By Davin Wilson
It’s a Tuesday or Friday or Saturday night … Who the hell knows anymore? Point is, I’m at a high school boys’ basketball game sitting amongst the Peanut Gallery, listening to them yell at the officials over perceived slights in their calls.
“The umpires are always working against us,” one woman says to her friend, her comment met by high-fives and a hell-yeah.
I roll my eyes. I want to turn around and say: “Ma’am, they are called officials in basketball and no, they aren’t working against your team. Your team is losing because they’re shooting like a bunch of glaucoma-stricken ladies at the free throw line.”
But I don’t dare say it. One, after dating a woman with a 10-year-old for the past three years, I have learned a mom becomes a vicious lioness when you attack her child. And secondly, I know deep down my words would have no effect. It would be like trying to convince a Justin Bieber fan his music sucks or trying to prove to a record executive that there was a time where hip-hop wasn’t all about gang-banging and country musicians actually sang about other things than pickup trucks, beer and girls in daisy dukes.
Meriam-Webster defines conspiracy theory as a “theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators.”
Well, let some sports fans tell it, and referees, officials and umpires are clandestine individuals who meet in dark allies and shifty go-betweens to plot against their favorite teams with the same vigor the CIA and Lyndon Johnson conspired against John F. Kennedy.
The shooter on the Grassy Knoll. Stanley Kubrick helped NASA fake the moon landing. Officials and referees are conspiring against your favorite teams.
I have been around sports my entire life either playing, watching or writing about them and there have been very few times where I have seen an official or umpires call cause a team to lose. And even in those circumstances, there has always been extenuating factors that have really cost the game.
In that spirit, I have put together a basic set of guidelines to help quell any conspiracy theories that fans might have. Enjoy.
1.) In football, the team that wins the turnover battle generally wins the game. It’s a law nearly as solid as gravity. That being said, if your team finishes negative four in the turnover column, that’s why it lost the game — not an erroneous call by the officials.
2.) Defense and rebounding might win basketball games, but offense is important as well. If your team only shoots 20 percent from the floor, a loss is probably on the horizon. Don’t blame the officials. Get working on some shooting drills.
3.) This one was tough because it happened to one of my favorite teams. But I’m a journalist, and I must be objective (I’m talking about you Fox News and CNN). A late infield fly rule call — no matter how erroneous — doesn’t excuse your team from digging itself into a four-run deficit, especially late in the game.
4.) If your team’s offensive and defensive lines have more leaks than the FBI, don’t blame a late pass interference call for your side’s loss. Time to beef up the boys by taking them to the weight room or to McDonald’s for double quarter-pounder meals.
5.) When your son or daughter’s soccer team allows seven goals in the first half, then the referees aren’t conspiring against your team. Even if they do miss a few off sides or call fouls on blatant flops. Defense wins championships and giving up seven goals in soccer is the equivalent of surrendering 30 runs in a baseball game.
6.) Do the players on your favorite basketball team look like 10 Shaquille O’Neal’s at the free throw line? If so, don’t blame the officials for the loss. There’s a reason they are called free throws, and the free-throw line is nicknamed the charity stripe.
7.) In the words of Bill Russell, “concentration and mental toughness are the margins of victory.” With that being said, if your team can’t bounce back from a tough loss, then you can’t blame the officials. You have to be mentally tough whether it’s in a game or bouncing back from losing out on a cashier’s job to a person who can’t count to five on her fingers.
8.) When a player on your team takes a swing at another player, a technical foul must be called. No excuses. No exceptions. You must learn how to control your temper young Ron Artest. Fisticuffs throw cannot you. If the ensuing free throws turn out to be the reason your team loses, you can’t blame the officials. This one should be filed under duh.
9.) If your team can’t kick a field in overtime, then you cannot blame the officials for the loss — even if an obvious potential game-winning touchdown was overturned. We all know kickers are head cases, but Jesus, you can’t choke with the game on the line.
10.) If your team has eight red zone drives and only ends up with field goals, then blame a lack of execution, not the off sides call on 3rd-and-1 for your side’s loss. It shouldn’t be that hard to get the ball in the end zone when you’re that close.
11.) Generally, in baseball, the team with the most hits scores more runs and wins the game. That being said, if your favorite baseball team gets outhit and still loses, the umpires strike zone usually can’t be blamed for the loss.
12.) When you have a team full of players that are just as likely to end up on a Most Wanted List then go to college, then the referees, officials or umpires can’t be held responsible for any losses. If attitudes are the problem, it’s time for suicide runs and kicking a few players off the team.