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The Times
  • Heather Harris: The right call

  • Sports officials have a tough job.


    There is no other profession where being yelled at, harassed, and called names are acceptable.

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  • Sports officials have a tough job.
    There is no other profession where being yelled at, harassed and called names are acceptable.
    I can’t imagine if I were to make a mistake in the office, to have all those around me suddenly stand up and start booing me in a profanity-ladled chorus. Needless to say, if they did, I would burst into tears. I don’t have a very thick skin.
    NFL fans went bonkers last month when replacement refs were brought onto the fields after a three-month lockout between the NFL Referees Association and the NFL.
    The poor chaps that came in did not appear to be up to snuff when it came to making the calls or knowing the rules. Fans, coaches and players let it be known that the replacements stunk.
    Everyone showed their appreciation when the “real” refs returned. But let’s see how long the love fest lasts.
    The officials are often the most overlooked part of athletics. That is until something doesn’t go someone’s way.
    I’ve played and sat through many a sporting event, and there have been times I am horrified at the behavior of adults barking, swearing and acting like lunatics at a call. It seems fairly absurd to me to expend that sort of energy on something so trivial.
    It would seem that sort of passion could be put to better use, like volunteering at a local food shelter or raising money for a worthy cause.
    I shamefully admit I am guilty of griping at an official or two during my playing years. I’m no saint. But at the end of each game, I always made it a point to go up to and shake the officials’ hand, thanking them for their efforts.
    There is such a feeling of entitlement in and around sports. What happened to, OK, the call didn’t go your way, put your head down, suck it up, and move on?
    The only NFL player, the only one I heard say something that made any sense during the lockout, was New England quarterback Tom Brady. Yeah, yeah, there will be some that say I’m a “Brady-Lover,” and maybe I am, but what he said was a valuable lesson in priorities.
    “I feel like these guys are doing the best they can do,” Brady said. “They're going to miss calls and so forth, and really, part of my job is not to worry about the officials, so I hate spending time talking about them, and I never have talked about the officials. The reason why we lost our particular game was certainly not because of the officials.”
    He’s right. What person do you know who wakes up and says, “Today, I’m going to do my worst?” No one.
    Page 2 of 2 - Most of us simply seek validation for our efforts. Some of us are better at things than others, whether it be our jobs, parenting, sports or whatever.
    Appreciate each other’s limitations. Being accountable for our own actions, that should be what matters most. Blaming others when things go wrong, it’s a cop out. Obstacles or things not panning out as planned, that’s called life.
    Things aren’t always going to go your way, no matter how much you yell, holler, complain and cry about it. That’s what I tell my 4 and 7-year-old children.
    It’s how you handle yourself in the moment. Did you have grace? Were you composed? Did you learn from the loss? Did you gain from the experience?
    Officials are human and not perfect. They will make mistakes. That’s part of the game, that’s part of life.
    There is no guarantee the call will always go your way.
    Heather Harris is reporter for the Norton Mirror, Mansfield News and Easton Journal. A three-sport high school athlete and two-sport college athlete, sports have long been a passion of hers. The mother of two can be seen walking through the streets of Mansfield where she currently resides. Heather Harris can be reached at hharris@wickedlocal.com
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