No game official in sports knows as much about the rules, or what's happening on the field, as impassioned fans whose views are not rooted in objectivity. Well, at least, that's what the abuse heaped upon umpires and referees at every level might lead to you to believe.
Increasingly, that abuse is becoming physical rather than verbal. Last week a parent in New Jersey was charged with assault after punching a Little League umpire. In December, a soccer official in the Netherlands died after being attacked by a group of players. In February, another soccer official in Spain had his spleen removed after being attacked by a player. And this week in Utah, youth soccer official Ricardo Portillo, 46, died from a brain injury he suffered when punched in the head April 27 by a 17-year-old player.
Mr. Portillo's daughter said after his death that he had suffered broken ribs in an assault five years ago. And according to the National Association of Sports Officials, many other serious assaults go unreported.
Pennsylvania actually has a distinct criminal charge, assault on a sports official, a first-degree misdemeanor carrying a potential maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
But the better answer is to prevent such assaults. The Positive Coaching Alliance (positivecoach.org) offers resources to help coaches control their players' conduct toward game officials, as part of a broader positive approach to coaching.
The Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association should require specific coaches' training relative to game officials and mandate in-season sessions on the topic for high-school athletes.
Officials' calls, right or wrong, are part of sports. Violence towards officials cannot be tolerated.