Respect is often just a phantom foul

Cory Hurley - A Game of Inches
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One of the biggest debates in all of sports is the argument between the calibre of officiating and the unsportsmanship of players and coaches.

Depending on which circle of brotherhood you are intertwined, you can easily find yourself on either side of the fence — meaning both bring very compelling arguments to the table.

In a perfect world there would be enough mutual respect to leave these controversies to your imagination. However, I can only imagine that would ever be the case.

For more than a decade, as an organizer of the local basketball league, I found myself torn between all sides — something I admit to struggling with and something I acknowledge wore on me.

As a player myself, I’m sure I am well known to have argued a few calls and even in my younger years get tossed from a few games (something I am now not too proud of). I’d like to believe I mellowed out in recent years, and I can’t remember ever holding a grudge over what happened in a basketball game or any other sporting event. I know for sure everybody can’t say the same — referee or player.

As a league organizer, I had both players and officials coming to me, time and time again, looking to address the issues pertaining to abuse or being just plain bad (you can figure out who was saying which and about who, if you can follow).

I tried my best to hear each one out, provide some advice or, if need be, some ruling or actions. Meetings to discuss situations had a changing effect, but always for a short period, returning to near mayhem at every tip-off.

As an official, things roll off my back much easier than most. I don’t take things personally, even if they are personal attacks. I don’t mind talking to players and discussing calls, something some officials will have no part of. After the game, I can share a laugh with a person who was earlier ready to kick the ball at my head (or just kick my head). I can also admit I made a mistake — us humans, we tend to do that.

Now that I am no longer tied to two of those three titles (organizer and player), I can see why it has been easy for officials to get fed up with the abuse and walk away from the game altogether (not that I would consider doing so). One has to have a passion for the game in order to keep coming back and putting up with personal attacks and near constant berating. Kudos to those who do.

I think my heart has always sided somewhat with the official in this endless debate. It is hard not to have a bit more respect for the person who gives up their time, for little in return (other than what already has been discussed).

I think players of any sport have to realize that. The select few willing to ref need to be respected for doing so. In return, a player should expect an official’s best.

Respect is a two-way street. But, often times, somebody has to be the bigger person and take the first step. In the end, it’s hard not to see it always just ending up being a foul.

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