It was a beautiful spring day as I took my seat in the stands. The girls on the bench were cheering and the girls on the field were focused and having fun.
"This really is," I thought, "the best job in the world."
That's when it started.
"Blue, you're terrible! You're horrible! You're 0-for-10 now!"
"That wasn't a strike for their pitcher! Call it both ways!"
"What game are you watching?! You're ridiculous!"
"She wasn't out! You're horrid, absolutely horrid!"
When the fans around you start verbally abusing the officials at a sporting event, it feels something like standing in the middle of an argument that has nothing to do with you. It's embarrassing to be listening to it, but the harder you try to be invisible and ignore what's going on around you, the more appalled and humiliated you feel.
This was one of those days.
I tried to block it out, but the insults were constant and often personal, and I just couldn't believe that seemingly nice, normal people were once again transformed into something ugly and pathetic. I found myself again wondering why any sane human being would want to be a referee.
Why does sports do this to people? I have to believe these same people would never even consider standing up and yelling insults at a PTA meeting the way they do at their children's athletic contests.
"Come on president! You're blind if you think that's the best option! Get some glasses! You stink! You're a total joke!"
The first basketball tournament I covered four years ago was absolutely frightening. After listening to one man shout how he wished the officials would die, and that they were so bad he wanted to kill them, I turned around and wrote down a description of him — just in case.
I've talked to officials about it and most say they really don't hear it because they're so focused on doing their jobs. They subject themselves to worse treatment than the future stars of American Idol do because they love sports and they love the kids. Without those same so-called blind, biased idiots, we wouldn't be able to enjoy any of the games we play or watch.
Does anyone honestly think a high school referee has it in for a specific team, player or coach? Had any of them tried standing behind the plate and determining for seven innings what was a strike and what was a ball?
And then my thought were interrupted by two teenage girls walked to the back stop amid a few of these insults. One of them called out to the field referee who was standing with the plate umpire on the first-base line.
"Dad," she called. "Here are the keys; Mom's coming to get us."
I know most of the fans yelling at the officials saw this, but it didn't quiet them for even a few minutes. And now I know there is no reasoning with people who would hurl insults at someone they don't know, while that same someone is offering a service to their children.