I’ve got a lengthy rant today.

It’s time to get nasty. Real nasty. This could affect a lot of my readers. Parents should get ready to strap in. Grandparents, too. Aunts. Uncles. Brothers and sisters. Cousins. Boyfriends. Girlfriends.

I won’t stumble into name-calling here, but there are some know-it-alls that need to be called out.

U.S. Constitution authors probably had no early insight what parents in upcoming centuries might lower themselves to when it comes to unloading on sports officials.

“Freedom of speech” probably should NOT include those that pop off at a referee, umpire or sports official. Just kidding — maybe!

Sports officials are noble souls. No one deserves the garbage that’s often spewed on them for doing a complex job as simply as possible. Say what you want, but these men and women hold the integrity of any athletic event, more than anyone else, in fact.

Their eyesight and judgment can certainly be questioned. Their heart? Integrity? Never.

I’d love to list offenders here (which might even include some of my own writings, though I don’t go out of my way to be obnoxious or nasty), because there are way, way, way too many of them.

Voices in the crowd are killing sports in a very intrusive way.

Most commentary from the sidelines or grandstand at most youth or high school games is simple garbage. They’re trying to intimidate, or at least try to alter a call. 

They persist to be pests.

They’re intruding in ways that aren’t welcome.

Trust me on this: Not a single one of you in this readership area has been hired as assistant referees or umpires.

Balls and strikes, foul calls on a basketball court or a soccer field, a wrestling near-fall that doesn’t quite make it — name the sport — should be accepted gracefully.

Every high school sport is feeling the frustration.

One example: There are only 33 wrestling officials for two counties of high school programs. So says one ref, Robert Estupinan.

Inland Empire Baseball Association President Mike Spaise has said, “We could use another 20 or 25 umpires.”

Football? I can’t remember more than a couple games when I spotted referees under 50-years-old.

Longtime official — multiple sports — Redlands’ Dave Farmer is in his 80s!

These sports can’t attract new, younger officials. Highland’s John Smith, a softball ump, is in his 70s.

Noted Cajon AD Rich Imbriani: “Baseball might be a good example. Young guys come into the association. They’ll put them through a couple clinics and stick them into Varsity games right away.”

Implying, that is, that young officials should start at the freshman level. Give them a chance to grow. Here’s the thing: That’s how badly they’re needed.

Dare we say it: Sports officiating isn’t easy.

Underlying all this shortage is the behavior of parents, leaders among other naysayers. A handful of loudmouths — whoops, there I go name-calling — can wreck an entire game.

In various ways, it’s wrecking sports. 

Some leather-necked loudmouth at a ball game … “horrible call, Blue.” 

Soccer matches are gruesome. Any whistle draws the ire of half a crowd.

“WHAT! C’MON, REF!”

Heaven help a basketball ref on any call.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me!”

You know these offenders, too. You might even be riding to a game with one. 

Ex-players who think they know more than anyone. Unemployed dads, business owners, executives with expense accounts, truck drivers. Moms, anyone who watches TV sports.

“That’s the big one,” says Imbriani. “They watch games on TV. They become experts on (officiating) sports.”

At a Redlands East Valley boys water polo match a few years back, there wasn’t a single second of that 28-minute game that a father of two wasn’t unloading his whining Brooklyn accent on officials, not to mention the coach.

I said, “Give it a rest.”

He ignored me. People like that are determined that every call against their kid is unfair.

“It’s really bad in youth baseball,” said Imbriani.

Another implication is simple: There are no school authorities at a youth event to govern unruly fan behavior.

Estupinan noted bad behavior at a wrestling match at Citrus Valley last year. No help from the school, he reported. He felt threatened. It’s probably not the only place.

Wrestling is highly emotional. It’s the kind of sport that’ll really draw fire from the stands. It’s the classic Roman gladiator sport where a referee is squarely in the firing line.

A call against — football, volleyball, water polo, whatever sport — is most likely stealing a well-earned scholarship from your kid, too. Right?

There’s only one answer if you’re watching.

Shut your emotionally charged, foolish, uninformed, classless, clueless, heartless mouth. No one wants to hear your garbage. It demeans the event.

There’s no other answer. Between you and me, I think even your athletes want their own people to shut their mouths.

Here’s the advice:

Get your lawn chairs. Sit in the bleachers. Stand behind home plate. Take your spot along a soccer sideline.

Keep your mouth shut the whole game. You might better enjoy the moment.

Maybe they can get some refs.

Is that nasty enough?

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