By Bill Tamburrino
There is a lot to be said for prep golf and tennis. In those two sports the players are in charge of policing the game and calling the infractions. In tennis it usually comes down to whether or not a serve or ball is in or out.
In high school golf the players count their own scores and if they break a rule it is up to them to make the call and take a penalty. It is the honor system. To too many, the honor system is interpreted as “You’ve got the honor and I’ve got the system.”
When I play golf, my cronies and I play by rules that high school kids can’t play by. In high school the golfers walk the course. Sixty-seven-year-old
columnists don’t walk the course! We drive carts and the No. 1 rule is: The fastest cart gets the best lie.
High school golfers are penalized for a lost ball, a ball that goes out of bounds or in a water hazard. Our motto is: Losing a $1.25 ball is punishment enough.
A swing and a miss is counted as a stroke for prep golfers. It is a practice swing for us. Mr. Mulligan is a big man in our games. In high school golf he doesn’t exist.
In cross country the races are also pretty much ran on the honor system. Football, volleyball and water polo have paid officials, as do most of the winter and spring sports. There is one problem with paid officials. All of the officials are human beings and human beings make errors. Take football for instance. There are between three and seven officials used in high school football games, depending on the level of play. The officials are on the field and usually they are in the action and not near the action. However, people in the stands who can be up to 300 yards away feel that they have a better view of the action and when they disagree with a call (always a call that goes against their team) they feel they have a right to boo, jeer, and make insulting remarks and gestures. They paid. They can boo. Freedom of Speech or booing.
Again, I must remind you that officials are human. And when a human is insulted, embarrassed, threatened or mocked the human just might take offense to that.
I have heard umpires that I complained to say this: “You think that was a bad call? Wait until the next pitch. Your kid better be swinging.” I am sure that an umpire or referee or line judge in football has the same thoughts.
On any long gain or whenever a quarterback scrambles, some genius with great eyesight will yell, “Holding!!” and that astute fan is always right because there is holding on every play.
Soccer fans are worse and basketball fans are the worst. Basketball fans are closest to the action and often have a better angle on the play than the official. They can also be seen and heard by the officials.
After talking to several basketball, football, baseball and softball officials, and after having watched, coached, played in and officiated thousands of games myself, I have the come to the following conclusions.
Before most games, most officials don’t care who wins or loses. However, after they are booed, cursed, jeered and insulted they sometimes get biased.
At most games the officials make far less mistakes than the players and coaches. Fans seldom boo when a batter swings and misses, but I have heard it happen. Ditto a missed free throw, lay up, penalty shot or field goal attempt.
Fans always make better calls than the coach right after the play has been played.
Most fans don’t really know the rules. Pros and colleges play by separate rules than preps. Ninety-nine percent of fans have never seen, touched or read a rule book.
There are no instant replays in high school and I hope there never is.
Those who boo the most usually know the least.
Officials don’t do it for the money.
Most high school athletes display better sportsmanship or sportswomanship than their parents.
As a coach, I made hundreds of bad calls and I lost hundreds of games. I am undefeated in the stands and I have never made a bad call from the bleachers.
All too often “Victory with Honor” is like the honor system.