The least popular people at just about any basketball game on any level are the men and women in striped shirts. Referees a/k/a/ officials are a big part of the game although most view them as a necessary evil. 

They are okay when they make a call in your favor but just a moment later you’re likely to spew nasty things at them when the call goes against your team.  At best they get a 50% approval rating each time they blow the whistle.

Those that work high school games often are exposed to serious verbal abuse from fans and coaches and you wonder why they do it for about $80 for a varsity game. There are a variety of reasons. Some are ex-players and coaches, others just enjoy being a part of the game and some love the challenge that comes with officiating a fast-paced sport. 

Most fans have no idea what these men and women are like when they’re not wearing the striped shirts and blowing whistles. I do.

Most of my familiarity comes from the 33 years I have run the WOBM Christmas Classic as I’ve gotten to know quite a few of them over many years.  In the last decade I have served as Master of Ceremonies for the annual end of season banquet for Shore District Board #194 which is the group that officiates games in the Shore Conference. 

I did so again this past weekend at MJ’s Buttonwood Manor in Matawan at the invitation of President Mike Fogarty and Banquet Chairman Brian Murray.  As in the past I had a great time trading quips with the group but what always leaves an impression with me is how serious they are when it comes to officiating basketball games.  Many if not most work very hard at improving their game, just like players and coaches. 

 Among the officials honored at the banquet were veteran James Lester and youngsters Charlie Gill & Lori Lidlow.  Barnegat and Manasquan received sportsmanship awards and I did not win anything in the gift auction but still had a really good time.