Sports officiating?

This is a post about my upbringing and sports. My upbringing has really burned some bridges in my life and caused people to be angry with me…. What does that mean?

We are all taught certain values, beliefs and habits by our parents, teachers, friends, employers, and government… In the end, no matter what the influences, we manage to become who we are when all that information is formed together.

There is one hard taught lesson my father emphasized that has really come to light recently. That being my father held a strong belief that if you are going to criticize someone you better have walked I their shoes and if you have anything bad to say about someone, if you can not (and do not) say it to their face, do not say it.

I have lived with this in-bread advice for over 4 decades. It has caused many problems and saved me many times. After I walked in someone shoes, I am far more forgiving of the issues they face. That is why I have done so many times. I had the urge to highly criticize someone but before I did, I “walked in their shoes”. Like organizing a large running event, organizing a tennis tournament, being the director of a youth sports group, coached softball, baseball, tennis, hockey, football, basketball, soccer, and more. I have done so many things as I wanted to walk in their shoes and found when I had, I did not have much to say anymore.

There are so many criticisms I hear… The Doctor makes way to much for what he does, those overpaid government workers have it easy, salesmen are overpaid people who can charm the right person, teachers get overpaid for working 9 months a year, and so on. I recalled a friend complaining how his sister in pharmaceutical made $200,000 in one year and almost flunked out of collage. He said “she must have slept her way there” and I said he really needs to understand that industry before he says things like that! I do not believe all these statements to be true just like many other comments you hear about so many professions. This is because I have not been in their shoes so how would I have any idea?

Why does this come up now? Recently I have had some heated e-mails about baseball umpires and mistakes they made recently. I am not arguing they were not mistakes. What I argue is to criticize so harshly that which has never been experienced by most did cause me to get on the offensive. If you watch ESPN, even John Kroch said there were clear errors, but did not call for them to be fired. So many are calling them idiots and saying they should be fired. Now this is a subject dear to heart and in my dad’s own words, if you have not been in their shoes, do not judge them.

I get offensive, as I have been there. For 7 years I worked hard as a baseball umpire. Actually thought of making it a profession. Then I learned that most umpires are actually business owners, wealthy in some other way or retired from some other profession. You cannot raise a family at that profession. Well, truthful a select few do. Since that time I have become a Tennis Official. I have seen the same thing in this sport as well. I have worked professional events where after travel and other costs, I earned $300 a week for working 10-hour days.

A good friend of mine is a top tennis official. He has done the US Open, Australian Open, and Wimbledon and is one of the top officials I know. I recently asked him about incomes. He said he nets about $1000 a month when all is said and done. He has other means of support.

But what hurts me most is the fact the society really does not understand what it is like in that position. No matter what you do you will be hated? Imagine if every aspect of your jobs was played over and over again by the press? You cannot back out of a gig late or risk loss of the nest assignment. Have a sick day and have consequences…

The really good officials (like many old friends and myself who were very highly rated) left baseball to get a job where we have health coverage and a wage we could raise a family. As I said, sure there are those who may make it, just like players. Like in “The Rookie”, the movie about Jimmy Morris and his quest to make it. Almost broke his family. And two years later, he was out of the majors. Point is, in officiating, very few hang on long enough to make it to the golden spot, unless they have another form of income.

So very few solid officials continue, as it is not a stable and thankful job. That makes the pool to select from thin. Just like a few years ago I commented the retail sector really hurt with solid customer service skilled employees. What I heard this is the best applicants they can get… Like I said earlier, have your job, every minute, on film and I bet there would be reasons to be fired if you hold them to that standard for a bonehead mistake, a mistated word to other little issue that is on tape…

So in this life when I look at someone and think they are just idiots. I look in the mirror and think, aren’t we all at times? We just do not have ESPN showing if 20 times a day, place it in the newspapers or debate their job status at the water cooler…

Like I said, been there, done that… whole new perspective…

Carry on.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Sports officiating?

  1. Beth

    I can't imagine the pressure that must come with umping a sporting event. Every is watching and waiting to be a critic. I will say, though, that sitting at my kids sporting events that I am always impressed by their passion for the sport and their willingness to give of their time to support others. Thanks to you and everyone who gives their time and talent!

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