Dear high school basketball fan,

I was at a game the other day — I won’t mention which one — and I started hearing complaints coming from fans of one of the schools about the officiating.

You say that’s normal, even expected. It’s part of the fun, no?

Thing is, the game hadn’t even started yet.

Yes, they were complaining about the potential for the officials to do a bad job.

There’s the rub. It’s a sad truth, but the disease of complaining about the officials above all else is pervasive. It’s not particular to this area of the country, even to the sport of basketball.

But it’s still a disease (a curable one), and when it’s raging, it’s disgusting.

There are lots of good basketball teams in central Nebraska. When they line up against each other, it’s a whole lot of fun. It’s sport in one of its purest forms. Coaches playing chess games against each other, players diving in the front row to save a ball, 14-year-old freshmen knocking down key free throws against a rival.

It’s a beautiful thing to watch.

And yet so much of it is missed because dad/mom/grandpa/local yokel would rather spend the time complaining about the officials and miss the whole beauty of it.

I’m here to tell you: please, don’t let that be you. If it is you, cut it out, please, and thank you.

Don’t hear this as the ultimate basketball fan killjoy.

Some high school games can be too much like The Masters. That’s just wrong. One of the best environments I’ve seen this year was at Gibbon for the boys’ game against Doniphan-Trumbull. The Buffaloes student section was rocking, the place was loud (yes, even during free throws) and the tone was not marked by a constant bickering about the zebras.

It was a big-time game, and it was big-time fun.

Yes, there’s a draw to the ranting. There’s a feeling of influence, of control. Even statisticians have found that there is a home-team bias from officials at the professional ranks.

But that’s the pros. What standards are you setting for students, for the kids sitting next to you in the stands, by berating the officials the entire game, you know, just because that’s what you do? What exactly, are you accomplishing, other than a bright red face? What are you proving other than that you have anger problems?

The black-and-white stripes probably aren’t out to get you or your son or daughter or your school’s team. And I know it’s easier to chalk up the loss to the officials than say, your team turning the ball over 25 times.

The refs make mistakes (how dare they), but they’ve got an NSAA patch on their shoulders for a reason. They’re qualified for a tough job.

So, some solutions.

First, coaches, you’re not off the hook. From the bleachers, it’s easy to see — and hear — from the coaches that include in their game-day repertoire a constant nagging of the officials. If I charted fan complaints with coach complaints, I’d guess there’s a strong correlation.

It’s contagious. Hey, if our coach is doing it, it must be the thing to do. So high school coaches, stop letting that define every game.

But fan, you don’t have to do it, too.

Don’t ruin the best $5 Friday night entertainment around by defining the evening by how poorly the officials did. If the officiating is your main concern and the overriding thought is just how well the three striped people are doing on the court, you’re doing it wrong.

Cheer! Go crazy! Hey, I’ll even let a barb or two directed the officials’ way slide.

Sadly, though, the overriding ‘let’s complain the entire game about the officials whether my team is winning or losing, but particularly if my team is losing’ mentality is one I see over and over and over. Maybe even from you.

So, here’s a challenge for the next high school game you go to. Enjoy the spaghetti dinner the school’s PTA is sponsoring, buy your popcorn and settle in. And then don’t make a single comment about the officials for the entire game. Not to them, not to the person sitting next to you. For the whole game. Guess what? You may not be so red in the face.

And you’ll enjoy the game, a lot more than you do so now. I promise.

I could go on and on, but I’m already complaining too much about people complaining.


The sports writer you can complain about instead.

P.S. Oh, and over-the-back is not a foul.

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