Rob Davis, CAA
Welcome to the Sedalia School District 200
At a recent baseball game I was supervising, there was a close play in the first inning where an opposing player was called safe at First on a bang-bang play. Down rained the usual chorus of ooh's and aah's and the always popular "C'mon Blue." Honestly, the play was so close I couldn't tell if he was out or safe from my spot some 120 feet away so I decided to give the trained official less than 10 feet from the play the benefit of the doubt.
Then, when the next batter was hitting, we attempted a pick off of that same player at first base. Even from 120 feet away I could tell he was obviously safe but the displeasure of our crowd once again filled the air. A few folks latched on to saying "that's twice!" followed by more of the go-to baseball fan favorites, "C'mon!" and "That's Horrible!" We ended up holding the other team scoreless in the inning by ironically getting that first hitter out at home for the third out. Of course that started the crowd up again with sarcastic applause and one especially gifted orator screaming "It's about time, he's made three outs."
It is not out of the ordinary to hear things like this at games and although it is right on the line of what is appropriate, I did not deem it offensive enough to say anything to the crowd. However, now that I have thought about it, I wish I had taken the time to tell the crowd the back story of the official who was the target of all that vitriol. He in fact was a last minute replacement. The original official had to cancel so my replacement official agreed to leave work early, cancel dinner plans with his family, and drive from Columbia to help us out. During that first inning, when he had the temerity to call the other team's player safe twice and was feeling the wrath of the crowd, I wondered if he was regretting his decision to help us out. I was also asking myself what he would tell me the next time I called him in a jam.
We have all seen the meme on Facebook and Twitter that says we should be nice to people because everyone is fighting a battle we know nothing about. If the crowd would have known about this official agreeing to help us at the last minute and cancel plans with his family, would they have cut him a little more slack? The answer is probably not.
In the world of today's athletics, we have somehow dehumanized coaches and officials to the point we think we can say anything we want to them. Fans feel protected and anonymous because they are part of the crowd and far enough away from the action that they believe it's okay. It is like the person in the safety of his car who flips you the bird for some real or perceived driving faux pas. Do you think that person would do that to you face to face on the street? No way! However, you get them in a car with the windows rolled up and the door locked 100 feet away and all of a sudden, they become Connor McGregor.
This just in...our coaches and officials are human. They all have families and many of them are fighting battles we know nothing about but they continue to do their job to the best of their ability regardless of what they are going through. Over the years, I have had officials work for us just days after the loss of a family member or while going through a divorce. We have had officials who had recently lost their day job, have a had a flat tire on the way to our game, and have had their wallets stolen during games they are working for us.
The dedication of our coaches also has no bounds. Our coaches balance their commitment to their programs with illnesses, deaths, and other issues most people never know anything about. I've seen a coach work to the point of exhaustion and literally pass out during a game. I've seen a coach fighting cancer be pushed in his wheelchair by his players from his car to the dugout after an exhausting cancer treatment. We have current coaches caring for parents with illnesses between practices, games, and their teaching responsibilities. If folks knew these things, would they still call those coaches "idiots" to their kids because they didn['t like last night's lineup?
Our coaches spend much more time with their athletes than they do their own kids. They miss their kid's games, concerts, and birthdays to coach and develop the children of others. I recently had a coach tell me that as he was leaving his house for practice and was grabbing his bag off the floor, his infant son was grabbing the other end of the bag crying in an attempt to keep him at home. I literally had to fight back tears while he was telling me this.
Sadly, the answer for coaches or officials missing their families isn't to have their families come to the games to be with them. Occasionally you will see a new official come to a game and bring their spouse to watch. That usually happens only once. Have you ever seen a coach's husband or wife sitting in the middle of the crowd? Rarely. Normally they are as far away from the crowd as they can be so they don't have to hear the things that are often said about their loved one.
Coaches and officials are adults and don't want sympathy and most of them would tell you they don't need pats on the back. This is the life they have chosen and they understand the sacrifice. I just ask that the next time you want to yell insults at an official or a coach you pause first and remember that everyone is someone's daughter or son and deserves to be treated with respect.
You have no idea what someone may be giving up to be there so your kids can play the game.
Rob Davis, CAA
Smith-Cotton High School