Officiating: Perfection in a imperfect world

Time and time again, sports officials face harsh criticism from players, coaches and fans. In the era of increased use of video replay, we now have the ability to review plays again and again and again.

But wait, how many chances do the on-field officials get to make a call?

One, and that’s not even in slow motion.

How many calls can make or break a game in a fans opinion?

One, but only if it’s against their team.

As a five-sport high school official with numerous other certifications, I get it. Half of people are going to like the call and the other half are going to hate it.

In a story I wrote earlier in the academic year, veteran official Bruce Weinstock was quoted as saying, “The art of officiating is a 50/50 proposition in the public’s eye. You are always right at least half of the time.” This quote has stuck with me ever since I first read it.

Again, I get it.

But at least give us a chance. It is never an easy job knowing no matter what decision you end up making, someone is not going to like it.

Folks around the game need to realize that sports officials have a job to do: Provide a fair environment to participants within the game. If someone does something wrong, it is penalized accordingly.

The whole idea is to promote a fair environment for the participants.

Sports officials have long been the victim of abuse. From water bottle tosses, to dirt kicking, even as far as the old term “Kill the umpire!”, officials have been taking heat since they began officiating games.

Where most people will draw the line is assault. According to the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), only 21 out of 50 states have a “Assault Protection Act” that supports officials. Two of the 29 remaining states have a supportive resolution.

Now, I know the answer for myself already. Is Pennsylvania on the list here somewhere? Before Googling the answer, head over to to participate in a reader poll. The poll will close on Mar. 15 and the results will be revealed in the sports section in the Mar. 21 edition.

Does Pennsylvania have a law on the books supporting sports officials when it comes to assault?

  • Yes (61%, 11 Votes)
  • No (39%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 18

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Think about it, 29 states do not adequately protect sports officials as they should. Should that mean someone’s son or daughter is not legally protected when they step onto the playing surface? What is a player takes a swing at them?

The simple answer: Yes, there will be some sort of ramifications but NASO’s model legislation makes it a criminal offense to physically assault sports officials.

NASO has a model legislation for states to adopt on their website, Although NASO is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit entity, and is “not a political action committee nor does it employ a legislative lobbyist”. However, the organization does feel “it is important to protect its members in certain areas of the law, and therefore feels it is the organization’s duty to inform its member of current law as well as potential needs for legislative action.”

For myself, I have been very fortunate to have been in great situations where if something could have gone wrong, the game administrators were quick to diffuse it.

Others, have not been as lucky. Take a look below to see some of the incident that have come up over the course of time.

All that I ask: Just put it in perspective. We are certainly not trying to do a bad job, but we are certainly not going to do a perfect job.

We are just imperfect human-beings trying to do everything possible to do a perfect job.