New Year’s resolution: Be nicer to basketball officials

It’s that time again when we all focus on improving ourselves.

As the clock runs out on 2015, most of us will be making a New Year’s resolution as we kick off 2016. That means the machines at the YMCA, Fuel Fitness and other gyms will be full for the better part of two weeks as the New Year’s resolution crowd moves in.

Most usually fall into old ways and abandon the gym by about Jan. 10, give or take nine or 10 days. Another year, another resolution unfulfilled.

No big deal. They make those same jeans in bigger sizes, too.

This year, how about we collectively make a resolution that will really make us all better. How about a New Year’s resolution that we all be nicer to basketball officials in 2016 and beyond? All of us. Parents, fans, coaches, writers and broadcasters.

No, this isn’t about the feelings of the men and women in stripes. No one needs to worry about them because most officials don’t have confidence issues.

While some have rabbit ears and their skin is not as thick as it should be, not many officials suffer from a lack of self-esteem. The only thing they might suffer from is a lack of mirrors in the locker room.

No matter how many times you yell “call it both ways” and “three seconds” the officials will go home feeling pretty good about themselves.

It has been my long-standing theory that the most vain men and women make the best officials. It makes sense that self-assured people are quicker to make a decision and stick with it.

You have to have an abundant amount of confidence to be a good official, and who has more confidence than the handsome?

That also explains why we see so many well-groomed men referee basketball games. At least three out of four male officials have either a perfectly manicured head of hair or a Mr. Clean baldy shine. And, seriously, vanity is the only reason a man would completely shave his head.

Guys who can grow hair on top never break out the Bic for the sides and back. Michael Jordan, who made the clean scalp cool, didn’t shave until he could only grow the horseshoe around his dome.

You should probably be nice to officials because that would fall under the Golden Rule. We should be at least as nice to men and women who put their neck on the line so high school boys and girls can play a sport as we are to each other when in line at the bank.

In general, you should never yell something at somebody from the comfort of the bleachers that you wouldn’t say face to face. Otherwise you’re a phony.

This isn’t about the officials, though. We’ve already done way too much worrying about hurt feelings this politically correct century.

This is about the athletes. Make your resolution for the good of the players you are cheering.

Butte High girls’ basketball coach Maury Cook, who was a very good official with a nice head of hair before and after his successful run as the coach of the Anaconda girls’ basketball program, shared the theory behind his lack yelling at officials during games.

Cook theorizes that you don’t want to blame officials when things don’t go your way because you don’t want your players to think that they aren’t in control of the game.

Since Cook comes to town with about a .950 winning percentage with the Copperheads, we should probably listen a little bit when he speaks about basketball theory.

A team is more likely to lose if the players think the referees are working unfairly against them. The perception of dirty officials is probably at least 30 percent of the home-court advantage in high school basketball.

When Browning fans show up at the divisional tournament with signs like “Hey ref, don’t cheat,” the players go into the game thinking there is a 100 percent chance they are going to get ripped off by an official with an agenda.

Then the team has at least a 50 percent less chance of winning the tournament.

By the way, it is worth noting that at least 68 percent of all percentages are made up on the spot.

At a Class C basketball tournament a few years ago, I heard a coach yell “don’t pick on him” at officials during a game. The coach was urging the three officials to lay off his star player, who apparently gets treated unfairly for no good reason at all.

It clearly had nothing to do with his poor attitude.

So, of course, that star player thought he was being picked on by the officials. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about trying to keep his opponents and their fans from getting into his head.

Predictably enough, that player argued for a foul every time he drove to the basket before finally getting a technical foul. The coach was also T’d up as the team suffered a season-ending loss.

Players on the court need encouragement, not an excuse. Coaches, parents and fans yelling at the officials just reinforces the excuse mentality, and that mindset is difficult to overcome.

Most young players do a good enough job psyching themselves out. They really don’t need your help. Plus, have you ever seen an official change a call because of a clever insult yelled out by a mother in the peanut gallery?

The harm of the excuse greatly outweighs the benefit of the occasional call the team gets by “working” the officials.

Also, yelling at officials only makes the boisterous fan look silly, even if he or she is getting polite laughs from the immediate fans. The fan screaming at officials at a high school game is the first-cousin of the heckler at a comedy show. No one really likes you.

Have you ever heard a player say, “Geez, I wish that was my mom yelling like that?” No, players wish their mom or dad would just shut up. They are embarrassed.

So, do your young athletes and yourself a favor and put a sock in it by making a New Year’s resolution that will make everybody’s lives more enjoyable.

It will be much more rewarding than spending a couple weeks lying to yourself at on an elliptical.

— Bill Foley, who isn’t handsome enough to make a good basketball official, writes a column that appears on on Tuesdays. Email him at Follow him at 1 comment

Posts Carousel

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

1 Comment

  • Jim Michelotti
    December 31, 2015, 11:04 am

    Great article Bill. I will try it as a resolution in 2016 but no promises. Grandparents are excused. My father Bat was the nicest guy in the world much like your Granpa but God forbid the fate of the referee who made a mistake on any of his Grandkids. I find myself that way now. Unfortunately, new controls have forced us to be quiet. I was given a warning by the female umpire behind the plate at a BHS softball game last year. I thought “What the he?? does that mean?”. Come to find out that next was a police escort out of the ballpark. Fortunately, I bit my lip for the rest of the game. My Dad would have ended up in jail. Anyway, I will take a shot at your suggested 2016 resolution. As I said my current status gives me the option of “Mea Culpa”. Happy New Year to you and yours.



Print this Page

Print Friendly, PDF & Email