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Respect the Ref

It isn't just Roberto Alomar and Dennis Rodman who give umpires and referees a hard time. Ref baiting is rife at the high school level too.

A recent New York Times story documented some particularly sad incidents, such as a wrestling referee in Washington State who was knocked out by a head butt from a disqualified competitor, or a Philadelphia basketball official punched by an ejected player.

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Those may be worst-case examples. But countless parents who've attended local ball games have come away disturbed by the overaggressiveness, bad temper, and poor sportsmanship exhibited by some players - to say nothing of coaches. And what about parents who shout abuse from the stands, or even charge onto the court or field?

The referees are a key part of any sport, whether football or tennis. Respect for them shows a respect for the sport and for the bigger concept of ordered play - or work. The decline of such respect indicates that parents, coaches - all of us - have some work to do in teaching young athletes that the ethics of competition are just as important as the skills of the game.