JUDD: It's supposed to be fun, isn't it?

  

  

Judd

How many times have you attended a youth sporting event, only to have your focus shifted from the action on the court to the nonsense in the bleachers?

If you’re like me and in a position where you see multiple games in multiple sports throughout the course of a season, it has become an all-too familiar sight.

Perhaps you know what I’m referring to, because it is by no means a new phenomenon.

In fact, bleachers and aggressive, overly-involved parents just seem to be a match made in, well, not quite heaven, but I’m sure you get the vibe I’m putting out.

Somewhere in a dusty library, there is probably a photo archive of the installation of the first set of bleachers to be installed in a high school gymnasium.

In the corner of said picture is most likely a small group of moms and dads loudly criticizing the construction crew as they laid the foundation.

While this has been a rather dry and humorless joke/introduction, it sheds light on what I feel is a persisting issue in our society.

When it comes to youth sports, we are all told from a young age that it’s all about the kids and, above everything else, having fun in a positive environment.

For the most part, regardless of the sport, this is an accurate description of the scene.

Then, in the blink of an eye, the scene turns ugly — borderline hostile at times — when an official makes a questionable call, inevitably benefiting one team or the other.

From where I stand, both literally and figuratively, the first “missed” call always seems like a justified jumping off point for open criticism of said referee. 

At this point the individual clad in black and white pinstripes, who, I will remind you, has volunteered their time so that a game can even take place, is put under a microscope for the remainder of the contest.

Every move is monitored and pointed out by a few bad eggs that have chosen to make the night’s festivities about them, joking with their fellow parents about what it will take to get them removed from the venue.

I wouldn’t be writing it if I didn’t (over)hear it; It was clearly spoken with audible pride.

Just last month, a referee was pushed to the floor by an angry parent during a middle school basketball game in suburban Seattle.

Upon looking at the video of the incident on YouTube, I scrolled down to the comments to find, what I believe, to be a precise summation that is better than what I could ever say on the subject, since I have very little officiating experience.

Here’s what the individual, an official for the last 20 years, had to say:

“This is the kind of crap that causes officials to quit. Numbers are dwindling over the abuse. We know we’re going to get hollered at. That’s fine. It’s starting to cross a line, though.”

This anonymous, yet wise, person on the internet, finished their comment with a request, and it’s one I’ve since adopted as my own. 

“My request is to tell people: it’s only a game. Everyone has to get up and go to work the next day and resume their lives. If you don’t like officials, then go be one (and) see what it’s like — not that easy.”

Joe Judd is a reporter for the Pioneer. He can be reached at joe.judd@pioneergroup.com.