This week I have seen a number of basketball games (7) and I am reminded how important officials are for those games...we might cut them a bit of slack...the game cannot exist without them.....you might ask yourself sometime..."why do they do it?"...it sure is not because of the money...
Just some thoughts:
What could possible posses someone to want to be a sports official, say a baseball umpire or a basketball referee? Or anyone who officiates at a sporting event? Well in a minute I will tell you why.
Three of my good friends Tom Meeks, Mark Masariu and Roy Steele were sport officials. Tom basketball and football, Mark baseball, basketball and football. Roy baseball and even volleyball. Tom and Mark for many years in Indiana and Roy in Texas. Not the easiest places in which to put on a stripped shirt or a chest protector. In fact that is how I first met Tom Meeks as he was officiating a basketball game at a school where I was coaching. Story for another time. Mark did his student teaching under me and others over a hundred years ago (Rockville, Indiana) when I was in teaching and coaching.
Why would any of these three leave a comfortable warm home numerous times a year, on a cold, rainy, sleet,snowy Indiana evening with temperatures near zero or more. Then drive a long distant in terrible conditions arriving at a distant location and dress in cramp quarters.For the next couple hours they run up and down a floor in an overheated gym along with having their ancestry question by many who have no conception of the game let alone the rules.
Tom often was paid a grand sum of $35 to officiate not one but two basketball games, the JV game and then the varsity game. The school's AD told him "You can bring someone with you to work the JV game but you will have to pay him out of that $35." I guess one of the fringe benefits might be the free hot dog and coke one might and I said might get at halftime. Maybe even a free bag of popcorn as they leave for the evening. Possibly before leaving that night (if the crowd was not too hostile) he could get a cup of coffee, a bowl of chili and a piece of pie in the school cafteria sponsored by the high school band boosters.
This past summer I sat in the afternoon sun at a minor league baseball game here in Nashville. The Nashville Sounds are a Triple AAA affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. I often go to a game I could just sit watch and let the world roll by. But I got to thinking about the guys in blue that afternoon, the baseball umpires. The beginning salary for a minor league umpire is $1800-1900 a month. If a umpire makes it to the highest level in minor league ball that is Triple AAA his top salary would be $3500 a month. The minimum salary for a major league umpire is $90,000.The minimum salary for a major league baseball player is $500,000 a year.
In John Feinstein's new book, Where Nobody Knows Your Name, he speaks of thirty year old Mark Lollo. In 2013 Lollo began his eleventh year as a minor league umpire. He began his career much as a player does starting in lower leagues and making his way up to where this would be his fourth season in Triple AAA baseball. That is one league away from the majors. Lollo's salary was $3200 a month along with his $48 a day-per-diem he received. He was responsible for all of his expenses he incurred doing his job. In his eleven years he had been off only two weeks at the birth of his son and two days to attend the funeral of a close relative.
Why, why would my friends Mark, Tom and Roy along Mark Lollo go through what would often appear to many people as "it's not worth it"? Major reason is not only do players and coaches and fans love a particular sport but how else can you explain why an official does what they do, one reason, because they also loved the game as much as anyone else.
The next time you are inclined to think the official is "blind, lame, stupid and feeble" you might cut them just a bit of slack as they sure aint gettin' rich doin' it. So stayed seated and think twice before
you shout out something to the guys officiating the game.
Without them there would be no game.
October 23, 2016