Not sure if this belonged in IMHO or General Questions or…
Recently nostalgically listening to Poison Idea, and when Jerry A sang “What makes a person wanna be a cop?” I thought, huh - what makes a person wanna be a fucking ref?
It takes something dark and twisted (j/k:p) to have the mindset to be one.
Growing up playing minor hockey, I don’t recall one ref I had any regard for. And then friends became refs. Ever dealt with that, um, awkwardness?
Even in squash, (which I’ll wager nobody here can even visualize what the eff I’m talking about), you have to “mark” the next game on your court if you win a tournament match. Marking isn’t just scorekeeping - you have to occasionally allow/negate “let” calls - often a source of fractious contention, determining if a player obstructed his or her opponent’s movement (or shot, which is then called a “let point”, or “stroke”). Many a pint or two I’ve bought for those more than happy to take over my much-dreaded marking duties.
So - any refs/umps/scorekeepers out there who can possibly, possibly explain to me how you can somehow, somehow (said Shatner-like) derive even an iota of satisfaction from presiding over a game where you constantly risk getting yelled at for a call/non-call?
When I mention “presiding”, is it, then, a feeling of having control over the game, lending oneself to a messianic complex? (ok just sorta half kidding there). Or feeding on a sense of righteous orderliness? Or taking bribes from Dan Tan? (hopefully the aforementioned bastard’s tentacles will never reach into there.)
As it stands, I’d rather be a Dickensian chimney sweep or volunteer proctologist than ref bantam level hockey games.
Great question. I officiated youth soccer for a couple years and quit because it was in no way rewarding and mostly thankless. Spend two hours of your evening risking being hated by parents and players alike all for $20.
Quite some time ago I was a volunteer referee for club-level hockey. And I encountered little hostility. I made a point of knowing the rules really well, which certainly helps. The satisfaction comes from providing the structure within which a bunch of guys can enjoy playing a very interesting game safely and fairly.
Most of the whistles were for offsides (pretty easy to get right with a little practice in being at the right place at the right time), icing and for faceoffs. Penalties never seemed all that tough to call in a way that generated minimal strife.
My most memorable moment was calling a penalty shot when a guy (not the goalie) fell on a loose puck in the crease. He’d never heard of a penalty shot and thought I’d made up the rule on the spot. Fortunately, his teammates had, and were able to get him calmed down.
The part that I don’t get about it, is that I can’t enjoy watching a game unless I’m rooting for one side or the other. I might sometimes choose a side based on particularly frivolous reasons, but I can’t just not choose. But an official can’t ethically be rooting for one side or the other.
Unless, of course, they don’t enjoy watching the games. But that just gets back to, if you don’t enjoy it, why are you in that line of work?
I’ve been a youth baseball umpire for the past 6 or 7 years. About the same time I began the process to be a high school football official (until I got a better gig doing radio play-by-play instead).
I do it because I enjoy it. Perhaps I’m weird, but I enjoy going over the rules, I enjoy spending time outdoors with kids having fun, and I enjoy keeping an active role in the sport (rather than just watching baseball on TV). Do the complaints of parents and coaches cause stress? Sometimes, although I’ve been lucky to not have to deal with a tremendous amount of abuse. You have to let a lot of that flow off your back - remember, of all the people in and around the game that’s going on, the officials are literally the only ones without a vested interest in who wins or loses.
Plus, youth sports officials are at a premium around here. In order to keep the baseball programs going, you need to have umpires (well, maybe not need, but it helps), and not a lot of people are willing to step into that role. Frankly, my job skills as an air traffic controller mesh really well with a sports official (ability to make quick decisions and stick to them, process a lot of different things going on simultaneously, and a certain amount of ego “knowing” that you’re doing the job very, very well despite what a parent or coach might think).
And you can make a little bit of scratch, too. I made over $1000 last summer, working maybe five weekend tournaments and one or two league games per week from April to early July. I’ve been able to pay for summer vacation trips the past several summers purely out of the umpiring gig.
But I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t enjoying it.
I umpired girl’s slow pitch softball for 2 years. 2 different levels, 6 and 7 years old, no score or outs recorded, 3 inning games, 10 batters per half inning. The other was 8 and 9 years old, 3 inning games, no scores recorded, 10 batters or 3 outs per half inning. I quit after a parent relentlessly harassed me over a play at the plate. This was the younger girls and there was a close play at the plate. I didn’t call out or safe as directed by my training. It did not matter. This guy started on me for not calling the play and would not let up. Other parents tried to intervene, he would have none of that. The next day I get a call from the head of umpires wanting to know what happened. I told him and he told me I did nothing wrong. Later that evening the guy showed up at my door hollering and yelling. It took a sheriff to make him leave. I never umpired a game after that, it wasn’t worth the hassle.
My rationale is simple: More baseball. I love baseball more than I love most of my blood relatives. I play baseball. I watch baseball. I read about baseball. I play baseball video games. Umpiring baseball means more baseball, and more baseball is still not enough baseball. (Of course it does help to get paid for it.)
It also feels good to ump a good game. I know what it’s like to play with shitty umps, and I know how nice it is to play with GOOD umps, so I worked very hard to be an excellent ump, and as much abuse as you can take, most ballplayers are appreciative of good umpiring and will thank you for it. Playing a ballgame where the ump doesn’t screw it up is a good thing. I like the feeling of helping other people enjoy baseball, just as I enjoy it.
As to picking a side - look, I’ve umped games where I really disliked one team and honestly hoped they’d lose. It does happen. One year one team was universally called “The Whiners” by every ump in the league and most of their opponents. I despised them. But if the runner is safe, the runner is safe. If it’s a strike, it is a strike. I am paid to report the facts, not my opinions.
I’ve refereed youth soccer for many years, and do it because frankly, I never could play all that well (plus I’m in my 60’s now), but it was and is my game so I wanted to stay involved. I have coached, but my job meant I was on the road a lot, so it didn’t seem fair to the kids, so refereeing it was.
I’ve had a bit of abuse now and then, but never enough to keep me away, and I work now as an AYSO volunteer, so there is no pay and no massive pressure (except my own pride in doing a job well).
But mostly it’s a way to keep my hand in, to give back a little of the joy I feel for this game.
I’ve worked as a timer at a few curling tournaments, including the junior national championships a few years ago. Curling has a very strong tradition of sportsmanship, and anybody giving flack to the officials would be strongly frowned upon. Teams are expected to call their own fouls, and even to settle rules issues among themselves. About the only time you ever see an official is when a measurement is needed.
I’ll probably keep doing it if I get the opportunities, because it’s gotta get done. And it’s not as thankless as it sounds. It takes a lot to keep a club running, and everyone is expected to chip in and help with something.
Some excellent, informative posts here - mucho appreciated! Helped broaden my perspective a little.
Same way I found out about it - except I was the 9 y. o. (pew wee league) culprit. Nobody on the team new about the rule, either. This happened with about ten seconds left, and of course the penalty shot was a goal, for their 3 -2 win.
Whoa I hope that girl’s slow pitch softball dad got summarily taken care of, down the road.
I could comment on pretty well every post so far, easily, but I won’t bother thread-hoggin, so well, yeah, cools…
A friend of mine is a referee for the local pro wrestling promotion.
Yes, I know, it’s pro wrestling, and we all know about that. But he loves doing it for a couple of reasons: primarily, he’s in the ring for the whole show; but secondarily, it requires him to stay as fit as the wrestlers, which he likes. And it shows: not many people can get up to a full run in a fifteen-foot-square wrestling ring before falling safely to count, but he can. And he gets up again, because–it is wrestling after all–the count only gets to two. But in a minute or so, he’ll do it all over again. He takes a lot of abuse from fans, but just shrugs it off. He tried wrestling, but much preferred refereeing–he’s not hit quite as much, but stays as fit as the wrestlers are.
Interestingly, he also likes to golf. The ongoing joke is that nobody wants to play with him, because no matter how many strokes he takes on a hole, he cannot count past two.
My buddy Bill played hockey in college and in a semipro league. When he turned 40 he began officiating as a form of exercise and for extra spending money. He just turned 60 and still works a few games each week.
Interesting. I’ve never felt that way. I tend to like the game (whatever one I’m watching) for its own sake and enjoy seeing it played fairly and well, with the better team winning.
Even when I’m a spectator rooting for one team, I can definitely enjoy and applaud skillful play by the other. I can wish the Yankees had lost while at the same time admitting they were the better team and deserved to win.