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A Ref Union Rebuttal.

July 12, 2020

While we expected our last comic/post to be somewhat controversial, we didn't think it would receive the most scorn — and outright hate — of anything we’ve ever posted on our social media.  The most common complaint was that it was too “political” and some readers didn't appreciate our page gearing in that direction.  The best, and most obvious, counter I can offer is: masks shouldn’t be political.  The cartoon made no mention of any politician, election, or policy platform; made no reference to any political figure or party.  If anything, it should be considered politically neutral because nearly every major politician has endorsed masks — Democratic and Republican mayors, governors, congressmen, and senators, members from the far left and far right, from Bernie Sanders to even Mitch McConnell. There is only one noticeable exception from that list...and we all know I’m guessing that’s what the controversy is all about.  

What the masks SHOULD be about is the best way to combat COVID-19 so that we can get back to work, sports, and officiating. 

Even more perplexing was why THIS post relative to everything else we've ever published ended up being the one considered “too political.”

For years we have posted about minimum wage requirements (for refs), improving working conditions (for refs), and promoting the concept of unionization for officials across grassroots sports.  Our readers have never labeled those topics as “too political” even though wage/labor policy is at the forefront for most political campaigns.  But no, masks are what set our detractors off.

Regardless, we've posted numerous disclaimers that our social media presence will not just run the typical training content that most other groups do (no disrespect to them).  We like to look at all relevant elements of officiating life as well as all current events affecting the referee community.  Right now, most of us cannot work games because COVID-19 is keeping sports shut down across the country.  To ignore this reality is akin to burying our heads in the sand when we should be promoting practices that could stem the spread of the virus so that sports can finally resume.  Ref Union is not out to make a political statement;  we just want to get back to work!

I want to give credit to one referee on a NFHS forum that provided very constructive feedback.  In our conversation he mentioned being a nurse and how there’s a lot of common ground between their profession and our own.  Sadly, he believes medical personnel get treated even worse. 

“Believe it or not, docs and nurses are professions that experience some of the highest levels of workplace violence.” 

Indeed, medical professionals are getting repugnant disrespect throughout this COVID crisis.  People ignore their recommendations and callously disregard the extra stress they place upon hospital staff by refusing to do something as simple as wearing a mask.  Furthermore they throw shade at the expertise of doctors and nurses, creating a new cloud of distrust over the entire medical profession.  

Just like referees, if doctors make even one mistake or misdiagnosis (even in good faith), they lose all credibility.  Every subsequent decision (or call) gets mocked and scorned, and no matter how hard they work, it may take a really long time to get that credibility back.
This is particularly unfair because medical professionals are still learning a lot about COVID-19 everyday, so recommendations frequently change on what’s the best way to combat the virus.  It's entirely consistent within the history of medical and scientific discovery to form one opinion and then change it based on new data and further research.  But in the COVID era, emphasizing the efficacy of masks two months after downplaying their importance, has led the public to treat our top medical minds like a referee who calls a block on one end and a charge on the other.

"You don't know what you're doing!" 
"That's the same call!" 
"You're cheating us!"

Those that do this are exactly like the ignorant coach on the sidelines, who doesn't have our angle, doesn't study the rulebooks, doesn't look at hours of tape to learn and improve on every call going forward.  Or perhaps they just doesn't realize that the block in the first half was the incorrect call (a mistake) but that we're not going to repeat it just to balance things out. 

In the same way, laymen are now blasting doctors for their "inconsistency" despite never having opened a medical book, nor worked 24-hour hospital shifts as a resident, carved up cadavers, or done any of the hundreds of requirements needed to be among the few to make it into the profession.  Doctors should be allowed to make mistakes or change their hypotheses without having their entire life's work called into question.

If you want to lambast somebody:  continue lambasting the politicians.  At least that is a natural part of their world, just like absorbing a certain amount of abuse comes naturally to a referee.  Our doctors and nurses meanwhile deserve better.  They've been working tirelessly over the last three weeks saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of extra people stricken with the virus.
  They exemplify a discipline and dedication towards societal wellbeing that is unparalleled by any other profession.  They deserve our trust — moreover, the medical/scientific process deserves our trust — and we'd do right by the country to start following professional advice, even if it does occasionally get revised.  In the long-term, that's our ticket to eventually getting back to work.


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