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Attending my first high school basketball game of the season was much like any other game experience over the years.

The glaringly obvious difference was that I had a mask over part of my face that caused my glasses to fog every time I exhaled. Then I had to adjust the mask while spreading the germs from my hand onto my face.

My favorite saying from the COVID era that we live in is that “if you wear glasses and were forced to wear a mask, then you may be entitled to condensation.”

Other than people wearing diapers on their face, the basketball experience between high school teams reminded me of the good ole’ days when fans showed up to cheer on their favorite squads and yell at the referees.

Right off the bat I noticed several things. People were happy to be there. From the kids on the court to the parents in the stands and all the people in-between, they had a smile in their eyes. I couldn’t see their mouth because nowadays we just see people’s eyes and sometimes their nose.

On the court, it was more of the same things from last year. Players still choose to travel with the ball on way too many occasions before they use their first dribble. They still go for steals using the wrong hand. Any kid who can dunk the ball still thinks that he has to show that he can at some point during the night.

Then there are the referees.

In every group of three refs, it’s easy to notice which role they play. There is the one who knows what he or she is doing. They talk a lot and are always looking at the scoreboard. This ref is the one who blows the whistle when something happens over 20 or 30 feet away from them. They justify the call because they saw something like that happen at a game one time. Experience says to blow the whistle and one of the other crew mates can tell them what really happened.

Then there is the second referee who has a few games under their belt. They are able to ignore the ridicule from the fans for the most part and don’t feel like they have to answer the questions coming from the coaches. That ref is the one riding an ego-trip but is usually the one blowing the whistle that makes the crowd the angriest. Most fans recognize this ref when they walk in the door wearing street clothes. Nobody wants to be this ref on purpose.

Then there is the third ref. He or she is the one who looks like they just graduated kindergarten but are still trying to shove square pegs in round holes. When a player drives to the rim and you hear the whistle moments before you see the collision under the basket, you know which referee made that call. Premeditated expectations like that will turn an entire fanbase against you quickly. Even if it winds up being the correct call.

I get the opportunity to sit at the scorer’s table at times and you can tell by the look on the referee’s face when they screwed up. The worst part is when they try to fix their mistake on the next play. I’m not sure why this happens but it almost always happens.

I suppose gratitude is in order. At least they’re consistent. The referees are trying to move up the ranks and get better games to officiate. That does make sense to me. I’m just trying to take notes and make sure I credit points to the right kids or else a parent who doesn’t know how to spell their child’s name correctly gets upset and tells me about it.

Sometimes we get stuck in lose/lose situations. I can handle it. Deep down I’m making funny faces with this diaper on my face. Nobody can tell anyways.

Rodney Beaver is a sports writer with the Harrison Daily Times. E-mail him at rodneyb@harrisondaily.com or follow him at twitter.com/rodneybeaver .

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