Written by Joe Kleinsasser Tuesday, 13 February 2007 18:00Do you think the best high school, college and professional athletes get preferential treatment from officials in sporting events?
From personal experience, and I can only speak directly to that question as a high school and former college official, it depends.
For the most part, I don't believe officials deliberately make calls in favor of one athlete over another. Officials try to call what they see and see what they call.
You may not like or agree with what they see and call, but the game looks considerably different at floor level than 20 rows up in the bleachers.
It is also looks different when you aren't looking at the game through the colors of your favorite team.
I also believe that better athletes sometimes appear to get the benefit of the doubt on close calls, even when that's not an official's intent.
When Maurice Evans played high school basketball for Collegiate, I know that a lot of fans, and probably some coaches, thought that officials gave Evans liberties that other players did not get.
In my limited experience of officiating games in which Evans played, he was clearly the most talented player on the floor..
He was bigger and quicker than anyone else on the court, hence, he could do things that other players couldn't.
As an official, you don't want to penalize a player for simply being good. Nor do you want to give him extra breaks just because he's good.
An extremely talented player can sometimes jump over someone and grab a ball without fouling. A Maurice Evans could sometimes block shots by jumping higher and timing his jump better than the average player.
At best, talented players earn the respect of officials and occasionally get away with a foul. At worst, they are improperly called for a foul because officials aren't used to seeing players block too many shots without fouling.
Having said that, some officials seem to protect and favor the most talented athletes.
I don't know where that attitude comes from because I've never heard anyone from the Kansas State High School Activities Association say the best athletes should receive preferential treatment.
Here's a case in point. A few years ago, before officiating a state tournament basketball game, I remember sitting in the locker room preparing for the game with other two officials.
The designated referee, a very good and respected official, made a surprising comment, something along the lines of, "Let's do what we can to keep the best players on the floor. If a good player has four fouls, let's make sure the fifth foul is a good one. We want to keep the best players on the floor because the game will be better if they're on the court."
I understood what he meant, but it bothered me. If a player is that talented, shouldn't he or she be smart enough to avoid unnecessary fouls?
If a player is that talented, why should we look the other way to avoid making a call when we wouldn't think of doing that for other players?
Let's say the best player on the court has four fouls. The opposing coach chooses to take the ball at that player in an attempt to get a fifth foul called. If that talented player commits a fifth foul, I don't think officials should look the other way.
I agree that we don't want the fifth foul on a talented player to be a cheap one. But I don't think we want any player's fifth foul to be a cheap one.
In the bigger scheme of things, the whole scenario is rather silly, because an official often doesn't know how many fouls a particular player has.
Most of us have our hands full just trying to call the game the way it should be without worrying about how the loss of a player might affect the outcome of a game.