When Did Being Rude Become Acceptable?

Sports can bring out the best in athletes. Unfortunately, it can also bring out the worst, especially when it is coming from the crowd.

As I’ve grown in my position as sports editor, I have been fortunate to meet a lot of good people in the Ohio Valley. And before I go on my rant, let me say that there are a lot of good people in this area.

But what I have seen and heard at basketball games coming from the stands is appalling.

For those of you that are regular readers of my column, you know that I am a basketball official and always stand up for my fellow referees.

You have to have a thick skin to be an official and I certainly do. In fact, I am more focused on trying to get a call right than what someone in the crowd who doesn’t know the rules thinks of me. I rarely pay attention to the fans.

When I hear it the most is when I am at the scorer’s table covering a game. And to be perfectly honest, what I am hearing from the stands is making me sick.

And before you think this is me getting on my referee high horse, this column is not just pointing a finger for those that bash officials, but I am hearing way too much directed at coaches and players.

But let’s start with officials.

We aren’t perfect, we make mistakes, it happens. Such is life.

Are we going to get booed? Definitely.

Is someone going to tell us how bad we are at our jobs? Every game. Someone is always going to be upset with even the most obvious calls.

(Just a quick refresher: (1) “over the back” is not a foul; (2) “reach” is not a foul; and (3) and you cannot travel unless you are HOLDING the basketball)

Last week at a game, I heard a fan insult officials about their age and the fact they were follicly challenged. That’s right folks, a grown man in his 40s or 50s was screaming “Baldy” at three well-respected veteran officials for three quarters.

When did it become OK for an adult to make fun of a referee for their appearance just because you didn’t agree with his call? Personally, I feel the game administrator should have thrown him out of the building and not allowed him to come back in until he could show proof he graduated from kindergarten.

That fan didn’t just stop at referees. Among other things, the same one also took the time to inform his team’s coach that “you are the worst coach we’ve ever had.”

Now I am not going to name this coach or school, but I will say this coach has done a remarkable job with his program this year and is one of the last people that needs to be berated.

But why was the fan so angry?

A team that has won an impressive amount of games, it wasn’t their night. Down by 20 with less than two minutes to go, they played solid defense and hustled to the end. Said fan was screaming his head off at the coach because they weren’t fouling.

Only three things can happen if that team starts fouling and none of it is good — (1) opposing team make free throws and score looks worse; (2) the players are emotional and you don’t want a hard foul that might injure someone; and (3) a hard foul could result in a fight or ejection that would suspend the player for multiple games.

So not fouling was the correct move. Game is over. Fan should keep his game plan to himself.

Now we come to the players.

While I have yet to hear a fan call a player a derogatory name, I have heard players being accused of cheating.

But what got my blood boiling was during the OVAC championship games in which fans tried to distract a player during free throws.

In multiple games, men AND women would scream “miss it” or whistle when a player was attempting a free throw.

And let me set this record straight, this wasn’t a rowdy student section. They are allowed to do that. It is their job.

But if you are a grown adult and you are trying to mess up a high school kid, you need to take a serious look in the mirror and re-evaluate your priorities in life.

I get it, we all want to win. But it is just a game people! Why does sports make people so ugly to each other? Your $7 to get into a game doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk.

That $7 is your ticket to cheer and be entertained. It even allows you to disagree in a respectful manner.

But if you can’t act like the adult you are, please stay home. You aren’t funny. You are being a bully and that is a major problem in our society. Grow up.

Josh Strope can be reached at jstrope@theintelligencer.net

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