referees-umpires-sports-officials-college-sportsDear Kid,

Important things I have learned about sports officials (in addition to the problem of them not being invisible):

Officials work hard: A world cup referee will run further than the players, at 12 miles in a 90 minute match. This is not trivial and they have to go through all kinds of fitness assessments to be sure they are up to the task.

Attire is important: To all of you officiators out there—pull up your socks. Look professional. Kids are actually paying attention to you. I have it on great authority that this is Very Important.

Speaking of officiating fashion, I turned to for the most important fashion question: Why do officials wear stripes?

So how did the zebra-like uniform come to be? Legend has it that the striped uniform was developed by Lloyd Olds, a high-school and college referee from Michigan.

As the story goes, he usually wore a solid white shirt. At a college football game in 1920, the visiting team also wore white. When their quarterback mistakenly handed off the football to Olds, he knew he had to come up with a different uniform.

Olds decided that wearing stripes would be the best way to avoid confusion. He had a friend make him a black and white striped shirt, which he wore for the first time during the 1921 state basketball championships. Other referees saw his outfit and started copying it. The rest, as they say, is history!

Referees are neutral: Like Switzerland but with less chocolate.

Officials make mistakes—but not many: Yes, it is true. Referees and umpires do make mistakes. [And it is absolutely true that there are some officials (especially at the lower levels) who need to go back and reread the rule book a time or two. And learn how to Pay Attention. And gain some confidence to make calls.] But at the higher levels, there are not nearly as many as you might think. The majority of the calls professionals make are spot on (as proven by the advent of instant replay on which we can watch endless repetitions of the smallest event just to learn that you’re supposed to listen to the umpire no matter what.) Keep in mind that people in almost every profession make mistakes. Although very few occupations have such a large audience to view your mistakes and offer to tear you limb from limb for being impartial.

Officials get paid serious bucks: Like professional athletes, top officials get paid top dollar, while the majority earn far less (especially if you factor in all the “officials” chiming in from their seats in the stands). was happy to tell me all about this. NFL referees (who are part time employees) earn between approximately $2,100 and $7,500 per game. NBA officials earn approximately $3,300 per game. In baseball (do not get me started), officials earn $500 and $1,800 per game. And the dudes on the ice earn between $1,300 and $3,100 per game. If you’re motivated, you can either multiply their earning by the number of games or go to ehow and look it up. (Link provided for your viewing pleasure.)

Hope you’re having a great, penalty-free day.

Love, Mom