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“It’s Really Just a Game” by Melvin Thomas Jr.

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As I plan my weekend and, of course, my Friday adventures to attend a high school football game, I find myself wondering why there are so many games being played on Thursday nights?

At first, I considered that maybe, like in the southern states, Pennsylvania has decided to play on Thursday in addition to Friday nights to offer fans a full complement of football that they can enjoy over the course of a long weekend, including Saturday early afternoon games. 

Well, then I discovered that many Saturday games are scheduled for 7pm instead of early afternoons like in past years. Initially, it seemed odd to me that this is happening. Was the PIAA really looking to grow the game? But to my surprise, it is a reaction to what has been a problem in amateur sports for several years. 

There is a shortage of officials to officiate games.

I would like to take this time to speak to the parents and fans of this great sport of football and address our ability to help make changes and to treat officials with the dignity and respect they deserve. My passion for the sport as a former player, coach and a parent of a formal player has contributed to personal “not-so-great” moments – yelling at an official about what I perceived to be a blown or missed call. On those occasions, I have felt embarrassed after the fact. After calming down, I was able to recognize that the officials can sometimes make mistakes and make bad calls. 

After all, they are human and it’s really just a game.

In order for this dynamic to change and inspire more people to become officials without the threat of being belittled or subjected to verbal and potentially physical violence, I want to encourage fans and parents to contemplate their input, and how little it actually matters.

Your child/athlete has more control of the final outcome than any blown call an official can make. These officials are not compensated enough to tolerate feeling belittled or to put up with threats of violence when they make a call. 

To the parents who are upset about not being able to attend their athletes’ Thursday games, please be mindful that these games are a direct result of the actions of the fan base which has contributed to the officials shortage. The vast

majority of officials have full-time jobs and chose to officiate because of their love for the game and are often committed to do their best to demonstrate excellence and proficiency when officiating. 

To the fan or parent in the stands that berates and belittles the officials, the PIAA is hiring and looking for officials. Please apply if you can do a better job.

Let’s get back to the basics and just enjoy the game.

Folks, it is really just a game. Please be respectful of the men and women who dedicate their time to officiate high school football. Football is Life!


EDITOR’S NOTE: Be on the lookout for ways to help support local referees and officials during the PIAA initiative, “Officials Appreciation Week” across the state of Pennsylvania, from October 9th through October 15th!


The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.