Hardy continues five decade love affair with officiating

Published 11:41 pm Saturday, June 19, 2010

Officials, referees or umpires draw a lot of criticism. Some of it is warranted, but generally they are a scapegoat when a team or individual player loses.

Tommy Hardy can handle being a scapegoat.

Hardy has been a basketball referee for 44 years, a softball umpire for 17 and a volleyball official for the past decade. He has worked five boys’ state tournament games, five girls’ state tournament games, two state softball games plus hundreds of other tournament games.

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“Players, fans and coaches need somebody to blame and you’re out there in that striped shirt so I’m the target. But that’s okay with me,” said Hardy.

“I love doing this. I’ve had a great career. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s something that you have to try.”

Hardy remembers the first night he tried. His very first game was a Symmes Valley basketball game with veteran official Mel Carter.

“I’ll never forget it. It was the night the Silver Bridge collapsed,” Hardy said of the tragic fall of the span connecting Gallipolis and Point Pleasant, W.Va.

“Mel came across the bridge and straight to the game. He didn’t even know it fell until I told him.”

Hardy said he was fortunate to call most of his games with Carter during his rookie season.

“I learned more off him than anyone I’ve ever worked with,” said Hardy.

Although most of the criticism hurled at officials is unfair, Hardy admits they make mistakes including himself. He said officials need to understand they are human if they want to improve.

“If you can get players and coaches to feel at ease with you, that’s half the battle,” said Hardy. “If I miss a call, I’m the first one to say I missed it. If a coach asks you and you’re honest and say you missed it, what can (the coach) say?”

A few weeks ago Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga missed a perfect game when umpire Jim Joyce called a runner safe on a close play at first base. Joyce later watched the replay and admitted he made a mistake and apologized to Galarraga.

“It’s human nature when umpiring that the first thing you see you’re going to call. He had the nerve to say he was wrong. That impressed me,” said Hardy.

The play has generated a lot of talk about using instant replay in baseball much like in the NFL. Hardy isn’t opposed to the idea, but he has a better solution.

“If it gets the play right, that would be great. I’d rather see the four umpires get together. One of them saw it and they can come to an agreement on the right call. That’s better than replay,” said Hardy.

That formula has worked well for Hardy and Dan McDavid, his regular partner for the past 27 years. Along with newcomer Scott Jenkins, Hardy said the trio work well together.

“If we have a question about a call, we stop the clock and get together and talk about it. We just want to get the call right,” said Hardy.

Young officials just starting their careers would help themselves to take Hardy’s philosophy. He said nothing beats experience, especially when calling district, regional and state tournament games.

“These young officials think if they take a college course they aren’t going to miss any calls. They’re in for a big surprise,” said Hardy.

“Guys calling a district game for the first time don’t know what it’s like until they try it. I’ve told a lot of young guys, ‘If the crowd gets to you, you’re done.’ That atmosphere is a whole different world.”

Despite an enjoyable career, Hardy knows he closer to the end each time he blows his whistle. A bad back that has been improving could become a factor in his decision on whether to hang up his striped shirt.

“If my back gets better, I’ll keep doing it. I like to do it. I’ll do it a couple of years. If I can’t, I’ll quit,” said Hardy.

Knowing Tommy Hardy, he can handle it.