Life in Balance: Dealing with angry, aggressive sports fans

Unruly fans have become so disruptive during local high school games, that some officials say they've had enough.

Aggressive, angry sports fans are increasingly becoming a problem at local middle school and high school games.

Unruly fans have become so disruptive, that some officials say they've had enough.

"The majority of the fans are great, and they understand what we're doing," said David Lee, District Three Commissioner and basketball official. "We're working hard out there every night."

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Lee has been officiating high school basketball for nine years. Over the years he's watched fans become more aggressive toward officials.

"It's not always easy to tune those things out," he said. "So when it gets personal that becomes an issue."

Lee says if he gave us an example of what he's been called by parents we'd have to bleep him out.

"They have a lot invested in their kids, we totally understand that, but that doesn't give them the right to get that personal toward us," Lee said.

It's a small percentage of fans causing the problems, but they're having a big impact. Refs are quitting over it.

"They are just not wanting to accept that type of harassment from fans," Lee said.

District Three starts out the year with 30 to 40 new officials. But Lee says they are lucky if 25 percent stay on through the end of the season.

Referees cover 57 high schools - from Riggins to Nyssa to Mountain Home - officiating five to six nights a week, including double headers on some nights.

"There is a lot of commitment to it, which takes out some of the officials, but there's also, 'Hey I don't want to be yelled out. I didn't sign up for this. For the pay that we're getting, we don't deserve that,'" Lee said.

The District Three Board of Control is now working to educate parents about what is - and isn't - suitable behavior during games.

"You know a few boos, that happens, but when it gets personal, language gets personal toward an official, toward a coach, towards other parents, that's when we try to do some education and say he guys let's bring it down," said Terry Beck, chairman of District Three Board of Control.

"We try to talk about it to our parents, it's a game," Beck added. "There's going to be a winner and a loser. Let's support our kids, yell for our team, be supportive."

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And that support extends to officials, because, if you don't have refs, you don't have a game.

"If we don't have officials, no activities, not just in basketball, but all across the board," Beck said.

"It's tough to cover games right now with the amount of officials we have, we struggle," Lee added.