"Call it both ways!”

“Foul count is seven to three!”

“She was over the back!”

“That’s terrible!”

“Why don’t you give him a whistle!?”

“You’re horrible!”

With respect to Jim Nantz and the Masters, this truly is a tradition unlike any other: adults giving the business to high school officials.

It’s nearly a year-round phenomenon, beginning with football, soccer and volleyball in the fall and concluding with unsolicited observations about the strike zone in June. But it never burns hotter than now, when, from parents and fans’ perspective, there’s never more on the line: a chance for their children to play on the hallowed floor at Rupp Arena.

So, with such a prize — yes, in Kentucky, a trip to the Sweet Sixteen qualifies as a bona fide rite of passage — in the balance, emotions run high and people shout things one must hope they would not normally say to strangers in public.

It’s against that backdrop that House Bill 65 had its first reading on Wednesday in Frankfort. The bill, which counts northeastern Kentucky Reps. Danny Bentley, R-Russell, David Hale, R-Wellington, and John Sims Jr., D-Flemingsburg, among its 14 sponsors and co-sponsors, according to the Legislative Research Committee, seeks to eliminate referee “intimidation” and also to change assault of a sports official from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony.

HB 65 seeks to punish those who “directly or indirectly (make) any threat to a sports official with the intent to cause the sports official to commit, make, or delay any act, decision, or determination regarding a present or future sports contest,” it says.

The comments at the top of this editorial and their ilk are more or less accepted as the price of doing business by referees and officials. And — while we find such comments and their typical tone to be in poor taste, uncivil and often disingenuous, and to display a negative example for children in attendance — this bill isn’t attempting to legislate away Kentuckians’ God-given right to yell at people with whom they disagree.

This is about people who go beyond that, who threaten harm to an official’s person, property, relationships or business. That language is specified in the bill.

Think that’s governmental overreach or a stretch? Ask Kenny Culp, the veteran KHSAA basketball official who spent nine days in the hospital in April after being punched by a coach following a travel-ball tournament game in Paducah in April.

Culp made a non-call at a critical juncture that the coach did not like, according to The Courier-Journal. He was knocked unconscious and sustained a broken collarbone, a crack in his sinus cavity, a concussion and bruising of his face.

Call HB 65 a well-intentioned attempt to calm a climate that has made it acceptable to demonize youth sports officials — in the interest of preventing that perspective from being taken to a similarly unfortunate end.

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