Refs are people, too
Funny scene Tuesday night at Lloyd Noble Center, where OU beat Baylor 92-91 in overtime, one of the darndest games I’ve ever seen. Anyway, at halftime in the press room, we’re standing around watching the last minute or so of Indiana-Purdue, which just might be Kelvin Sampson’s last game.
Indiana pulled away for a comfortable lead, when a guy stuck his head in the door. It was referee Curtis Shaw. The ref locker room is down the hall from the press room, so those guys walk by every night, before and after the game, plus halftime. Anyway, Shaw peered at the television screen, then left, but we heard him holler at his comrades, “Hey, Indiana’s about to beat Purdue.”
I found it fascinating. Sometimes, we, at least me, think of refs as these arbiters who are not fans. Guys who sort of know the names of teams only because it helps them remember where they are. I sort of think of them as not knowing that Michael Beasley is a freshman beast, and that Memphis has all these great penetrators, and that Sean Sutton is Eddie’s son and now running OSU basketball. The opposite is true, of course. They know all these things.
I don’t know if they are fans. Don’t know to what interest level they take this sport. But interested they are. Interested enough to want to know the IU-Purdue score in the middle of Oklahoma-Baylor.
I don’t know that that’s a bad thing. Don’t know that it’s a good thing. I do know that it’s a human thing.
I’m reminded of old baseball stories and umpires who know the players well. Know their names, know their tendencies. What else could result? Think about it? Umps see the teams and ballplayers many nights a year in the summer. Same with these refs. Mark Whitehead, Steve Welmer and Shaw were the OU-Baylor refs, and we see them in Norman and Stillwater all the time.
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