As I’ve mentioned previously, I get paid to be yelled at. It’s actually quite the gig – if you’re up for it.
Starting in college I began my, now recreational, sports officiating career. Word of advice to anyone heading to college that likes sports: become an intramural official. It’s fun – if you can handle the stress – and there’s good money to be made if you’re decent.
My career path as a sports official began at the college intramural level. For $7.35 an hour, I got paid to ref intramural soccer games. It was one of the lowest paying campus jobs, but you got to be outside, you got paid to get a workout in and the hours were super flexible. Then I picked up basketball and broomball. The following year I worked everything I could: soccer, basketball, flag football, broomball, mini-soccer, softball. I picked up as many hours as I could, I worked hard at it and I started to become pretty decent (insert joke about sharpest knife in a drawer of spoons).
Once I decided this was something I liked I began to look at my intramural shifts as training for bigger and better things. I went to “extra”mural tournaments for flag football and basketball to officiate some of the best teams in the state or region and get taught and evaluated by some experts – college and professional officials. I won some bids to go from regional tournaments to national tournaments, first in flag football and then in basketball. At the same time I began my high school officiating career.
Though it varies by sport, region, etc. I made between $35-45 to ref a high school soccer game. I earned similar bounties for high school basketball games. Plus, I got free trips to awesome places . Such as the time I reffed at a regional basketball tournament in Ohio State and was named the top official at the tournament. The prize: The opportunity (and travel stipend) to officiate the Intramural/Club Basketball National Tournament at the University of Texas.
In Austin, I was deemed good enough to work the men’s national championship game which came down to the University of Missouri and North Carolina A&T University. It was one of the most exhilarating things I have ever been a part of, but the best part of that experience was enjoying the trip to Austin. After that championship game, myself and a group of newly made friends from across the country sipped on beers on the roof of an Austin bar as the sun set. Time. Of. My. Life.
I was poised for college basketball reffing and the glory of $1500 game checks (you know, when I made it to the Big Ten) when my career as a teacher began. The beginning of that career coincided with the beginning of my basketball coaching career and, consequently, the end of my reffing career.
However, one sport that coincided with my teaching and coaching nicely was softball. I still ump adult slow-pitch softball. At $30 a game, 4-6 games per week it’s a great supplement to my regular paycheck for 12 weeks in spring and summer. Of course the problem is that the jerks maladjusted snobs wannabe athletes people that play slow-pitch softball are, for the most part, intolerable. Every team has about 2-3 players who believe the following:
- The game they are playing is just as important as Game 7 of the World Series
- They are supreme athletes that never mess up
- I, the blind umpire, am actively trying to cost their team the game
- They need to tell me, the blind umpire, that I am terrible.
Of course, the irony is that I’m pretty damn good at it. I’m 26-years old. I still sprint out to second base on close plays – many senior umpires have not sprinted in decades. Like all umps, I don’t care who wins. I just want the game to go smoothly – however, if you whine because you think I’m slighting you, then I’m probably not the most friendly person in the world.
There’s times when the $30 a game doesn’t feel worth it because people generally hate umpires and referees. It must be the only job in the world where normally polite people feel they not only can, but are required, to tell you that you’re doing a shitty job. Or you’re terrible. Or that you ruined the game. There are times when I want to go up to a guy who verbally assaulted me after the game and say “Hi, my name is TDD. I teach math at the high school, get paid half the salary you do, yet still make it my priority (and work hours upon hours beyond the expectation) to make sure your child gets an amazing education.” I wonder how fast that would change some people’s actions.
However, then I remember that it won’t. They’ll still yell at me – it’s my job to get yelled at.