Have you hugged your referee today?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 22, 2000

There are some pretty awful jobs in the world. I wouldn’t want to be the guy who cleans out the animal cages at the zoo, for instance. Something tells me you can’t meet someone after work for a drink without taking a few showers.

A missionary to a cannibal tribe in the deep jungle has a tough gig – fighting disease and a group of people who want to eat you. I’d probably pass on that job, too.

I definitely wouldn’t want to be a doctor who has to give bad news to a hopeful family. I hate watching those scenes on TV. I couldn’t imagine actually having to do it.

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But I think probably the hardest – and absolutely the most thankless – job on the planet has to be high school football referee.

Man, to listen to a crowd on a Friday night, you’d think a blind-folded Adolph Hitler had been led to the stadium to officiate the game.

I fully understand that to a fan, any call that adversely affects your team is a bad one, and the referee that made said call is a blithering idiot. That’s part of football.

But the venom of some fans! I’ve heard death threats so specific I really wonder if the old guy made it back to his car without some of these &uot;fans&uot; making him eat his own flag.

I’ve heard the referee’s family threatened, his ancestry questioned and his knowledge of the game completely denied.

I’m not picking on any one school or any one fan. You hear it every Friday night no matter where you are. Some schools may be a little better about than others, but some refs call better games than others.

Not that most officials don’t do a pretty good job. I’ve never seen a perfectly officiated game, but I’ve never seen a perfectly played game, either. I’ve never seen a perfect newspaper, or seen a politician run a perfect campaign.

In short, nobody’s perfect. But when the refs screw up, they have the added bonus of 15 furious mothers offering to remove their spleen. I’ve had my share of angry phone calls when I make a mistake in the paper, but I’ve never been threatened with physical violence.

Hey, if the refs can take it, I guess I shouldn’t complain about it. But I must complain about fans whose lack of knowledge about the game of football is matched only by the volume of their insults.

Even when I’m completely in a super-fan zone watching a game and cheering madly at the coin toss, I recognize a good call when I see it. If a ref calls a facemask penalty on one of my guys, and it was obvious my guy tried to actually tear his opponent’s head from his shoulders, I don’t get mad at the ref. I get mad at the player.

I absolutely cannot stand when a &uot;fan&uot; obviously has no clue what the referee’s signal means, what the call was or who it was on, yet unleashes a loud string of obscenities at the ref, just in case that call is not in the appropriate team’s favor.

When someone points out to these people that the call was accurate or was, in fact, in favor of the right team, they all respond with a sulky, &uot;It’s about time he made a right call.&uot; I bet those refs just glow when they hear that kind of praise.

Referees are human, and their going to make mistakes. The best referees in the business make enough mistakes to necessitate instant replay review in the NFL.

Let’s just all assume the refs are trying their best. Let’s also leave them alone and let them do their jobs to the best of their ability. They don’t decide the game – the players do.

Take it up with them.

Nick Adams is sports editor at The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3632, or e-mailed at www.natchezdemocrat.com.