I shouldn’t have said it.
You look like a stupid zebra.
After being served a very questionable technical foul in a very essential second grade, championship basketball game, my six-year-old self thought it was wise to yell this insult at a referee.
Of course, I was kicked out of the game. But for me, it was definitely worth it.
So, yeah, referees and I go way back.
And by “way back” I don’t mean a sugar-sweet relationship filled with inside jokes and memories. Our relationship is more of a vengeful, out-for-blood type.
In case my highly sophisticated, zebra insult didn’t make it clear, referees and I have never got along.
Their presence has always been a puzzling question to me. Yes, they have to be there to manage the game, but at the same time, I’ve always felt their decisions should not make or break the outcome of a contest. I could name many times a referee crushed the Cowboys’ chances of winning (Dez caught it) or prevented the Mavericks from edging an opponent owing to a petty foul call.
But I still believed that a referee’s calls could only alter the outcome of a game.
Not a player’s character.
Watching a video of Victor Rojas and Mike Moreno, two John Jay High School football players, deliberately spearing a referee during a game, I got a feeling of déjà vu.
For a reason that I couldn’t wrap my head around, I knew what Rojas and Moreno felt like. I knew what it felt like to want to inflict pain on a referee. Rojas and Moreno’s actions brought back memories of youth basketball and continuous insults. Memories that I certainly was not proud of.
But after watching the helpless, 50-year-old Robert Watts get blindsided repeatedly on national news, I instantly remembered my second grade championship game and what I said.
I was ashamed of myself. I couldn’t believe I was capable of understanding the thought process behind Rojas and Moreno’s actions. But more importantly, I was ashamed for not being more understanding.
They aren’t only there to serve as administrators of a contest. They are veterans. Students of the game.
They deserve respect.
After watching the entire situation with Watts and the two football players unfold, I realized that a simple complaint to a referee could quickly turn into a vicious attack. Watts, like any other referee, teacher or parent, is a symbol of authority. Yes, at some point I grew tired of watching the video of Rojas and Moreno attacking Robert Watts on ESPN, but its effect on me hasn’t changed. Every time I see it, I take a moment.
A small moment to show some respect.
A moment for the men in black and white.