Ken Pollitz: Learning to bite thy tongue

By Ken Pollitz - Guest Column

Everyone’s vocabulary has humble beginnings. If it’s true that reading plays a major role in expanding that expounding, mine was going nowhere fast. For many years, I found required reading lists to the contrary, or quite optional. Little did I know then that I’d find myself in a rather verbal profession as time marched on. Oh, well. Live and learn.

During my junior high and high school years, my thesaurus broadened, but that was due less to more reading and more to hanging out with the co-workers at my place of employment. Starting at about age 12, I was granted a job at my uncle’s metal fabrication plant. The linguistic learning curve moved, shall we say, in a less-than-admirable direction. I was able to advance to the point where I could use profane words as a prefix, suffix, adjective, adverb, and, of course, an expletive deleted.

However, a dramatic turning point came one spring evening in a dorm room my third year in college. That night a radical and life-altering transformation of faith occurred, and I was no longer the same old Ken. I figured things were going to change, but I had no idea how. I quickly found out! As only God would have it, and in a most immediate fashion, my vulgar oratory skills and I parted ways. Yes, you heard right. Just like that! Boom! Gone! Out the door! Good riddance! Never to be heard from by me again! I will humbly point out, God’s still working with me on lots of other shortcomings, but the use of any obscenities was no longer one of them.

With that said and all profanity aside, I still managed to periodically fail at biting my tongue. Somewhere I once read this fleshy muscular organ called the mouth can be an unruly evil. This was particularly true for me but mostly in a very specific setting: anywhere some form of athletic competition was taking place.

As a highly competitive sporting parent, I tended to always be on high alert for any combative verbal jousting. Opportunities could present themselves without warning. Over time, increased amounts of reading brought with it an expanded lexicon which I eagerly employed. More words brought new and creative expressions replacing the stale and overused emphatic utterances, particularly if there were human targets to my diatribes. I was able to quickly advance beyond the mundane and overused, “you’re terrible, ref!”

With the doors shut on our kids’ formal competitions and the windows not yet open for the grandchildren, these days find me in a bit of a lull. In this interim, allow me to pass on, for your benefit and potential amusement, some “low-lights” of my regrettable verbal outbursts.

Resist yelling, criticizing or correcting young female soccer referees early on foggy Saturday mornings at matches involving 9 and 10 year olds. More specifically, refrain from such directives because, as it turns out, the young lady may be the daughter of the other referee. Did you know they can hand out “yellow cards” to soccer fans?

After watching a half-dozen AAU basketball games all day on a Saturday in a hot Cincinnati gyms, keep in mind it’s been a long day for officials, too! Pay attention to surroundings, as well. Note if, with the digits of one hand, you have the ability to count the fans, or parents, in attendance. This should remind you that anything you say, is heard, and can and will be used against you. Consider the import of an uncalled traveling violation late in the game. Remember, everybody’s tired and irritable. You could jeopardize the game’s outcome by failing to obey the referee’s insistence that you leave the gym immediately. Refrain, additionally, from concluding this dialogue by alleging, “you guys always need to have the last word!”

Allow me to commend you that just because your kids are playing basketball in their high school team’s summer shoot-out, it doesn’t give you the right to loudly explain whatever coaching tip you determine is justified. Of particular note, the head coach may not fully appreciate the merits of you, as a parent, urgently mandating your son or daughter to “help out on defense!” This is especially true if the coach is standing courtside trying to point out the same.

For more than a few years at Ottawa-Glandorf High School, I was the official scorebook keeper. Some have suggested I received the duty to aid keeping my trap shut during ball games. This duty was not always enough to avoid contentious confrontations either, though it certainly helped.

The old saying, “Silence is golden,” will not protect you in all circumstances. If, while keeping the book, you find a referee’s call disagreeable, particular in the area of fouls, choose not to arrogantly wag your head side-to-side as the official tries to communicate the player number. Did you know that an official can have an official scorer removed from the contest? Now you know.

Try not to coach your son or daughter at any time during the games. Leave that up to the actual coaching staff. You won’t get away with it even if you whisper under your breath, “use a pump fake in there, why don’t ya” while walking by during the half-time warmups.

Word to the wise, if you’re going to sit anywhere near the court, avoid sitting behind the scorer’s table where the alternate official may be in earshot of you. And please, resist being overly critical of the other three officials trying to control the game on the court. If you don’t, you may have a rather humbling conversation with a local police officer and be forced to mutter meekly, “I promise to be quiet,” to avoid a personal escort from the premises.

And finally, never, and I mean never, go into the locker room after a brutal loss involving any of your children, drop the scorebook on a bench, and mumble cocksure, “We need a game plan!” Somebody’s surely going to pick up on that. And when they do get wind of what you had to say, do yourself a favor, as I did. Apologize and recuse yourself of the job of scorebook keeping in the future. Oh, and don’t forget to top that off with some needed personal penance by sitting home alone for the next game listening quietly and remorsefully to the game broadcast on 106.3.

By Ken Pollitz

Guest Column

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at

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