on professional referees
ByEric Wilkins, Assistant Editor
I’ve been a referee for soccer, and it’s absolutely brutal. If you make the right call, you get howls of dissent. If you make the wrong call, you get howls of dissent. If you miss a call, you get howls of dissent. And at the end of the day you trudge off the pitch with your only comfort being the knowledge that you’ll be getting a cheque in the mail for officiating a bunch of 12-year-olds. But that $17.50 suddenly doesn’t seem like the princely sum it once appeared to be.
It’s all one can do not to scream at the overzealous parents that their supremely talented elementary school prodigy is never going to be a professional and their enthusiasm is misplaced, to say the least.
But let’s flip the coin over here. Forget about the teenagers looking for another outlet to stay connected to their sport while making a buck. Let’s talk about referees. Professional referees.
There are more than a few out there who will argue that it’s unruly and wrong to rag on referees. Unruly? Well, yes. Unsportsmanlike? There can be no doubt. Boorish and base? Of course. But wrong? Goodness no.
Ragging on the referees is just a part of the game. Just like beer, overpriced grease, and misspelled fan signage. Fans give it to their team and individual players all the time. Why not the fellows roaming about in the middle making a nuisance of themselves?
Referees are paid professionals doing a job. While it’s inappropriate to shout obscenities at people in any other profession, with referees, it comes with the territory. Refs are well-aware of the abuse that comes with their job but still take the position without a second thought. Invitation for verbal cruelty accepted.
I’ve known enough refs in my life—as I’m sure we all have—that I can confidently say that to some peculiar extent, some of them enjoy the negative attention. Sure, everyone may be hating them, but that zebra is being noticed by everyone. It’s an ego trip of sorts. A good friend of mine once referred to it as “short man syndrome.”
Those characters with whistles permanently affixed to their fingers get some kind of joy from being the law and receiving that odd brand of respect reserved for one of the more hated positions. Some live for that power trip. It’s why a vicious slide tackle from behind will sometimes go unpunished, but a single word in protest to a referee’s call will warrant an immediate card.
Again, not all refs are like this, but even for those who aren’t, don’t be afraid to let your frustrations loose on them. They know it comes with the job—the job that they’re being well-paid for. And hey, god it’s fun to let loose. “Good, ‘cause you fell, you fat pig! Have another doughnut! Have another doughnut!” Thank you, Jim Schoenfeld.