I have the utmost respect for our High School Officials. I've witnessed some pretty nasty behavior in the stands of games. Glad to see some Officials stand up to it.
Inevitability is a challenge.
Anything inevitable is usually predicted. The fight is to keep it from happening.
It’s always on the horizon, just hanging there in plain sight, but it’s just ignored.
No one thinks it’s going to happen in their lifetime. No one wants the responsibility of cleaning up the mess.
So, what happens when the inevitable becomes reality?
We are about to find out.
Last week, the Eastern Panhandle Officials Association decided it had had enough. The group severed ties with the Tri-County Youth Football League (TCYFL) in West Virginia.
The referee organization announced its decision in a release, pointing to “poor behavior” presented as “abuse, negativity and utter disrespect shown to our officials from parents, coaches and most recently our players.”
The organization elected to stop working all the youth football games.
That’s right. The zebras left the reservation. They literally took their ball and went home.
After years of being the subjects of public ridicule, these referees finally hit the breaking point.
Every breath they took. Every move they made. Every rule they enforced. Everyone was watching them … and complaining.
It’s tough being right only half of the time, if you’re lucky.
With this move, the officials said “you need us more than we need you.”
And they are right.
Now, the TCYFL is at a standstill.
The league was entering the final stages of the regular season to qualify teams for their playoffs.
And now every kid is sidelined.
There are no title games. No championships. No trophies, to be earned or given for feel-good reasons.
In essence, the entire season has become nothing more than an asterisk.
And the reason is simple.
These players are unable to utilize the skills they have learned on a playing field because of the behavior they were learning at home.
That is a culture of “abuse, negativity and utter disrespect” that is prevalent at practically every game on every level these days, coming from “parents, coaches and most recently our players.”
And here’s the news. These problems don’t stem from the referees.
Local-level referees aren’t perfect. They will admit that.
They try their best in very challenging situations and times, multiplied by a group of people in the stands who think they know better.
The funny thing is if the critics are so knowledgeable, why aren’t they volunteering to take the field.
It’s a lot easier sitting up in the stands, pointing out perceived infractions 100 feet away from the field.
Refs have the worst seat in the house. They are in the middle of the action with many obscured views.
Yet, they suffer the trickle-down wrath of a world controlled by instant replay.
Referees choose to do this job because they have two attributes — passion and integrity.
They love the game and still want to be involved for its betterment and they approach the game without playing favorites, no matter what some people think.
You know what happens when you fight authority. Authority always wins.
Parents and coaches in these youth contests continue to come up with new ways to amaze. They continue to live vicariously through the games their kids play.
They fight and scream like every play is stealing food off the family table.
They believe their kids are destined to be the next great high school and college players who will get to play in the NFL.
They will tell you that.
The problem escalates with coaches, who try to intimidate the referees instead of instructing their teams. Coaching staffs can be seen screaming on every play, trying to guilt officials into making the next call a favorable one.
How long does it take before players — especially the young, impressionable ones — start believing all odds are stacked against them. Your parents and coaches can’t be wrong, can they?
Now that’s building our children a foundation for a successful future.
No one considers that games are still decided by the best team winning, at least on that day. It’s amazing what a little coaching, encouragement and confident words can do.
You have to wonder how these adults would react if their kids came to their jobs and started yelling at their bosses and department heads.
That might be embarrassing. Wonder how the kids feel?
The TCYFL is working to repair the burnt bridges between the league and the officials. They realize that a good thing in the community was ruined by a selfish few.
The process will probably consist of promises, new rules and a bit of groveling.
“That’s definitely our goal,” said TCFYL commissioner Doug Arndt to the Martinsburg Journal. “It’s a shame but the message has been sent. We are not alone. It’s happening all over the country.
“This is for the kids. Let the little guys play. We don’t need all this stuff in the stands and all this stuff on the sidelines.”
That remains a work in progress.
The world of sports has become increasingly combative and overly self-centered in recent years, especially off the field.
About a year ago, this column presented the idea that the sport of football will disappear someday in the future.
There were many reasons, like participation and health, but one notion was the game will end when there are no longer any referees to officiate games.
This idea was very hypothetical, but this instance could be the first sign of football’s apocalypse.
Is that the next inevitability on the horizon?
Only time will tell.