It's that time of year again.
Monday marks the beginning of high school basketball tournament play, with the girls hitting the hardwood first.
One week later, the boys take to the floor for district competition, with both genders aiming their sights on a state championship.
It's an exciting time of year for players, coaches and fans.
It's also a pressure-packed few weeks for the game's referees.
Their job is tough enough. But when you add a scenario when a loss means the end of the season for a team, every officials' call on the court is magnified.
Fans are passionate enough about their team(s) in the first place. Come tournament time, they're even more revved up.
A referee's call is never right. A player/coach/fan from one team might agree with a foul or other decision, but the same usually can't be said of the opposing side.
Game officials hear about every call, too. Fans are at their loudest during tournament play and they're not afraid to let their displeasure be heard.
That's OK. It shows prep basketball is still a major sport in the Upper Peninsula. If no one cared, every game would be met with silence.
No one wants that scenario.
But fans must remember to keep their remarks civil when aimed at referees. The men and women in the striped shirts are just doing their jobs to the best of their ability.
They're not getting rich refereeing games. They do it because they love the sport and enjoy working with players and coaches.
Otherwise, they wouldn't spend hours traveling to and working at games across the U.P. They would stay at home instead of braving the elements the peninsula has to offer.
Occasionally, a referee makes the wrong call or doesn't make a decision when one is called for. The officials are human and in the heat of the moment, might goof up.
But we're blessed with some truly fine referees in the U.P. Most are veterans with many years of service. They're accustomed to the pressure of tournament games while a rookie may not.
Peninsula referees don't need me to defend them. They've probably heard and seen it all over the years and I'm sure each has developed a tough skin.
You have to in order to take some of the verbal abuse hurled their way.
But give them some slack. Remember, they provide a valuable service for little reward.
Craig Remsburg can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 251. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.