Sometimes, it’s not the referees’ fault
I could only shake my head and chuckle in disbelief at what I was hearing.
The setting was a local high school basketball game toward the end of the regular season. One of our hometown teams was beating a conference opponent quite handily — and by quite handily, I mean utterly dominating them in every facet of the game.
The hometown team shot the ball better, was quicker and more athletic on the floor, and even though they went through cold stretches, the outcome of the game was never in doubt.
You would think the visiting fans could see their players were simply outmatched. But these fans seemed to think the officiating was to blame for the blowout score.
Every time the referees made a call that went in favor of the hometown team, it was like a jury pronounced an obvious killer “not guilty.” The incessant whining would have made a newborn blush. Literally every call that went against them was bad, in their eyes.
Look, I understand that officiating can and sometimes does have a negative impact on the outcome of a game. I will even admit that several of the calls were questionable that night. But when your team is getting beat by more than 20 points and when it is painfully clear five minutes in that they have no chance whatsoever, trust me on something — it isn’t the officiating.
I’ve never been more embarrassed by a fanbase’s behavior than I was with the fans of this out-of-area team. It’s one thing to loudly criticize officials. It’s something else to collectively act like petulant children who are not getting their way.
Sportsmanship is stressed at the earliest of ages in our local youth leagues. Coaches try to instill in athletes when they’re young that there’s a right way to go about winning and losing. For some, it sinks in immediately. For others, it takes a while.
I can’t speak to whether or not sportsmanship is taught in the town this particular fanbase is from. If it was, the concept has apparently yet to sink in with these adults.
The Natchez High School girls’ region championship game against Forest Hill High School Feb. 15 was an instance in which officiating did impact the outcome of the game. Forest Hill won 49-46, but to any neutral observer the refereeing in the game was one-sided in favor of the Lady Patriots.
Much pushing and shoving by Forest Hill went uncalled. The Lady Patriots went to the foul line 13 times compared to the Lady Bulldogs’ five. NHS head coach Alphaka Moore afterward criticized the officials without even being asked her thoughts on them.
Refereeing wasn’t the only reason her girls lost. Numerous turnovers plagued the Lady Bulldogs in that game, especially in the second quarter, turning a 12-1 advantage at the end of one to just a 24-20 lead at intermission. Still, Moore had a right to be frustrated, and the NHS fans in attendance that night were audibly upset. But it never descended into the poor showing I saw from fans of that out-of-area school as they watched a better squad dismantle their team.
Though I’ve never observed it being a problem locally, it’s still a good lesson on sportsmanship for all fanbases: When your team is getting drummed, take it in stride, and for crying out loud, stop whining about the referees.