How do we fix an epidemic of verbal and physical attacks on sports officials? Parents and players are becoming more hostile toward referees and it's getting more difficult to recruit and retain officials. Sources say referees stay on the job an average of two years and then move on because of the mistreatment and the low pay. There's a shortage of high school referees in Massachusetts and aggression by fans and players are at fault.

Someone whose opinion I respect was telling me how this audacity goes back to youth sports and the changing days of "yes, coach" and "no, coach." He said because of a mix of reasons from parent coaching, inner politics, different philosophies on the game, dirty players and sore losers, the disrespect is growing. He's right. Just look at the kind of ill treatment, badmouthing and physical attacks our teachers have to endure. But that's a subject for another time.

Last week, Martha's Vineyard was playing Norwell. With 15 seconds left in the 0-0 contest, a Vineyard player was called for deliberately handling the ball. Norwell got the ball and managed to score a goal that ended the game and the season for Martha's Vineyard. But it really didn't end there. As the referee, a seasoned official, was walking off the field, an MV bruiser runs up behind him and sucker punches him in the back. Seconds later, another MV sore loser ran up to the official and body thumped him. It all happened in such a quick time. The embarrassed Martha's Vineyard coach and others ran over to the rescue of the ref. The two losers, who are juniors, have been banned from playing next year and will also face further disciplinary punishment when they return to school after Veteran's Day.

This foul of exceeding bounds by players and spectators must stop, but it won't. In Louisiana, the folks became so frustrated by this offensive blitz that it's now against the law there to harass a referee. They laid down the new law in August: up to a $500 fine and/or 90 days in the county lockup. They must perform 40 hours of community service and attend a court-approved anger management program. Should we be going that road here in Massachusetts?

The answers are not easy for a changing and disorganized society like ours to accept. However, at the core of this is the complete collapse of fair-minded child upbringing with honorable virtues.

Phil Paleologos is the host of The Phil Paleologos Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Contact him at phil@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @PhilPaleologos. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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