By Lisa E. Crowley
BROCKTON—Exactly what happened at a youth basketball tournament at UMass Lowell is why refereeing SUCKS!!
For those who haven’t heard, UMass Lowell Police Officer Peter Morelli confirmed an angry spectator attacked a basketball referee after being ejected from a game between Lowell and Portsmouth, N.H., Tuesday afternoon during a tournament that featured 193 teams from across the region.
Players’ ages ranged from 5th grade to 8th grade—roughly boys and girls ages 11 to 15.
Players on the court for the game were 7th graders.
“We don’t know if it was a parent or relative of a parent, but it was an adult,” Morelli said.
He said the about 6-feet, 3 to 4-inch, 220 pound black man threw water at the referee as he was being escorted out of the gym after being ejected.
"He didn't make an obscene gesture," Morelli said. "He was waving his arms and being verbally abusive--overly verbally abusive," he said.
Tossed from the gym near the end of the game, the man waited for the ref to come through a corridor and then punched him in the chest, a blow that was hard enough to knock down the referee, a man he described as just about as tall as the assailant.
"He looked like a basketball type--almost as big as the alleged suspect," Morelli said.
Morelli said the man took off afterward and initially people in the auditorium balked at telling police who the man was. Morelli said very few tried to help the ref after the attack.
"A few took the lead, but no one did much to help," Morelli said.
Since the game, Morelli said calls have come in and police may question a suspect and possibly press charges.
Morelli said he was concerned about the punch because a hard blow to the chest could have triggered a heart attack.
“That was my concern,” Morelli said. “I told him if he had complications later he should go to the hospital,” Morelli said, noting the referee was probably in his mid-40s.
Luckily, an actual physical attack on a referee is pretty rare and in this case injuries are said to be minor and the referee did not go to the hospital—at least right away.
There have been times when refs have taken their lives into their own hands, most memorably when a referee was gunned down after a World Cup soccer match in 1989, a player in 1994, and in Kenya in 2002.
But that’s pro sports, right? Youth sports aren’t hostile and dangerous. Most of the time they’re not, and Tuesday, the suspect was lucky. His attack thus far has not caused injury, but what if it had?
Just ask Thomas Junta, the hockey dad who killed another parent after losing control over play between their sons. He spent 8 years in prison for involuntary manslaughter.
As a rookie soccer referee, I still remember the immortal words of advice from long-time soccer referee Dennis LaVersa--namesake of the Dennis LaVersa Massachusetts Tournament of Champions Referee of the Year award--telling would-be refs in my first certification class back in the mid-1980s that one of the best things you can do as a referee is park your car so you can drive away as fast as possible.
“In case you have to make a fast get-away,” LaVersa said then and his words of wisdom still hold true nearly 30 years later.
Yeah, being involved in youth sports most of the time is fun and rewarding, but when it isn’t, it’s the worst of nightmares.
"You want to volunteer, you want to, but things like this make it very difficult," Officer Morelli said.
I’ve got an idea.
Whoever the culprit is should be forced--either by the courts or his own shame--to community service, as a referee.
Give him 4 years and make him be a basketball ref AND a referee in a sport he knows nothing about, since most spectators haven’t got a clue what the rules of the game—any game--are.
Four years. That’s about right--enough time to take the courses—and he should pay for them—and then hit the court or field in the black and white stripes and see what it’s like.
Maybe after that he’ll punch himself in the face.
It ain’t easy being the ref.
People shouting at you all the time. Telling you you’re an idiot and you need glasses. Mostly it’s small stuff. Most of the time everything is fine. The comments toughen you up, and the more experience you get the more confidence you build. You realize most of the time the fans are clueless and should be ignored.
Becoming a ref is a great way to grow a thick skin and prepare for life’s road ahead. It can also be good extra money.
Some refs relish the abuse. Some tune it out. A huge percentage quit.
Luckily, the kids are great. I understand their passion. The coaches’ too, but an overheated schmuck sitting in the stands?
To the spectator: What game am I watching? Which one are YOU watching?
Do YOU know the rules?
From your comments, doesn’t sound like it.
Oh, you do know the rules?
Then get off your keister and become a ref and see what it’s like.
Sitting in the stands is sooooooooo much easier!!
How comfortable it is to just sit there on your rump, yell, scream and point fingers at the ref.
We can take stuff like, “are you blind,” or “you’re an idiot,” or “what game are you watching,” or “is your kid on the team.”
Even “you suck” is easily deflected.
I’ve seen some games that have been so badly officiated I’m not sure they should even count. Sometimes the comments are deserved.
But to chase down a ref after the game and confront him, punch him, throw water on him, and knock him down is completely ridiculous.
You go do it.
Yeah, maybe there’s a bad call—we’ve seen a few around the state lately, most recently a football referee who called a penalty on a Cathedral High School player for taunting when he momentarily put a #1 in the air with his hand while he was on his way to scoring what would have been a Super Bowl winning touch down.
Instead, the referee threw a flag, called the touch down back and Blue Hills Regional Vocational Technical High School went on to win the championship.
From the news clips, I thought so, but that ref—I’m sure—has taken his lumps for the call.
Don’t think he needs to be assaulted.
Maybe he thinks it was the right call. League officials supported it, the public disagrees.
So be it.
We all live with the results.
Sadly, this man in Lowell lost his cool.
From all accounts, both teams and their supporters vocally let the ref know they thought he sucked.
Guess being pelted with insults wasn’t enough to show the ref how terrible he may have been.
Maybe the ref had the worst game of his life.
Maybe it was quite the opposite and he called a great game under intense play and extreme pressure.
Officer Morelli said the game was very intense and hard-fought. He said he felt uncomfortable around the parents and spectators even after the game when police sought the identity of the suspect.
Sounds like emotions were waaaay high...maybe the ref did a better job than fans gave him credit for.
Plus, basketball refereeing is so technical, no way on this planet would I officiate the sport.
Whether it was a badly called game or well done under the conditions, either way, Mr. attack-the-ref, you are BrocktonPost.com’s first-ever “Horse’s Ass Award” winner.
You think you can do a better job?
Go do it—I dare you.