Social media microscope can be tough on high school basketball referees

An official prepares to throw up the ball to start a high school basketball tourney game in Bangor. BDN File

With the rapid expansion of social media and websites over the past several years, Maine high school basketball officials are being scrutinized more than ever.

More evidence of this occurred last week when the website (Maine Basketball Report) showed video of two close high school basketball games and some officials calls which posters and commenters believed were called incorrectly.

Officials didn’t receive as much scrutiny from traditional media such as newspapers and local television networks as they do now from websites streaming basketball games, social media and fans who can video games with their phones.

Those two controversial games last week were described as “the worst call in the history of basketball” in an AA North game and the other saying that “controversial foul call gives team a win” in an AA South contest while attracting high interest on with close to 6,000 views and nearly 70 comments.

As a former official, I can attest that it’s easy to make the correct call when you can play the situation over and over again, but when officiating you only get one quick look at the same play. High school officials don’t have the advantage college and NBA officials have with instant replay at the scorers’ table with the option of changing a call.

The added scrutiny from social media and websites may be putting more pressure on officials. Some don’t know when they will be the subject of a phone camera video or may not know if a game is being streamed because those cameras are less noticeable than TV cameras.

The officials expect the extra attention during tourney games but not during the regular season.

Maine Basketball Commissioner Peter Webb, who oversees the state’s officials, is unfazed by all the extra scrutiny his officials are receiving and believes it has been more positive than negative.

He thinks it is positive when officials can use the extras videos to evaluate themselves. Webb and the state’s five basketball officials boards also use their own videos to do evaluations.

Another positive from the extra videos is to allow coaches and players to scout upcoming opponents. It allows college coaches to evaluate players they might consider recruiting and couldn’t be able to get to a particular game because of scheduling conflicts.

It also allows parents and fans to watch games they can’t attend.

Looking back, I would have welcomed today’s added attention from social media and websites because I think they could have improved me as a player. coach and official. We did have some videos taken by schools at games but it was more involved and time-consuming than the convenience from today’s technology.

If I was reffing today’s games, I’d have someone video the games so that I could see if I was using the correct mechanics, making the right calls and being in my primary coverage area when making the calls. In the past, I would sometimes ask coaches for their game tapes to do these self-evaluations.

My advice to today’s referees is to officiate every game as if someone is videoing your every move. This could make them more accountable and make them better officials.