I stumbled across a story out of San Antonio, Texas and it's something that I hope we never see or experience here in Illinois.
But like most things these days, I've also learned (sadly) to never say never.
In the story and accompanying video, two San Antonio-area defensive players from John Jay High School intentionally hit the back judge who was watching the developing play. While we will most likely never know the intentions or the reasons why, one thing I do know is this: if some day it becomes open season on refs, high school football is over.
Over my 20 years of having the privilege and honor to stand on the sidelines week in and week out, I'd like to think I've learned a few things about the sport and some of the people involved in and around high school football.
Refs? No question in my mind that many of the refs who I've been able to get to know are some of the best, most passionate high school football fans around.
The refs I've gotten to know are all generally highly successful people in the professional world as well as off the field. They definitely aren't in the business just for the money; in fact, far from it. You'd be amazed at how little these officials are paid these days. The refs that I know are in it because they love the game and want to give something back. Simple as that.
Issues? Just like in every walk of life, you have some great referees and some that are not so great. I've seen some of them blow calls that decided the outcome of a few games. Yet to go to the extent of intending to injure somebody on the field without pads? Any line of thinking in those regards, whether done by a player — or even worse — encouraged by a coach or coaches, needs to end right now.
Lots of issues remain in the officiating business — in particular the disturbing lack of available refs in the 25 to 40-year old range. Refs are getting older and harder to come by in all sports and football remains one of the most physically demanding. Video and stories like this one, likely seen by more than a few potential refs in the making, will make anyone think twice before deciding to make the sacrifice to become an official. And who could blame them if an incident like the one in San Antonio becomes more than a one-time incident?
The day that refs feel that they are not safe above and beyond the inherited risks…or at least the day where they feel need to watch their backs?
It's over. Done. Finished.