We really miss the students at basketball games

The fan of the Stevensville boys’ basketball team thought he was really funny, and a woman sitting next to him agreed.

“I’m going to yell ‘It’s 8 on 5 out there,’” he told her as he complained about the referees working the Butte Central-Stevensville game at the Maroon Activities Center.

The woman spit out some water as she laughed.

“You should do it,” she said. “Oh, you should dooo it.”

The fan, who I assume was a father of a player, was referring to the three officials he thought were clearly cheating for the hometown Maroons.

While the guy thought he was hilarious, he is going to have to do a whole lot better than if he is going to make it on Saturday Night Live.

His joke was not even a good dad joke, and it was completely unoriginal.

That same line was literally used by a fan at every game this year. One Livingston fan even surmised that the Butte Central boys only won the 2020 state title because the same 8-5 advantage, as if the conspiracy to cheat for the Catholic school players was statewide.

It must have been an edict of Pope Francis that we missed.

As we come to the end of the COVID-19 high school basketball season, it is apparent that we missed the student sections more than we thought we would.

A whole lot more.

We miss the students chanting, cheering and yelling the entire game. We miss them pushing the limits and making the school administers nervous. We miss them heckling the opposing fans.

Even the opposing fans miss them, even if they do not realize it.

Yes, we miss the noise of the student sections at basketball games because it drowns out just how basketball ignorant so many moms and dads can be.

This year, the games have been quite as a church service. Well, other than a few exciting Butte High boys’ games, at least it has been in Butte, where the local leaders have worked to successfully make sure high school games did not turn into super-spreader events.

That has been bad news for the officials of the basketball games. It is also bad news for the media members who have to listen to the visiting moms and dads cry all game long.

I say visitors because that is who I have had to listen to all season. The media have been put up right in front of the visiting crowds at Butte High’s Richardson Gym and the Butte Central’s Maroon Activities Center.

It is safe to say that the Butte fans are just as bad as the visitors because no fanbase holds a monopoly on obnoxiousness. Not even in the Bitterroot Valley.

In fact, the dumbest thing I heard yelled at an official this winter season came from a Butte High wrestling dad, who screamed at the official was “asking for a friend.”

He was another guy who is not ready for SNL.

At a girls’ basketball game a few weeks ago, a Frenchtown dad or grandpa got tossed by an official for telling the referee she was “terrible” from just a few feet away.

That is a clear violation of the rules. Before each post season game, you will hear the public address announcer read a statement telling fans that booing or taunting of officials is discourteous and unacceptable.

Sometimes, you get to hear Billings radio legend Rocky Erickson read the announcement in his recorded Town Pump commercial voice.

Every fan hears that read, but apparently not too many actually listen.

The Frenchtown fan was shocked that he got tossed from that game. What he said was probably not even close to bad as he has heard others yell at officials. It was not even close to the worst thing the same guy yelled at the officials that afternoon.

The thing is, this time the official heard it clear as day, and no official should have to put up with personal attacks. The money officials are paid is not nearly enough to hear things like that.

The parents of players yell at the refs constantly, too. Every time the home team player starts to dribble, we hear “travel” or “moving screen.” Every time a player on their team moves the ball, we hear “foul” or “blow the whistle” or “get him off him.”

If have you every yelled “get him off him” at a basketball game, you have no idea what is going on in a basketball game.

The one thing that usually draws the attention and outrage of the mons and dads is when they see their team has more fouls called on it than the other team.

They apparently do not realize that, like the score, fouls are not created equal. Some teams foul more than others. Some teams also score more than others.

The fouls column on the scoreboard is not undeniable evidence that the officials are conspiring to cheat your team.

Teams that play zone defense do not foul nearly as much as teams that play man to man. Teams that score on the perimeter more than inside more do not get fouled as much as teams that drive to the hoop.

Another of my favorites is when a parent screams “3 seconds,” which happens somewhere between three and 30,000 times a game.

Usually, they are calling for 3 seconds in the key before a player is in the paint for more than a second and a half, forgetting you need the Mississippi or one-thousand, depending on your school of thought, between numbers.

“Over the back,” is another call you hear from the stands all the time. Too many parents do not understand that being taller than an opponent is not a penalty. It is possible to reach over the top of a smaller player without committing a foul.

Of course, people yelling silly things like that generally just exposes their own ignorance. It is annoying, but not as bad as the personal insults and cheating allegations levied at the officials who are giving up their Saturday so the children of others can play.

I never understand how high school sports can spur people to speak so rudely to others. If someone rear ends your new truck, you are likely to be nicer to that person than the average person is to a basketball official.

People are nicer to the folks working at the DMV than they are to officials.

Parents are not worse this year than in the past few years. At least they are not remarkably worse. They can just be heard a lot better because the gyms have been so quiet.

Hopefully we can get through the final months of the pandemic and next season we can return back to normal. We need to.

We need the student sections back. We need the bands. We need the cheerleaders. We need them to drown out the noise of moms and dads who clearly do not understand the game.

We need them so we do not have to hear all those horrible comments, like the ones coming from that Stevensville dad.

Eventually, that dad could not take it anymore. The officials did not call a foul when a Butte Central player stole the ball from a Yellowjacket.

“It’s eight on five out there,” he snapped, then looked around in self-satisfaction. “It’s eight on five.”

The woman burst out laughing.

“Truth,” she said. “Truth.”

The line got a few laughs from his fellow Stevensville fans, but that is it. It got even more eyerolls than a dad explaining why six is afraid of seven.

Hopefully the guy does not open with that one on his audition for Saturday Night Live.

— Bill Foley, who is the master of dad jokes, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74