Referees Altering the Game

Referees have been accused of changing sport games for years. How do they deal with the backlash and what is their plan to change the narrative of how people perceive them?


Pictured is referee Bill Cooper standing and posing with basketball in hand at the Ball Arena in Denver.

Referees have been a big part of sports for as long as people can remember. A referee is an official who watches a game or match closely to ensure that the rules are adhered to and to abiturate on matters arising from the play. There have been many controversial moments that have involved referees over the past several years, and the backlash that has been thrown and received has gone very far.

Referees have been called out for bias, cheating, and more. Fans, athletes, and coaches are incredibly frustrated with how sports have changed due to calls referees have made. Bill Cooper is a very respectable referee in the realm of Colorado sports, and has seen it all.

I was umpiring a men’s fastpitch softball game years ago and there was a lady in the stands sitting right behind home plate. I don’t know what her issue was, but on each pitch, she would disagree with my call.  If I called a strike, she’d say that was a ball and if I’d call a ball, she’d say that was a strike,” Cooper described.

Shown is umpire Bill Cooper standing behind the pitcher, who is set on home plate, ready for the ball.

With all of the backlash referees get, it gives every referee a bad reputation and a bad name. It’s very hard to make progress, especially in the world of sports, when there are other people continuously proving the world right.

Frankly I wish there was a way that we could get rid of [bad refs] right on the spot, but unfortunately there isn’t, therefore the teams suffer from this,” Cooper explained.

Trying to change the narrative about something that is so set in stone is challenging, but for the referees that care, it’s worth it.

It’s kinda like the old adage, ‘Do 5 things right and 1 thing wrong’ and what’s gonna be remembered the most?  The 1 thing you did wrong. Perception can make or break us sometimes,” Cooper continued. 

The adverse reactions may be scaring people who may want to become a referee. This is important to mention, because without referees, the sports world would not be the same.

Becoming an official can be an overwhelming and scary process, but once they get used to it, the good referees enjoy it a lot.

“I was nervous to become a referee but not anymore, because once you get games under your belt you are more confident and comfortable,” seventh grade soccer official Reed Fisher noted.

It is not an easy task being asked to do one of the hardest jobs in the world, but there are a few very special moments that make it all worth it.

Pictured is referee Bill Cooper on a grass field discussing with young flag football players.

Along with fans and athletes, coaches also have very strong opinions on referees. The coaches have more of a relationship with refs, so their opinions have more of an impact upon the game.

“Though coaches may deal with an official who has a chip on their shoulder, appears not to like their job, or may be doing it primarily for the money, the vast majority of officials love their sport and see themselves as stewards of it. They’re doing their best to promote fairness and sportsmanship,” author of Bridging the Divide: Developing positive relationships with refs Randy Hisner wrote.

Some people are great at what they do, which makes them not only a more respectable referee, but a more respectable person in general. Referees are constantly trying to change the narrative of their reputation. The sports world, and everyone who’s involved in it, should try to learn another perspective about referees and the struggles that come with being one.