Some things never change in sport.
Injuries are par for the course, fans live and die by their teams' success, and umpires almost always cop abuse.
Though this year's sporting schedule, at both a local and national level, has been highly disrupted due to COVID-19, it hasn't impacted the passion which sport inspires.
Most of the time, this fervour is amazing. There's nothing like the sound of a huge crowd in a packed stadium, or even the full-throated cheering from a couple of hundred local fans on the weekend. However, it does have an ugly side.
Umpires and referees often scapegoats for most of the negativity in sport. Think of Carlos Ramos, the chair umpire who correctly docked Serena Williams a point and a game in the 2018 US Open final, or when Robert Byrd signalled an end to the fight between Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather despite protests from the former's corner.
Both of these umpires were completely justified in their actions, but were criticised by players, press, and members of the public nonetheless.
This is not to say that match officials should be exempt from criticism. Like any other profession, they should be criticised for poor performances and praised for good ones.
The problem is, the scale usually skews heavily towards criticism, and often beyond it.
There are many stories of professional umpires receiving death threats from disgruntled fans. Indeed, the NRL's Matt Cecchin was forced to retire in 2018 due to the threats he received.
Even in local sport, referees aren't spared. I have spoken to a number of former umpires across a range of sports - including cricket, soccer, rugby league, and Aussie Rules - whose decisions to stop officiating stemmed from abuse.
In 2019, during a game in Goulburn, I asked an umpire how they dealt with abuse from the crowds. They rolled their eyes and said "you learn to block it out".
Later in that same match, I heard a spectator say loudly to their friends about another official: "He'll have no teeth in a minute, I'll kick 'em out of his frigging head."
While all abuse of officials is unacceptable, showing such behaviour during local games is particularly abhorrent. Umpires in local leagues volunteer their personal time and are often paid very little for their efforts. It's no surprise that many sporting organisations have struggled to bring in new umpires in recent years.
Some things never change in sport, but maybe they should.
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