Fans need to ease up on local referees

When I was young, my father taught me a valuable lesson about referees and sports.

Following a game in which the referees had a less-than-stellar performance, he said this to me: “The difference between a good team and a great team is that a great team wins despite the referees.”

Based on these past couple of months of covering high school basketball, I find myself hearing these words over and over again.

I can’t count the number of times members of the crowd – from both fan bases – tell the officials their thoughts on the decisions made on the floor. The obscenities, the accusations of receiving payments from the opposing team and other things would appall those same people who uttered them if those words came from the mouths of their children.

So, to set the record straight, according to many fans, and sometimes coaches: Referees stink. Any sports fan, coach or player will tell you that. But, many don’t remember or realize that referees are human and therefore cannot catch every infraction, especially at the high school level.

Unlike in the professional and collegiate levels, very rarely can referees use video replay to look at something as simple as a last-second shot or even to check whether a shot is a 3-pointer or not.

With the high school girls tournament already underway and the boys tournament starting next week, it is important to impress upon parents, family and community members the advice I received so long ago.

When a team loses, the ones who receive the most blame are the referees, but even as referees make mistakes, they make mistakes that go against both teams, and those mistakes eventually balance out.

Instead of pointing the finger elsewhere, however, look at the team itself. Teams lose not because of refereeing but because of some sort of deficiency in relation to the other team on the court. More often than not, the better team on the day wins the game.

Then there are the games that are decided by what can only be described as a bad refereeing decision at the end of the game. Those teams shouldn’t leave their fates up to the referees. They should be able to do enough over 32 minutes of play to earn that win.

If not, ask in what ways the team could have performed better and get the win. Factors such as the turnover margin, both teams’ shooting performance or free-throw shooting – especially down the stretch when every point becomes important – will have bigger effects on whether a team wins or loses than the referees.

Anything can happen in the tournaments, as it’s one-and-done going forward. The regular season records are wiped away, and everybody has a chance. The pressure will be high on everybody.

I’m hoping the fans won’t make this about the referees and will focus their attention on cheering for their teams. Who knows – maybe they will see a good team become a great team in the process.