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How will the coronavirus pandemic affect the #refshow?

Asking the real questions here.

NCAA Basketball: Xavier at Creighton
Naji vainly attempts to explain who it is people bought tickets to watch.
Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

I'm going to paint you a complete picture, but chances are you'll be able to finish it for me long before I'm done.

It's late in a hotly contested conference game. Meaningful positions in the standings are on the line. The lead has gone back and forth, the fans are going bananas, and it's still all left to play for. The ball rotates to a wing, and a skilled and driven young man sees a crack in the rotating defense. He puts the ball on the deck and attacks. As he flies towards the rim and commits his momentum to a shot attempt, a secondary defender comes over. Instead of challenging the shot, he crossed both hands over the part of him that an Olympic swimsuit from the 1980s would cover. There's a shot, a collision, and a whistle.

Sprinting from the baseline, an almost certainly middle-aged, almost certainly white man dressed in vertical black and white stripes comes to the fore. Blowing his whistle several more times, he loads his body's weight onto one foot like Ichiro watching Terrence Long round second base. All eyes are on him, and he knows it.

And that's a problem. The Platonic ideal of an official is basically the human form of the rulebook enforcing itself without passion or prejudice. A travel 30 seconds into the game is a travel with 30 seconds left. A foul by someone dressed in an NJIT uniform is a foul when someone wearing Duke garb does it. The "human element" in a sporting contest comes from the flaws and frailties of the players and coaches involved; it should not also consist of those same individuals having to guess at which rules will be enforced when, and why.

I'm not advocating for officials to be perfect; that's a lost cause in any arena; what they should be attempting to do is be anonymous.

Many of them, to their credit, are. I wish I could name you some examples, but, you know...

Many other officials, however, seem to purposely insert themselves into the action, as though 10,250 reasonable human beings spent their hard earned (or possibly stolen) cash to come watch someone officiate. You know who these guys are, and you cringe when their names are attached to the box score.

The thing is, these guys live to get (or shut down) the crowd reaction. That's one feeling when Cintas is packed to the rafters; will it be the same when there are only 300 fans in attendance? Is the rush going to be the same if the attendance is parallel to a decent intramural crowd? Will it be worth it to act the fool if there aren't enough people watching to validate your existence by responding?

My hope is that, starved for the oxygen that they get from a crowd to feed off of, many #refshow participants turn to just officiating, collecting the check, and moving on. Maybe we'll see fewer grandstanding calls, less needless antagonism of coaches, and almost no interminable huddles of butts as we watch them watch the same play on the monitor over and over and over.

Obviously it's too soon to tell. But if guys who feed off baiting packed houses don't get the same rush in front of socially distant spectators, maybe we'll just be able to watch the dang games rather than seeing someone 35 years removed from his last hint of sporting glory try to steal the spotlight.