Officials have to deal with abuse all the time. They're berated by players and coaches who disagree with a call. They're abused by fans who feel their team has been cheated. Sometimes the catcalls even follow them on their way out of the stadium. Yet one Alabama official couldn't care less about all the abuse, for a simple reason: He can't hear any of it.
According to a story in the Selma Times-Journal, Terry Jackson, an Alabama official who works high school football, basketball and baseball games, never hears any abuse because he refuses to wear his hearing aid during games.
The reining Alabama High School Athletic Association baseball official of the year for the state's west central district lost most of his hearing when he worked around loud machinery at a sewing factory when he was younger. He wears a hearing aid to get through everyday life, but refuses to wear it while he works games to help intentionally tune out fan, coach and player criticism.
"I never wear it during a game," Jackson told the Selma Times-Journal. "Never. I don't want to hear that stuff."
Of course, Jackson's intentional hearing limitation does have its drawbacks. He admitted it can be hard to hear a coach call for a timeout unless that call is made quite loudly. The field judge said he tries to counteract that problem by looking to the sidelines in anticipation of a potential call when the situation on the field might make a coach call for one. And while he never intends to make an incorrect call, like all other officials, Jackson is only human.
"If I miss I call, I usually know it before [anyone else]," Jackson told the Times-Journal. "I don't try to make up for it, because then you're missing another call. I just try to get all the rest of them right. The hardest part is listening to the coach when I know I'm wrong."
A number of those who know Jackson said they were thrilled the 33-year refereeing veteran is starting to get some of the credit he deserves. One local coach emphatically said Jackson was fair above all else, and the director of the Selma recreation department -- who happens to be Jackson's own high school baseball coach -- intimated Jackson has been instrumental in helping bring new officials through the ranks.
Of course, when he tells new recruits how to deal with criticism, Jackson's charges might want to take his advice with a grain of salt. After all, he has a distinct advantage because of his disadvantage.