Refs also need to be accountable

By Jeffery Armstrong

I am the first person to understand that it is not easy to be a high school referee, umpire or official. It's hard work keeping up with these athletes as they move up and down the court and field. Not only do they have to do that, they have to also decide when and at what point to call fouls.

But what I saw last Friday night was absolutely atrocious. I covered the basketball game between the homestanding Jonesboro High Cardinals against the Morrow High Mustangs, a game between two teams that know each other well, but don't necessarily like each other.

The referees in that game did the worst job I have ever seen in my entire sports journalism career. In fact, I think that may have been the worst officiated game I've ever seen in person, and that includes high school, college or professional games.

Those refs allowed Jonesboro's head coach to get on the court to argue (which is a technical foul), then they let Morrow's head coach get on the floor two times without giving him a tech. Now the only reason that Morrow's coach even was on the floor was to protest huge mistakes the refs were making in the game. But the third time coach Livingston of Morrow came on the court to protest the refs' same mistake, he received his technical. That was just terrible.

One of Morrow's players was also the victim of the refs' ineptitude last Friday. He was fouled several times in that game and only got one call, which upset him. He is a great kid and I love his intensity, but when I talk to him at a down time, I've got to tell him (as I'm sure his dad has) that basketball is a contact sport and he can't let bad calls and fouls get to him. I know it's no fun to get hacked, but getting angry about it can lead to some serious trouble.

The Morrow player even got a "taunting" technical foul, which he didn't really deserve. All he deserved was a warning from the refs.

I just thank God that there wasn't a full-scale brawl during that contest. There were plenty of Morrow fans at Jonesboro's gym that night and they were upset n mostly because they thought Jonesboro was getting all the calls. In fact, one of the Morrow High students at the game disrespected me at the game because he was so angry. He wouldn't sit down while the game was going on and I couldn't see the action. When I told him to sit down so I can do my job, he basically told me no and kept yelling at the refs. He didn't sit down until one of his schoolmates said something to him about it.

Now, Richard and Clarice Armstrong's only son (that would be me) hasn't taken such disrespect since the ninth grade and it took every ounce of self-control not to get in that kid's face. But trust me, he will get told about that when I see him again, along with coach Livingston. I can't really light into him, but coach Livingston can and I'm sure he will.

But I'm not extremely upset with that kid, even though he blatantly disrespected me. If the refs had controlled the game like they were supposed to, that student wouldn't have been in the way.

Jeffery Armstrong is a sports writer for the Daily and his column appears on Thursdays. He can be reached at jarmstrong@news-daily.com.