Have you hugged a referee lately?
Kissed an official?
I mean a nice hug and appropriate none-tongue ‘Germanish bussi.’
Not the group hug with an intention that involves hands tied behind the back, a barrel of tar, gunnysack of feathers and fathom coil of Texas braided leather.
I am talking about the Alaska pioneer hug. Arms wide enough to encircle a bushy spruce pine and tight enough that your beard sticks.
I am talking about the Swedish pioneer kiss. The head bump with fur lined hood, chapstick and facemask attached.
Last weekend featured 52 middle school basketball games, at least that amount in junior varsity basketball games, a gaggle of high school wrestling duel meets, four high school varsity hockey matches, two high school varsity basketball games with extended consequences, and (insert the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ jingle here) ONE LARGE SWIM MEET. Sprite Juneau Jumpers, Skating Club performers and (jingle again) NUTCRACKER PRACTICE.
Okay, so you don’t need officials for ALL these events.
But you needed a few for most.
I had intended to insert a list here with all those able men and women who take so many minutes out of their lives to make sure our lads and lasses follow the rules in the minutes of their lives on the court.
An official brought it to my attention that they would rather not see their name in print.
Officials like to stay nameless behind a whistle or a flag.
I have been at some very zealous fan attended events outside of Juneau and I can understand why.
In Turin Italy I watched a well-sodden English rooter take a cowbell to one striped shirt. In Anchorage I watched police escort three officials through a crowd of parents at a state basketball game.
It takes a special kind of person to stand in the center of the ring, so to speak, and be inconspicuous; to let the game or match or bout unfold around them and keep order.
They drive through sleet and snow to various competitions, often at dinnertime.
They oversee adults acting like children and vice-a-versa.
They are often blamed our children can’t shoot straight, skate diagonal, or run past a tree.
They are told sweet nothings such as:
“Hey ref, you are missing a good game” or “Need to borrow my glasses” or “You can’t make a call from a phone booth” or “Flip the plate over and read the directions” or “When you get home check your answering machine because you have been missing calls all day” or “Can I pet your seeing eye dog” or “If you are just going to watch, buy a ticket” or “Did you flunk out of beauty school” or “Woof means strike, woof woof means ball.”
I have enjoyed referees that have a sense of humor:
“When you guys stop missing the net I’ll stop missing the calls” or “It’s my first time on a soccer field” or “Lens Crafters called an hour ago and I didn’t get a chance to pick my glasses up yet.”
The best banter overheard:
Fan - I am a ref, too, and that was a bad call.
Ref - You’re not a ref today.
Officials risk life and limb as well-tuned athletes zip by them, and those less well tuned zip into them.
They are struck by foul balls, foul smells, things from fowls, stray pucks, bad passes, Shot Puts, chew, popcorn, gum, insects, and just about anything else imaginable.
They pull muscles.
They sweat and perspire.
And they do all this and so much more just so we can go enjoy a day or night away from our lives.
So grab a white towel... dab an officials face and give them a nice buss.... or a hug... heck, just shake their hand.
Just do it when the game’s not on, you might get flagged.