The sight was hard to believe.

After Kalispell Glacier beat Butte High in a freshman football game in Kalispell early last month, the Glacier players lined up to “thank” the officials.

That, in itself, was nothing out of the ordinary. You see it all the time.

What you do not see, though, is officials chest bumping and fist bumping the players so enthusiastically. 

It was literally the first time I saw an official go “up top” with a player. (Click here for the podcast edition of this column.)

Yes, that is what a few of the officials from Kalispell did that day, and the Butte High players noticed.

Those players already felt like they were the victims of a homer job — like almost every other road team in every football game ever — before they saw how happy the officials seemed to be with the Glacier players.

Seeing the celebration felt like confirmation that they got hosed.

Walking from the stands on our way to meet our son after the game, my wife and I ended up just a few feet from the officials and the Wolfpack celebrating the lopsided victory.

It took all that I could not to say anything to the officials for behavior that felt very over the top and even more unprofessional. But since I have been writing for years that we should treat officials with respect, I bit my lip, literally, and did not say a word.

I did, however, yell at the officials twice during the game. I yelled enough that my wife told me to zip it because she was embarrassed.

While the Butte High players on the closest sideline did not hear me — so the officials certainly did not — other fans did.

“This is why they say, ‘The Celtics couldn’t win in Kalispell,’” I said several times.

People around the state actually say that. They have been for decades.

The saying goes back to the days when Bill Russell played in Boston.

While many say it because they say the officials are not fair in Kalispell, I believe it might have originally started because Kalispell was very good. Plus, the visitors had a long trip to town, making Kalispell’s home advantage better than most.

I cannot claim that officials in Kalispell are unfair because that freshman football game is the only regular-season high school event I have ever attended in Kalispell.

I assume they are just as fair in Kalispell as they are everywhere else.

Also, there is no way the officials impacted the outcome on that game. I believe the score was 45-8 in favor of the home team.

But there were two calls by the same official that set me off.

The first one was on a punt. A Kalispell blocker had the most obvious clip in the history of football. He had one hand on each number on the back of a Bulldog defender, and it was right in front of the official.

The clip helped a no return on a punt into a return of about 30 yards, setting up Glacier’s second TD.

The official grabbed at his flag and then decided not to throw it.

I figured he was either grossly incompetent or he knew the clipper.

Later, the same official, from about 40 yards away, threw a flag to call pass interference on a Butte High player who turned around and tipped away an underthrown ball. If there was any contact at all, it was well after the ball was tipped away.

It was as bad of a call as his earlier no call. Just awful.

Both of those plays probably would have been forgotten if it had not been for the ridiculous display by the stripped men after the game.

Sure, every opposing fan thinks his team got homered on the road. Most think they got homered at home, too.

Fans do not want a fairly-officiated game. They want all the calls to go their way.

Also, most fans do not know how hard those officials work to be their best. 

We need officials. Without officials, it is just recess, as they say.

That is why, despite my insistence that those were two of the worse calls/no calls I have seen outside of Lambeau Field, I am very embarrassed that I yelled at the officials at all.

If you are not willing to put on the stripes, you should probably just shut your trap.

Last week, local official John Kinzle called to see if I would join the local prep basketball official’s pool since I am no longer covering local sports.

Being a sportswriter was always my excuse not to work as an official.

Now, though, I have a better excuse. I have labrum tears in both my hips. While I can ride my bike and have avoided surgery thanks to Ashley Wold at Lone Peak Physical Therapy and Diamond Dallas Page Yoga, I cannot run very far at all.

That is from all my years ignoring warning signs as I continued to run way too far, training for marathons.

So, I had to decline John’s invitation. For now.

This week, however, I will work as an official at the Special Olympics State Games Basketball Tournament in Butte. I worked the same tournament three years ago, and it was a blast.

If my body holds up, I just might give prep officiating a try. But I do not expect that to happen.

The first time I officiated the Special Olympics, I was paired with the legendary Mike Anderson. This year, it appears I will get to work with my cousin, the legendary Mike “Skinny” Foley.

If anyone gives me a hard time, I will defer to Skinny, just like I did with Anderson.

You have to be a real boob to yell at an official in the Special Olympics, by the way.

Actually, you have to be a real boob to yell at an official at all.

In Kalispell, I was that boob.

If, like me, you find yourself doing just that, stop it. You are only making the problem worse, and you are probably embarrassing your spouse and child.

Also, if you do not have labrum tears in your hips, you should consider signing up to be an official. You have until the end of November to take and pass the open-book test to qualify to officiate in the 2022-23 season.

Officials are needed in all sports, and you can sign up on the Montana Officials Association link at You can also send me an email and I can put you in touch with some local officials who will help you with uniforms and anything else you might need to become an official.

The numbers for officials are dropping around the country, and they are going down at an alarming rate.

On top of all that horrible fan behavior, COVID made the decline even more drastic.

We need fans to behave better. We also need some capable men and women to step up before all high school sporting events go away.

That is not hyperbole, either. We have already seen games canceled and rescheduled because of official shortages. So, it is not out of the question that high school sports could go away all together if this decline does not stop, and stop now.

Waiting any longer could be too late.

So, please, consider signing up to become an official today. It is a great way to meet some awesome people, and it is a great way to stay in shape. It will also put a few extra bucks in your pocket.

If you do step up and become an official, however, you might want to take it easy on the postgame chest bumps.

— Bill Foley, who specializes in hyperbole, can be reached at Follow him at