Defending abused officials

February 8, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

Kudos to Heather Lewis.

Prior to Seneca Valley's home varsity boys basketball game with Butler Tuesday night, the Raiders' athletic director took the microphone of the public address system and addressed the crowd.

She pointed out that the number of high school basketball officials in Pennsylvania is on the decline.

She pointed out the biggest reason for that is the verbal abuse these officials take on a nightly basis from people in the stands.

She pointed out that without officials, there would be no high school games.

Lewis closed her approximate two-minute address asking the people on hand to treat the officials in a respectful manner and root for their team in a positive manner.

And then ...

That's exactly what happened.

Through 32 minutes of game action and during timeouts, no disparaging remarks or angry screams directed at officials could be heard — at least, not by this reporter.

Such a welcome change!

“I don't know when yelling at officials and disrespecting them became acceptable behavior,” Lewis said. “I'm just trying to reverse that trend.

“I've been addressing the crowds at our home girls and boys basketball games for a couple of weeks now. It's just something I felt I should do.”

Lewis said she plans to continue addressing crowds at baseball, softball, lacrosse “any of our sporting events I attend” in the spring.

“I'm going to keep doing this, season to season, to drive home the point that officials are here to do a job they love, not to be abused,” Lewis said.

She hopes to be a facilitator in terms of driving that point across to the entire WPIAL and PIAA.

“Sometimes people need a dose of perspective,” Lewis said. “Pointing out the problem of abusing officials right before a game starts is the perfect time.

“You saw the affect it had tonight. That's because the words were so fresh.”

Even the respective coaches on the benches that night did not object to officiating calls as much as coaches normally do.

Lewis did not address the crowd in a critical or scolding manner. She merely pointed out a problem that needs fixed.

And people listened.

Every A.D. should do what she did that night.

I'm assuming the officials appreciated it.

I certainly did.

John Enrietto is sports editor of the Butler Eagle

John Enrietto

John Enrietto

I graduated with a Journalism degree from Ohio University in 1979. I started at the Eagle on August 24, 1997. My awards include 2nd place in feature writing from Ohio Associated Press (while working for the Steubenville Herald-Star), media award from Lernerville Speedway and 3rd place in a Pennsylvania AP contest for story feature.