Imagine if 20,000 people gathered at your workplace every night. Of course, they aren't there to watch you; in fact, 99.9 percent of them don't even know your name. You're insignificant compared to the other workers there. If you do a good job, you go unnoticed.
Now, imagine what happens when you make a decision that those people disagree with. Now, everyone is paying attention to you. They hate you. They're chanting expletives at you. Someone in the front row even screams that he's going to kill you. Would you like to operate under those working conditions?
Versus recently launched a new show called Sports Jobs, where NFL Pro Bowl linebacker Junior Seau traverses the sports world and takes on some of the toughest and unforgiving jobs in sports. I'd like to see Junior don a zebra uniform and try his hand at being an NBA referee.
Even though Seau just recently un-retired from pro football and is still in great shape, I think even he would admit that he would have a tough time keeping up with some of the best athletes in the world who effortlessly jump 50 inches off the ground, and run up and down the court all night.
In addition to keeping up with 25-year-old gazelle-type athletes, NBA referees have to pay attention to every detail. If there's a foul, they have only a split second to recognize the infraction, spot who committed it and send the right guy to the free-throw line if there's a penalty situation.
If their mind wanders for a brief moment and they miss a call, they'll have at least one 6-foot-9 monstrosity barking down on them as if they were some poor animal that couldn't control itself inside the house. Never mind the 20,000 fans who think you're completely incompetent; how would you like some gigantic human being menacingly staring you down?
Because technology has improved over the years, NBA referees are now subjected to even more scrutiny. It started with instant replay on TV. A blown call is shown countless times on the telecast and the ensuing SportsCenter.
The growth of the Internet has allowed people to congregate in message boards and discuss their hatred toward NBA officials with other individuals around the globe. A search of "NBA referee bad call" on Google nets 42,700 results. Look up "NBA refs suck," and you'll get 14,600 pages dedicated to the subject. In fact, the first thing that comes up in the latter search is a Web site called NBARefsSuck.com. As mentioned on the site, "It's our mission and desire to unite basketball fans around the world in a crusade to improve the poor state of refereeing in the NBA. In doing so adding legitimacy and integrity to the game."
With the growth of YouTube, people can view horrible NBA calls at their leisure. If you search for "NBA referee," 4,410 results come up. No call in this day and age goes unnoticed. Here are some of the YouTube comments regarding the refs and their questionable calls:
"Gotta love NBA officials. They should've said 'f*** you' to all those refs looking for a contract at the beginning of this season and just stuck with the replacement refs they used in the preseason."
"F*** these refs trying to keep the Celtics from winning it all."
"The refs during the Boston-Chicago series sucked so much."
"Wow dude refs are racist!!"
"Those refs are f***** a*******."
"David Stern has been exposed especially against Orlando, BS after BS calls."
"Juiced-in refs and locked-in point scores are killing the game of basketball. NBA, where gambling happens."
"NBA = Nothing But Actors! REF = Rob Every Fan."
"What the heck is wrong with the ref??? They are idiots."
"These refs are fa*****."
"D*** refs. I would throw my water bottle at him."
Compared to some of the things that have happened in the past, a water bottle would be just fine. During the 1977 NBA playoffs, NBA referee Earl Strom was notified of a death threat made against him during a Nuggets-Trail Blazers game. In an international league, Elmis Bowling punched a referee, who was unconscious for three hours and had to undergo emergency surgery to save the vision in his left eye.
Perhaps worst of all, former NBA referee Tim Donaghy told 60 Minutes that he received death threats from the mob. Donaghy, who has admitted to fixing NBA games, now has validated the beliefs of conspiracy theorists who declare that NBA contests are fixed. Donaghy's actions now invite anyone to accuse each NBA official of fixing a game if there are enough calls they disagree with. In fact, all it takes is one "bad call" for the crowd to chant, "Don-A-Ghy, Don-A-Ghy, Don-A-Ghy!"
Have you ever seen a group of individuals so berated like this? Bernie Madoff and Tiger Woods haven't even received this much negative publicity.
NBA referees, paid about 2 percent of the amount that the players receive, have one of the toughest jobs in sports. Their "rewards" for policing these superstar athletes are infamy and scrutiny. If they're lucky enough, they'll avoid becoming national villains and settle for the dozens of nightly expletives thrown their way.
So, would you like to try your hand at being an NBA referee one night?