It’s no surprise that so many refs are wearing their stripes when one examines the ugly bruise around Kristi Moores left eye.
Why endure the incessant threats and taunts from out-of control parents?
Do you really need to worry about potential violence, or even the possibility of losing your life?
America is currently facing a crisis of youth and prep sports. Fewer people are willing and able to officiate games, which can be a very difficult job.
“The veterans are leaving in droves. Moore, who oversees fast-pitch umpires in Mississippi and Laurel, said that they are sick of it. “When we recruit new people, get them trained, get them out on the field, three to four games into the season, they get a good cussing-out or invitation to get their tail pounded by someone. They are like, “You know what?” They’re like, ‘You know what?’
Moore can understand this sentiment.
She was umpiring a softball girls’ game a few weeks back. Although she rarely works on the field, she took up the $40-per-game job because an umpire was ill.
Moore declared the runner safe on a play at second base. One parent who was watching the game believed the runner was out. Moore claims that she heard her screaming profanities and “accused” Moore of cheating the children.
Moore directed the woman to go, and she did so after the ump threatened with forfeiting the game. But not before promising to resolve the matter later.
Moore, who had been subject to similar threats in her 10 years of youth umpire work, didn’t think much about it. The mother became furious and waited for the game to end.
Moore said that she was three steps from the field when Moore said this. Moore recalled, “And that was when she punched my face.”
The woman was taken into custody and charged with simple assault.
Moore claimed that her injuries included nerve damage and a bruise in her ear. These injuries will all heal over time.
Mental wounds will present a greater challenge. Moore has not returned to the field since the attack. Moore isn’t sure if she will ever be back on the field.
“I think in my head, “What if she had a knife and stabbed me?” Moore stated that Moore was afraid she would go to her car with a gun and then shoot me. It’s scary.
Barry Mano was shocked by Moore’s death, but not surprised.
Moore is the president of The National Association of Sports Officials. This group advocates for umpires and referees in a variety of sports at all levels. Moore hears many similar stories almost every week.
This abuse is why many states have difficulty finding qualified officials to call the children’s games.
Mano said, “And without us, it’s just recess.”
Almost daily, there are reports about how dire the state of the country is.
The Fishers High School junior varsity baseball team has already cancelled two games. The school tweeted, “This is the second time this spring that we have cancelled high school-level games on sunny, dry days because we didn’t have umpires!”
Mano stated that Michigan had approximately 13,000 high school administrators in the past few years, right before the pandemic. Today, that number stands at 8,900.
Tennessee’s high school association requested that all members play at most one game next season. This is to alleviate the shortage of referees. This will allow a single crew to call back-to-back games.
Bill Marbet, a former high school ref and assigning officer for Central Tennessee Football Officials Association, stated that “all we can do is to ask teams if it’s possible to play on Thursday night.” “If you are able to play, we will cover you. We may not have enough staff if you are not covered.
According to Mano, the Michigan decline mirrors a national trend. He estimates that the drop in registered officials has been between 25-30% and 30% since the outbreak of the pandemic.
COVID-19 was a key factor in the acceleration of the problem. However, it was not the root cause.
Because of the abuse they received from fans and parents, many officials left before the pandemic. After the games were stopped, others had to think about their options. A significant number of these officials didn’t return to the games when they resumed.
Ted Barrett and Lance Barksdale, Major League Baseball umpires, were shocked to hear about Moore’s attack. They wanted to show support so UMPS Charity invited Moore to Friday’s game in Atlanta between the World Series champion Braves & the Miami Marlins.
Barksdale, a Mississippian native, stated that Moore’s attack is another example of why officials are becoming increasingly scarce in all sports.
He said, “I’m certainly concerned about it.” “Until people are held responsible and we stop allowing others to act in any way they want, we will continue to suffer from shortages. It’s getting tiresome for people.”
Barrett argued that parents feel more invested in their children’s athletic career because of the growth in travel teams in baseball, as well as AAU basketball teams and specialized camps for football players.
Barrett stated that parents have a sense of entitlement. “Parents feel entitled to better umpires because they are paying so much,” Barrett said.
Mano’s group is pushing for legislation that would make assaulting an official a crime. These statutes have been passed in 23 states, but Mississippi is not one of them.
More importantly, there must be a shift in attitude. Parents should be made clear by coaches that they will not tolerate any disrespectful behavior from their children. Parents can’t just sit back and watch as their children throw insults at officials.
Mano stated, “We can always take bad actors to court and hammer them out.” “But it’s more than that. This is our culture. This behavior is not acceptable for parents, fans, league directors, administrators, or staff.
“Even if the call is horrendously wrong, that’s what it’s all about. This is how the world sees us. “We can’t have a world where calls are wrong or right.”
Moore isn’t sure if Moore will ever call another game but she has been encouraged and supported by umpires around the world.
This could be a turning point for the war against officials, a war that eventually will make us all losers.
Moore stated, “I didn’t ask to be the poster boy for officials’ abuse, but here i am.” “My prayer is for something positive to come out of this, and that we all begin to see a shift in the way we treat officials across all sports.”