(Don’t) kill the ump!
Stories like this seem so common, it would be news if a parent DIDN’T pop off at an official:
Upset with the calls an umpire made at his daughter’s youth league softball game, Michael Beck [not pictured] cursed and threatened the official.
When a DuPage County (Ill.) sheriff’s deputy arrived at the park near Downers Grove to restore order, Beck spit — twice — on the officer, authorities said.
On Tuesday, Beck’s unsportsmanlike conduct netted him a five-day jail sentence, a $500 fine and an order to attend anger-management counseling.
The 47-year-old Hanover Park man was sentenced after he pleaded guilty to reduced charges of misdemeanor battery and assault stemming from the July 13 altercation at Sunset Park.
Beck — who authorities said spit sunflower seeds and saliva on the sheriff’s deputy — initially was charged with felony aggravated battery, which carries a maximum seven-year prison term.
DuPage County prosecutors agreed to a plea deal that saw the charges reduced to misdemeanors in exchange for Beck, who has no prior criminal record, admitting his guilt.
While I would like to say that people who have short fuses in real life are more likely to yell at a ref working a kiddie game, I’ve seen enough mild-mannered people lose their shit to say otherwise. Or maybe I just didn’t know them as well as I thought. Like a guy I played softball with who was giving a talk to parents about the sports program at my kids’ old school. He emphasized that the point was having fun and learning a sport, and then he segued into, “So this one time when I got a technical foul during a fifth-grade game…”
I was assured later that the ref was being a jerk to him, but still. I recommended these handy-dandy rules for you, as a parent and/or coach, to keep a healthy lid on your feelings and not end up being led off in handcuffs.
Rule #1: As potential injustices against your child go, getting a borderline ball/strike call against him or her is pretty low on the list, behind sexual abuse, bullying and the cable going out briefly in the middle of SpongeBob.
Rule #2: The quality of refereeing should be expected to be relative to the age and ability of the players. The reincarnation of Earl Strom is not going to work your kid’s fourth-grade basketball game. Not that they are awful — they’re usually quite good and dedicated, in my estimation. But you can’t expect a child’s game to be called like an NBA game.
Rule #2a: Rule #2 is especially true if coaches have to work their own games, or a 14-year-old is running the show.
Rule #3: If you’re a coach, and a kid starts getting hot and bothered by the refs, pull that kid off the field/court/playing surface RIGHT NOW and tell him or her the calls aren’t any of his or her business. The message: you are a child, and the referee is an adult (or at least an elder). End of discussion. If that’s not enough, I’ve found kids who worry about the refs tend to start forgetting about their own game, and end up struggling and taking their teammates down with them.
Rule #4: Coach, make clear (nicely) at the beginning of the season to your parents that ref- and ump-baiting isn’t tolerated by your league (it usually isn’t, and I’ve seen at least one parent put on probation for it — he could go to the games, but he wasn’t allowed to speak. To anybody.). Parents, please don’t gripe about the refs to each other in post-game analysis. Heck, you shouldn’t even be doing post-game analysis.
Rule #5: Officials are human beings. If they’re abused, they might not show up anymore. Or, they might end up making the borderline calls against you because you have supremely pissed them off. These folks are paid little, if anything, and are working these games because they enjoy the sport.
Rule #6: The above rules can be modified if an official is indeed abusive. Not petty, not incompetent, but abusive to kids and coaches. You’re probably better off reporting it to your league in question rather than tarring and feathering the official right there, because vigilante justice never works, particularly if parents have to ask the official to wait right there while they go to the store for tar and feathers.