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February 7, 2013

Lessons from the Basketball Court

Harry M. Covert

Opportunities come when least expected for sure and seen especially true in sports and politics where ideals of right and wrong often are in dispute.


A fantastic example of this recently hit the front pages and could have well been on sports pages as a teenage basketball official got the ire of a coach.


This situation is nothing new to officials, players and moms and dads of any athletic event. It may be fun for spectators but consequences of such public displays can lead to futures that may include success.


This space is concerning the altercation between the 17-year-old referee and the coach-dad of a 5th-6th grade basketball game in Frederick County.


If anything, the young referee can learn from this quickly and rise in officiating circles to recreation leagues to high school to college and quite possibly the pros. It can be a good living. Taking advantage of the verbal altercation is a learning experience. Such antics from coaches and fans will always be there.


The first lesson in referees’ classes is not ejection of the bellyacher. It is don’t have rabbit-ears, That is, don’t listen to the yelling and screaming. Always remember you can clear the benches, coaches and fans if necessary.


For volunteer coaches who are trying to be good dads and/or mothers and teachers on all levels, there are consequences, especially if there are hopes for further public careers. They can be devastating.


I’m writing about the squabble and name-calling involving the president of the Board of Commissioners – after the game, of course. It’s not known what words were used to excoriate the adolescent game official, but the mother reported they were profane.


Now, Mr. President, once the event was uncovered, said he apologized to the youngster. He also shared his contrition to commission colleagues and the public on the Frederick government cable channel.


After learning the ropes of the officiating business, a friend of mine had advanced. He was assigned to a varsity level Christian school semifinal tournament. Both coaches, learning to be pastors, became enraged during the first-half. Both were ejected for their disrespect for the officials and using words not seen in a Holy book.


At the start of the second half, one of the assistant coaches took umbrage at his fate and resumed berating the referees. He was also removed from the game and a school principal finished as coach.


Both head coaches thought their futures remained in coaching instead of ministry.


Another friend involved in officiating called many high school, Babe Ruth League, American Legion, college baseball and professional Carolina League games. The day came when he was lured into campaigning for public office.


He worked the neighborhoods, rich and poor. At one front porch, the lady of the house opened the door and then ordered, “Get off my porch. I wouldn’t vote for you, you called my son out at home plate.” A dream shattered.


One of the better professional basketball referees came from my hometown. He started officiating in the rec leagues and was an outstanding basketball, baseball and softball players.


One night in Morgantown, officiating a West Virginia Mountaineers game, on the final shot of the tie game, he dared to make a goal-tending call. The home team lost. Booing, shouting and general misbehavior broke out.


In the stands was the supervisor of officials of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The next day he was hired for the new league, later to merge with the National Basketball Association (NBA). He became one of the best and worked practically all of the playoffs and title games. He retired at the top of the field.


Our young referee seems to have an excellent future ahead of him.


Our Mr. President probably learned a good lesson.


The famous strip teaser Gypsy Rose Lee is often quoted as saying that all publicity is good.


This may or may not be true in this day and age. The public may have short memories in some instances. But there’s always someone who never forgets and may also have designs on a lofty perch.


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