Two refs in one family

Relationship: Jerry and Jeff Komin relish the time they spend together officiating area sports contests as a father-son team.

January 21, 2001|By Bob Kurtz | Bob Kurtz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Lyndon Johnson was in the White House, and Columbia was only a year old when Jerry Komin whistled his first foul in a high school basketball game. That was in 1968.

Thousands of calls later, the veteran referee, 65, still hustles up and down the court, often flanked by his son, Jeff, 29, who as a youngster watched his father work basketball, soccer and baseball games and thought, "Hey, I can do that."

Jerry, a salesman for a food broker, and Jeff, an attorney, live about a mile from each other in Ellicott City and maintain a rigorous father-son relationship by teaming up to officiate recreational league sports in Howard County, and recreation league and high school basketball games in Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties and Baltimore city.

Often they work with other officials. Jerry umpires high school baseball and rec league softball games, and Jeff referees high school and college lacrosse games.

But it's the time they spend together -typically twice a week - on a basketball court or one day a weekend on a soccer field that they seem to value most.

Driving to a gym on a winter evening, they usually talk about officiating and sometimes about the calls they did - or didn't - make, such as the walking violation Jeff ignored in the first high school basketball game they refereed together 10 years ago in Baltimore.

"It was Dunbar at Edmondson," Jeff recalled. "The first time down the floor Keith Booth gets the ball and takes easily three steps for a walk but turns around and slam-dunks the ball. The Edmondson fans go nuts cheering him on.

"I was thinking about blowing my whistle, [but] everybody was excited about him dunking. The [Edmondson] coach and players didn't say a word, and I realized it wasn't going to be the smartest thing to call a walk."

That noncall on Booth, the former Dunbar and University of Maryland standout, pretty much reflects the philosophy of officiating that father has passed on to son: No harm, no foul. Let 'em play as much as possible.

"You've got to control the game," Jerry Komin said. "You can't let things get out of hand. You're not going to let a guy push another guy across the court. [But] the kids are the game. You've got to let them play."

While acknowledging that he may call games "a little tighter" than his father, especially when working high school and junior college basketball games with other referees, Jeff agreed with him that fans come out to see the players, not the refs, and that the best officials try not to take over a game.

A two-time all-Maryland selection in basketball and baseball at Mount St. Joseph High School in the early 1950s, the elder Komin attended Loyola College on an athletic scholarship. He said he never thought about officiating sports until a friend suggested he try it.

Now he has worked basketball, baseball and soccer games at area high schools and colleges for so long that these days, he sees kids whose fathers played in games that he officiated years ago.

Of those hundreds of games, the one he remembers most vividly was an Army-Navy baseball game 15 years ago.

"I was on the bases, and I had a really tough game, because there were so many close calls at first base," he said. "But it was a thrill just to be in Annapolis [umpiring] in front of all the Naval Academy people."

Jeff Komin, who attended Mount Hebron High School and holds a law degree from the University of Baltimore, started officiating as an eighth-grader, working fourth- and fifth-grade basketball games in the Howard County Youth Program.

Among his most memorable moments as a referee was being assigned to a Baltimore Catholic League high school tournament and opening the program to see a photograph of his father with a caption noting him as one of the best players ever in the league.

"That was a very big thrill for me," Jeff said, "seeing his name there, and then refereeing the tournament."

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