In Play with Tom Markowski


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If you want better officials, fans should let them do their job

By: Tom Markowski, February 14, 2017, 10:30 am



The Michigan High School Athletic Association has sponsored a campaign to entice more individuals, presumably basketball fans, former players and perhaps former coaches, to become a referee.

These efforts have not been as successful as those within the MHSAA and many others would have hoped.

People like to complain about poor officiating and often they are the same ones who are making matters worse.

The biggest deterrent for someone becoming an official could well be the relationship between those in the stands and the men and women in the stripe shirts.

There are other factors and we will address one of those later in this article.

I’ve spoken to many officials over the years. I even written features on some. Most, a large percentage, are genuinely good people. And I believe most spectators would agree.

The problem is, as it is in many segments of society, there are those vocal few who disagree, and many times vehemently.

An extreme example of this took place last Thursday at Hazel Park High where North Farmington and Hazel Park played an Oakland Activities Association boys basketball crossover game. North Farmington won by double digits, the final score is meaningless but don’t try to tell that to many of the fans who attended the game.

The game was called with about 1:30 remaining in the game. The exact amount of time remaining, like the final score, is meaningless. The fact that the officials called the game is sufficient.

The reason the game was called was that the fans became so unruly that the officials thought best to end the game rather than risk any further altercations.

This scene has occurred far too often. Fans become angry with calls made, they show their displeasure by whirling obscenities at the officials and when the mob mentality takes over physical threats are made.


Many go to work each morning as salespersons, in a machine shop or at a bank then go to a high school game in the evening and berate another individual who has quite possibly started his or her day the same way only they are working a part time job in the evening.

High school basketball games should be enjoyable, for those who participate and for those who watch.

What has altered this rather simple after-school activity?

Forget for the sake of argument that officials make the wrong call sometimes. It happens. Everybody makes mistakes.

There are at least human emotions that have fed this aggressive behavior. They are anger, frustration and selfishness.

Some people are naturally angry. Others enter a gymnasium ready to go off on someone because they had a bad day. This could be caused by work environment, family disputes, financial problems or other interactions or situations.

The emotions are heightened under these situations when the person has a relative, perhaps a child, participating in the game.

Frustration comes into play when these incorrect calls happen, in this person’s opinion, too often against the team he or she are rooting for. It becomes a conspiracy. The officials are intentionally making bad calls against my team.

Selfishness is an extension of the me generation of the 1980s. The world revolves around me. When my team loses, when the team my son or daughter plays for loses, something must be wrong. If there is a call made that had a bearing on the outcome and that outcome when against my team, the official is to blame.

Let’s get back to what I stated previously. A high school basketball game is an after school activity to be enjoyed by the people who are participating and those who watch.

I understand that there are some students who have an opportunity to play at the next level and that, game by game, they are trying to reach that goal of playing in college.

One game is not going to earn a student a basketball scholarship so why place so much significance on one game?

Imagine you are an official and too often you are confronted by individuals in the crowd cursing you, threatening you. If you have been an official long enough you learn to ignore such harassment. But if a fan confronts you face to face the ability to remain calm becomes more difficult.

Now imagine you are contemplating becoming an official and you witness an incident where an official is threatened. It’s likely you would have second thoughts.

An official told me another factor is the words and actions by coaches. If you are a member of a team and your coach continually blames officials for losses or worse curses at officials you might be less likely to become an official. But if you play for a coach that explains to you that mistakes are made, that it’s just one game and that in the scheme of things one game, however important it seems at the time, really isn’t that important than maybe you’d like to remain a part of the game and become an official.