I've had it. I just can't stand it any more. After watching my usual load of several dozen basketball games this winter, I just have to say something about the officiating.
Yeah, I'm getting sick and tired of everyone complaining about the officiating all the time.
Whether it's Jazz fans, Ute fans, BYU fans, high school fans or radio talking heads — everyone seems to be griping about the officials these days. It's almost like all of a sudden this year, every official in the country has been transported in from Mars to call the games and these aliens are unfairly determining the outcome of every game.
First, let me say I don't have a brother-in-law or a close friend who's an official. I have no ulterior motive to stick up for the men in stripes. My own experience as a basketball official has been limited to church ball games where I quickly discovered how difficult it is to make dozens of split-second decisions.
When I cover games, usually I'm very close to the action and I see the bad calls. Sometimes they make me laugh. However, I also see all the correct calls, which most are, and usually I have a much better view than the guy up on row 31.
As a sportswriter, I admit I see things from a different perspective than the average fan.
Fans feel passionately about their team and watch games from a biased viewpoint. Sportswriters really don't care about the outcome of a game, at least we shouldn't. So we see officiating differently. We see the good calls for each team and the bad ones, which are rare.
And I really don't think the officiating is any worse this year than it's been in the past. I do think coaches and players are complaining about it more, which incites the fans to get more upset about the officials.
Earlier this year when Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan was suspended for seven games for pushing a ref, I kept hearing the same thing — "Yeah, he shouldn't have pushed him, but . . . "
But . . . but . . . what?
He pushed an official, for crying out loud, and there was no excuse for that, even if the ref made a bad call.
The other night, Utah coach Rick Majerus got thrown out of a game for the first time in his Ute career. Afterward some Ute fans were blaming the officials for the loss when in fact, Majerus may have cost his team a win by not being there in the second half of a close game.
To be fair, Majerus truly is one of the better-behaved coaches working today. He rarely talks to officials during games and afterward you won't ever hear him blaming officials for losses. It's just that when he does blow a fuse, it makes the ESPN highlights.
You want to see a coach get upset during a game? Just watch Colorado State's Dale Layer or Wyoming's Steve McClain or Utah State's Stew Morrill sometime. Even BYU's Steve Cleveland has become more animated on the sidelines in recent years.
Perhaps if coaches behaved a little better, then fans wouldn't get so upset and blame the officials for their losses.
I've heard some folks say there aren't any good officials in the Mountain West Conference. OK, there are a couple who I think are incompetent, and I cringe when I see them on the floor. But that's perhaps two out of the 38 officials the league uses. The MWC also has a few of the best officials in the country, including a couple who are so good they have been chosen to officiate the NCAA championship game in recent years.
Javan Hedlund of the MWC says the league gets complaints about officiating from fans wanting to know why they can't get officials like the ones they see on TV. That's amusing to Hedlund, because most of the MWC officials are also employed by the Pac-10, Big 12 and Big Ten Conferences. Of course the MWC officials look a lot better when they're calling an Oklahoma-Kansas game you could care less about than a game involving your favorite team.
Just remember, officials probably make more than 100 calls a game, and it's impossible to get every one right. And this much I'm certain — they are trying their best. I don't think there's an official out there who wants to get a call wrong.
Something I've learned in almost 25 years of covering sports is that bad calls have a way of evening out and the better team that night almost always ends as the winner. Maybe we all just need to relax a bit and cut the men in stripes a little slack for the almost impossible job they have to do.