Tunney Side of Sports, “Officials are part of the Game” – #245, Sept. 7, 2009

After Further Review …“You know what I want to know about referees and umpires? Absolutely nothing,” writes Sports Illustrated writer Phil Taylor in a recent back page article called, “Hey Ump, just make the call.” Taylor said in his article that Umpires (i.e. game officials) should have “an absence of personality, be charisma-free and as bland as baby food.” Hmm, wonder why Taylor had his picture included in this story?

But I digress. I do agree with Taylor’s assumed premise, which he failed to state, that fans are interested in players, coaches and teams – not officials. Fans don’t go to the games to watch officials; most fans don’t even know who the officials are — until one makes a call against their team. It is important, as well, for officials to remember the game is for players and coaches.

Taylor continues “Once officials get a whiff of fame, it raises the possibility that they’ll play to the crowd or the cameras.” Fame? Infamy, maybe! Notoriety surfaced in the NFL in 1976 when the Referee (white hat) was required to announce – at the time of penalty enforcement – the player’s number, the type of foul committed, declined or accepted, and the yardage involved in the penalty. When that occurred, television scripted the Referee’s name as he announced the foul and penalty. Why? Because the sportswriters in the booth and TV announcers wanted to know this information. The officials didn’t ask for it. I personally disliked telling the world that “#76 was holding,” thereby causing his team to be set back 10 yards or even costing his team a touchdown. But the fans want that!

What is needed today is an encouragement of young sports enthusiasts stepping up to put on an official’s uniform to help our school sports programs survive. Almost every newspaper today has a call out for “officials needed.” The intimacy of putting on the official’s uniform and experiencing what officials must deal with helps one understand the game. (Give that a try, Mr. Taylor!) If we regard sports as an important opportunity for young people to learn how to get along with others, how to deal with setbacks and the value of fair play, we need officials. While I am in full agreement with Taylor on the issue of anonymity, officials must be there too!

Will you maintain your focus on players and coaches, and not officials, while watching a game?

Visit www.tunneysideofsports.com to learn more about Jim Tunney; if your organization would like to secure Jim as a speaker, please visit www.JimTunney.com, www.TunneySideOfSports.com

You can also tweet Jim at www.twitter.com/jimtunney


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