Hey fans, lay off the officials

By Scott Halasz

When it comes to high school sports, Ohio is arguably one of the top five in the country for participation, producing superstars and fandom.

But the last part of the equation is becoming a problem at an alarming rate. Fans — students and parents — are over the top with their criticism of game officials. It’s such an issue that officials are in need all over the state. According to one media report, there were 14,060 officials earlier this year, compared to 14,842 in 2018.

Several of the officials I have talked to say the harassment they receive is just not worth the little bit of money they make for working a game. For a football game, an official makes around $75 for nearly four hours of work.

According to a letter posted online and co-authored by Jerry Snodgrass, executive director of the Ohio High School Athletic Association, more than 75 percent of all high school officials say adult behavior is the primary reason they quit and 80 percent of all young officials quit after just two years.

Here is a sample of what I have heard (and can print) coming from the bleachers the last couple years.

— My blind grandmother could officiate better than you.

— Maybe if you lost some weight you could hustle down the field.

— How do you sleep at night?

— Are you dating the coach’s daughter?

— Did you come in on the (opponent’s) bus?

— Thanks for ruining our season.

— You suck ref.

Those are the tame comments. Go to a game, especially when the stakes are high. You’ll hear worse.

When I was covering a Bellbrook-Reading boys soccer tournament game in Mason this fall, the announcer in the press box was very close to making an announcement when one particular parent was out of control. We looked at each other and just shook our heads.

I remember a soccer tourney game last year where the center ref told the coach to get control of a parent. The coach said it wasn’t his job and he and the ref almost got into it because of the parent.

Folks, lay off the people in stripes.

I know it can be frustrating when you think they missed a call. But they aren’t trying to mess up on purpose.

I took a football referring class when I attended The Ohio State University. It’s not easy. Let’s talk football for a second.

Ohio high schools use a five-man crew. There’s a lot of field to cover. The umpire, who lines up behind the defensive line has five keys according to the mechanics gold book: snap, linemen, QB, pass, and catch. That’s a lot for two eyes to be watching. There are five and sometimes six linemen blocking.

Can you watch all of them and see holding each time? I doubt it.

Officials are human. They’re going to make mistakes.

When someone screws up your order in a restaurant do you start yelling insults?

When the dry cleaner didn’t get a spot out of your shirt, do you make comments about their mothers?

Assuming you answered no, what gives you the right to do it at a high school game? If you answered yes, you’re likely just a miserable person.

I’m not innocent here. I’ve done my share of booing bad calls. But that’s as far as I will take it.

By being obnoxious and making officials quit, fans are ruining the game more than the bad calls they think they see. The state is forced to hire unqualified officials to make sure games can be played.

Take a step back. Put yourself in their shoes.

And keep quiet.


By Scott Halasz

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.