Referee Insults

Main piece:

“Get your dirty laundry off the field!”

Context: “In (American) football, the way for the referee to stop a play is to throw a flag in the air and then everyone will stop and they’ll announce what happened. (A penalty?) Yeah, a penalty. And then usually anytime you see that yellow, heinous thing fly in the air—cuz it’s probably gonna go against your team—you yell “get your dirty laundry off the field.”

Background Info: The informant is a close friend of mine in his early 20s. He’s lived in Long Beach, California his entire life and is an avid football fan. We played baritone in marching band together in high school, and I recall him insulting referees during football games. He does not know where he learned the insults from, but his family members and other people in the stands at games yelled similar things.

Thoughts: A lot of the animosity towards referees stems from their near-absolute power and authority over the game of football. Despite the fact that their job is to maintain the fairness and rules of the game they ref for, they’re often universally hated by fans on both sides due to the perception that they’re biased towards the other team, are corrupt, or make false and accidental calls. Under this lens, insults are a way to push back against authority, and the people who insult referees perceive themselves to be righteous and justified. I participated in referee insults a few times myself, and while I do think some people take the insults too far and referees are often abused by fans, most of these stock insults are not heard over the cacophony of noise at a football game. Instead, referee insults become a fun way to bond with other people in the crowd, much like chanting along to a cheer or singing along to a song played by the band.