Blaming the refs has never won a gameThe world of sports is like a math equation. There are the players, the fans, the owners, the scalpers and the guy selling hot dogs in the stands. They all contribute to make up this larger-than-life image of sports. And I must add one more piece to the equation, so essential to most games we know: the referees and umpires.
It seems every part of the equation is a winner. You have players raking in the dough while the fans let steam off from work and ogle cheerleaders. Then you have the owners ― smoking cigars, gulping down Dom Perignon, cashing in on anything and everything imaginable.
But at the other end, you have these basketball refs who run around the court all the while trying to keep their belly under control. They must often juggle two jobs because loping down the court does little more than put food on the table. The average salary of a basketball ref in Korea is pretty lousy.
How lousy? Let’s just say that based on current housing prices it is safe to assume that if a job is passed down from father to son, the family is lucky to own a home by the third generation.
These poor guys also deal with a lot of heat. They must confront players whose egos are bigger than Mount Seorak. They have to break up fights without riot gear and insurance. And then they must cope with the booing of fans and the occasional bottle that comes flying their way. When the lights go out and the stands empty, the refers quietly slip out the back door.
If all that isn’t enough, recently these brave officials came under fire when the Korean Basketball League asked the Seoul District Public Prosecutors office to open an investigation into alleged bribery of league referees. This is bad news. If it’s true, the culprits, if any, must be punished.
Nevertheless, the probe is likely some stunt by the ever-complaining coaches out to find a scapegoat for their losses. Last season, the Korean Basketball League tested its refs by slipping money into their bank accounts to see if anybody would bite. None of them did; rather, they all reported the unexpected infusion of money to their benefactors.
It does not matter that thanks to them a game runs smoothly ― or not. It does not matter that television broadcasters who miss the action will sometimes rely on a ref’s call to make their remarks. And it surely does not matter that no one else but them can do the job right.
Nope, all it takes to create Armageddon is one single wrong call. Forget the countless other games that have been supervised; welcome to the hall of shame. The poor chap is called an idiot for eternity, a fool for generations to come, and all that in front of his family and friends.
This is not a job for everyone. It’s a job for people who are dedicated, determined and above all driven. Otherwise, how can you perform this job while dealing with all the crap it involves? I know I couldn’t.
Sure, poor game officiating exists, but that can be remediated through better referee training. If people don’t trust the officials, then why not form some sort of watchdog group? That should solve the problem. Just don’t blame everything on the refs. They are simply trying to do their job.
by Brian Lee