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Men in Black and White Stripes

April 26, 2013

By Chad Smith

If it weren’t for the black pants, you’d think it was chain gang from a 1950’s prison movie.

And they’ve been called everything from blind zebras to names that would probably make a longshoreman blush.

Referees

They are members of a grand but often maligned fraternity – the referees. Like many fans, I view the refs as the guys who’ve helped my team lose. “Foul? That was a love tap.” But after spending time with a few of them during Final Four, I had a newfound respect for the guys with the whistles.

If players are gazelles, these guys are crafty old lions. The bottom line? It’s men in their 40s or older trying to run with 18-, 19-, and 20- year-old athletes with off-the-chart stamina.

So why do they do it, night after night? It isn’t for the money. For most officials, this is their “second” job. It certainly isn’t for the snappy wardrobe. Come on, stripes aren’t that thinning. And if running like crazy for 40 minutes isn’t enough; they have to digest a hernia inducing 145+-page rulebook.

After watching them keep pace with the REESE’S College All-Star players, they agreed to an on-camera interview. I tried to stump them with a question from the rulebook:

“How do you guys feel about Rule 3 Section 7, Article 1c?” In unison they replied, “you mean the 2-inch head-band rule?” These guys are good.

They talked about how they train year-round to ensure they are prepared mentally and physically for the season. They even shared with me the fact that no one in the entire arena feels worse than a referee does when they realize they made a bad call.

Hey, imagine if you had “instant replay” in your job. “Did I really just use the company color copier for my kid’s geography project? “

So, next time you want to hurl a few insults the ref’s way, think about what it feels like to make a close call in front of thousands of screaming fans. And if that doesn’t help, enjoy a REESE’S Peanut Butter Cup or two. Hey, works for me.

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