For many of us, if we are late to work, our paycheck takes a hit.
However, that is not the case for local high school officials.
According to the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association spring newsletter on its website, "officials shall be punctual and professional in fulfillment of all contractual obligations."
I have observed times, though, when officials were late by well over 15 minutes.
Now it's understandable that most officials do have other jobs and they could possibly hit traffic. That's fine, it happens to all of us. But when you are 30 minutes-plus late for the game you are supposed to officiate, that's when it gets a little ridiculous. Mid-April, I was at an Ayer Shirley v. West Boylston softball game at Ayer Shirley Regional High School that was scheduled to start at 3:30. I was running late and arrived with five minutes to spare thinking that I was doing good.
The Panthers were still on the field taking their infield and one of the umpires was already there, and I thought, 'okay, the other guy is running a little late.' Ten minutes elapsed, still no other umpire. The home plate umpire took off to go look for his partner. He called him on his cell phone ... still no answer.
As it turns out, the second umpire thought the game started at 4 p.m., when the Mid Wach D has an average start time of 3:30, unless otherwise noted. The umpire was out in the parking lot listening to music.
Did he get only a portion of his pay for being late?
According to the athletic director I ask, he'd receive his full allotment.
The worst infraction I have witnessed this season came at a Bromfield girls' lacrosse game that was supposed to begin at 3:30, but it would be pushed back to 5 p.m. Not only did it create an inconvenience for me as a reporter, but it also inconvenienced the spectators, families and, of course, the players and coaches. Not to mention the bus drivers, who have the busses signed out for a certain amount of time. It was not until around 4:15 when Bromfield head coach Dave Planchet approached me and told me that they were pushing the game back to 5 p.m., due to the officials having not arrived.
The official for the junior varsity game showed up thinking he had just enough time to do the stick check for the game he was supposed to officiate, but he then instead checked the sticks for the varsity game.
It was hard for me to comprehend how an official could be that late to a game and still get paid the full amount. It sends the message that being late to your obligations is okay, and it doesn't matter ... you'll get paid either way.
Another infraction occurred at Bromfield this season, but it was understandable that the one official didn't arrive on time. The game time was moved up an hour-and-a-half to accommodate both Bromfield and its opponent, Marlboro, which both had proms that night.
The first official started the game, and the second official, who was stuck in traffic, rushed onto the field as he pulled on his jersey three-minutes into the first quarter. That I do not have a problem with. The man hit heavy traffic coming out of Boston -- there's nothing you can do about that.
You can play without one or two athletes, but you can't play without officials. MIAA officials make between $73-78 per game for spring sports. With the current financial state that many schools are in, every penny counts.
I commend the job that the officials do on the field, but please be on time..