So, after running 19 kilometers during the two games he umpired on a wet Sunday afternoon, he wrote a list of what he heard and how that felt. And the list turned into a submission to the Junior League, and the submission turned into an investigation, and the investigation turned into a tribunal appearance.
And instead of studying for his mid-year school exams, he turned up on a bleak June night to the Junior League headquarters, anxious about what he was wearing and about what he would be saying.
Carrying all the uncertainty that being a teenager brings with it, he spoke of the relentless and loud questioning of his every decision by the coaches box, of being sworn at, ridiculed and accused of bias by officials, of feeling intimidated by a parent who, after the match, continued to berate his performance and demanded to know his name.
I do not know where the tribunal will land on this, and as I write no decision has been released. And my son? I just hope he can umpire his next 50 games without having to do this again.
I am aware and appreciative of the fact that the treatment and abuse of umpires is being debated at the top level of football right now. I certainly don’t want to mute the crowd expressing the frustration that only the crazy bounce of our oval ball can bring.
But if we have to go to a tribunal to ensure that we don’t squeeze out the passion that our kids, playing, non-playing and umpiring have for footy, then sadly we are not ready to let this debate go.