With the referees locked out, and nasty things being said about them generally, especially in the wake of the Tim Donaghy scandal, I have been thinking a little about how so many people have come to have such strong feelings about the people in the striped shirts.
About the time I was wondering about that, I opened Bill Russell's book Red and Me, about Russell's relationship with the legendary coach and executive Red Auerbach.
Russell talks at some length about the amazing things Auerbach would do to disturb referees. Most of them were surely inspiring to anyone looking for an excuse to let let the officials have it. For instance:
For years, Red had a running problem with a ref named Sid Borgia, who made a lot of terrible calls against us. When Sid had our game, it was almost as much fun watching the fireworks between him and Red as it was winning the game. Red always smoked those foul-smelling cigars -- in those days, people still smoked indoors. So, one time when Sid made a lousy call on us, Red formed a mouthful of chewed-up cigar and got right in Sid's face and started arguing, "You son of a bitch!" and "Jesus Christ!" and Sid ended up with a face-full of chewed tobacco bits. I don't know if this was deliberate. But, after that, the moment Sid saw Red heading his way to argue a call, he retreated farther onto the court, out of Red's range.
An interesting side note: Sid Borgia's son, Joe, is a former referee and current league executive overseeing officials.