Reusse: Hey, NBA refs! Time to stop putting up with the abuse!

Harry Hunter Wendelstedt Jr. and Harry Hunter Wendelstedt III are the only father-son tandem to work major league games together. The father went by Harry and the son by Hunter.

They umped several games in the same crew in 1998, when Harry was getting ready to retire and Hunter was a 26-year-old rookie breaking into the big leagues.

There were times earlier in what's now a 27-season career for Hunter that veteran managers would mention in disputes with him how inferior he was to father Harry as an umpire.

As the Twins were filling new Target Field in its inaugural season in 2010, one such manager — Atlanta's Bobby Cox — was in his final season and the Braves were here for a June series.

Wendelstedt was in the umpiring crew and had one of his traditional run-ins with Twins manager Ron Gardenhire. Later, Cox was in the visiting manager's office and recalled an ejection when he told Hunter that he wouldn't make a good flaw on one of his "old man's" body parts.

Cox remains the runaway all-time leader with 162 ejections as a manager. Our guy Gardy is in seventh place with 84, with the Twins and then the Tigers.

Ejections are harder to achieve now with replay review, but Hunter had an all-timer a week ago. He threw out Yankees manager Aaron Boone five pitches into the game, and it turned out due to some heckling from a fan behind the home dugout.

Wendelstedt was unrepentant when faced with the evidence of his error, and MLB announced no discipline for the overzealous umpire.

One night later, the Timberwolves were playing Phoenix in Game 2 of their first-round playoff series at Target Center, with constant, often-animated complaints to the referees in the middle of the court that were impossible to miss.

There were no technical fouls assessed directly for this behavior — just abuse added onto what's the toughest job in officiating.

How did we get here in 2024?

You have the most thin-skinned umpires in big-league history and the most thick-hided referees we've seen here since the return to the NBA in 1989.

A manager, a coach, a player can be hanging out on the dugout rail and yell, "That's low,'' and there's a strong chance they will get a glare from the ump — even when it was low.

How has yelling from the dugout, if it's not personal such as, "Your mother wears combat boots," even worth a glance from a plate umpire?

And how has the NBA gotten to a point that over half of the possessions end with a player or coach barking, often with animation, toward a referee with what seems full immunity?

My theory is that umpires are agitated when they blow a very close play at first base — which seems about 40% of the time — and are exposed by review and looking for revenge.

Meaning, they can't wait to get behind the plate the next night and make threats to anyone barking way over there in the dugout.

OK, that might be far-fetched, but there has to be some reason umps like Wendelstedt relish confrontation.

As for NBA refs, taking the incessant complaints — some valid, more because a player can't accept he got beat on a play — has to be part of the job description they are getting from upon high in the league office.

Ken Mauer was the NBA's senior official into the 2021-22 season. He has a current lawsuit against the league, claiming he was forced out for a refusal to take a COVID-19 vaccine based on his Christian faith.

As Fran Tarkenton was once quoted as saying about Vikings teammate Jim Lindsey's politics, "He's to the right of Genghis Khan." Kenny might be in that territory, too, but that wasn't the topic in a Tuesday conversation from his home in Fort Myers, Fla.

It started with this statement: "I can't recall a decade ago the refs taking the constant arguments that we see in the current NBA."

Mauer: "That is absolutely right. Any fan, anybody with a half-a-brain, can see it. It's all the players that run the league now.

"Years ago, [Commissioner] David Stern came back from the Olympics, saw the way the referees worked there, with a zero-tolerance policy. He wanted us to move toward that. He thought disrespect for officials in NBA was filtering all the way down to the high schools.

"Player waved an arm at you … technical. Anything disrespectful … technical. But that gradually went by the wayside.

"Now, it's continual complaining, and the players get away with it. I think that's a reason a lot of people that used to watch the NBA aren't doing that anymore."

We're watching in Minnesota, Kenny, but the referee baiting is boring, at best.