"Official" Bizness or: Officials are to Sports What Scorcese is to Goodfellas

Brad ScottCorrespondent INovember 11, 2008

Ever had your face kicked in while trekking across Europe in search of your next rolled cigarette? If so, then like me, you already know the solution to arguably the biggest controversy in professional sports—OFFICIATING.

The answer came to me just before a homeless guy instructed my "doctor" on how to set my broken nose: ”You get what you pay for!

See, in a country where health insurance is free, it’s only logical that their brightest minds would choose a career other than medicine. Who wants a career that’s limited by its own government and can’t thrive like a business? Ambitious minds seek ambitious salaries.

And what could be more ambitious than choosing a career where you’re expected to perfect split-second decisions in front of thousands of angry fans while wearing zebra stripes?

In America, professional sports are big business. We’re talking billions of dollars. Athletes date Oscar-winners, team owners sip cocktails with cowboy politicians: It’s entertainment! It’s showbiz! Within these ego-filled arenas, there lies only one leader. The head-honcho: the official.

Yet, we treat them like they’re not even part of the bizness (biz-nis: noun—an occupation whose clientele become celebrities.

None of the "Big Three" in pro sports regard their officials as full-time employees, which eliminates tons of paid benefits. Most officials need supplementary jobs. The NFL leads the “Big Three” in average salary for officials at $1,687 per game. NBA referees average $1,542 per game and MLB Umpires get a whoppin’ $870 per game.

That is a pittance of a salary.

Yet, we expect these guys to perform on par with a computer chip! Job duties include: living on the road, being away from family, working in hostile environments, receiving death threats, being scrutinized in the public eye, and ignoring text messages from Tim Donaghy.

If we want the best results on the field we have to reward these guys off the field. Pay them lots more, obviously. Maintain their employment during offseason to perfect their craft. Monitor them constantly and show the fans their stats. Let them become a new breed of athlete. Let us become fans of officials.

There’s a saying in the profession of painting: “The only difference between a professional painter and an amateur one is that a professional knows how to clean up after himself.” Let’s hope this doesn’t bleed over into officiating.