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ref you suck

From the Orange County Register 11/09/09

Obscenity at Ducks game in ear of beholder?
2009-11-09 13:36:48

My editor's editor says he was told I can use the word only once in this column. My mom would probably frown at me if I used it at all. But arrange a Hoover vacuum company picnic, stage a Tootsie Pop convention, eavesdrop on the cell phone conversation of a 13-year-old girl or sit among a bunch of disgruntled sports fans in an arena – or a Hooters on an NFL Sunday – and you're bound to hear it.

Kids, cover your eyes.

The word is suck, which, for the sake of my personal employment, I will now refer to it as The Less Vulgar S-verb.

In sports, it has become part of the vernacular. The Detroit Lions and the Kansas City Chiefs do it. The Clippers have done it. It has been attached in slogans, signs and chants to the names of rivals, coaches, refs and visiting sports villains. It's acceptable. Usually.

Dictionaries commonly present their primary definition of The Less Vulgar S-verb with some mention of the "mouth" or "lips" before going on to mention secondary meanings involving "absorption" and the slang, which according to, is "to be repellent or disgusting." The Web site even demonstrates the slang usage in a sentence: Poverty (S-verbs).

It seems fairly innocuous, right?

Well, it seems that slang usage has suctioned-up some quality time of the local teams' fan-conduct policymakers, prompting discussions about whether The Less Vulgar S-verb qualifies as lewd, obscene or vulgar enough warrant censorship.

People use it all the time in casual conversation to describe something that disgusts, disappoints, repels, stinks or, dare I say, blows. Granted, it's not the most appropriate word for church, a job interview or dinner with the grandparents.

But The Less Vulgar S-verb has fit snugly into the sports fans' word bank to express negative or dissenting opinion. And isn't that expression at the very core of the modern-day sports fan?

During a Chargers' game last season at Qualcomm Stadium, hundreds of fans at the victory over the Indianapolis Colts asked Brian Murphy, 33, of San Diego, where he got his T-shirt with "Peyton Manning (Stinks)" on its front and "So Does Eli" on its back. It was funny and done without controversy.

"I could have made a bundle selling them," he said.

But during this past regular season at Angel Stadium, at least three Halos fans were told by ushers to invert or use jackets to cover up the "Yankees (Repel)" T-shirts they had bought from street vendors in Boston.

"When did (The Less Vulgar S-verb) go back to being an obscenity," said Damian Hogan, 26, of Temecula. "It's not like I have (curse word), (curse word) or mother (curse word) on my chest. Whatever happened to freedom of expression?"

Then before the Oct. 30 game against Vancouver, Ducks' season-ticket holder Brian Gilmore and about a dozen of his friends were stopped at a Honda Center entrance by arena security for wearing their black, custom-printed "Ref You (The Less Vulgar S-verb)!" T-shirts. It was as if they were trying to bring in a live cheetah.

"Hold on, you can't wear that shirt in here," Gilmore recalled being told. "They (security) said, 'We have a new policy.'"

Gilmore and friends were protesting the officiating of the Oct. 26 defeat in which the Ducks lost, 6-3, to Toronto and were tagged for 17 penalties, including 14 minors for roughing, slashing, hooking and misconduct and one major for fighting.

"The ice was so heavily tilted toward the Maple Leafs that I made the shirt to show my frustration," said Gilmore, 34, of Costa Mesa. "I was so irritated when the security people told me I'd have to leave or change my shirt."

Gilmore said he and his friends were corralled by a dozen security personnel for more than 15 minutes. The puck had already dropped when arena representatives returned with free Ducks shirts they could be worn over their deemed-distasteful apparel.

"I couldn't believe the T-shirt was something bad because 'Ref You (The Less Vulgar S-verb)!" !' has got to be the most popular chant in the arena," said Gilmore.

Incensed, Gilmore went home Friday night and blogged about his experience on his site (, attracting well more than his usual 1,200-a-day hits and getting him an interview on Bob McCown's "Prime Time Sports" radio show on Toronto's FAN 590.

The day the interview aired, Gilmore's blog had a record 17,023 visitors. Feeling entrepreneurial, Gilmore, who has been unemployed since being laid off from his construction job due to an S-verb-ing economy, printed up more shirts and sold more than 30 of them online for $14.99 apiece.

Meanwhile, the Honda Center and Ducks' front office staff discussed the situation and soon after decided that The Less Vulgar S-word wasn't so bad after all.

"We did talk about this, and we decided that the T-shirt is not inappropriate for now," said Tim Ryan, an executive vice president and the chief operating officer of the Ducks and Honda Center.

"It's a judgment call. We will always reserve the right to judge what is and isn't appropriate to have in the arena. ... We take into consideration the context and try to create a fun environment while showing respect for the fans."

This decision wasn't made in, shall we say, a vacuum. More than 45 Ducks and Honda Center staff members at the weekly meeting weighed in on the topic of The Less Vulgar S-verb.

When Gilmore and more than two dozen shirt-donning Ducks fans attended Saturday night's game against Phoenix, they didn't have a problem.

"We just walked right in, wearing the shirts, passing the same security guards who had stopped us the night before," Gilmore said. "I felt like I stood up for the fan."

Gilmore did. Had he been stopped, that would have (stunk).

ref you suck! banner

Canada radio promo-

"REF YOU SUCK.COM We've all had those moments when you're at the game, there's a terrible call, and you can feel the anger rising, and before you know it you're yelling REF YOU SUCK!!!!. It's happened to me many, many times and now Brian Gilmore has started REF YOU so you can wear some "stylish anti-ref attire to support your team". I love it. Brian joined me this afternoon and told me how it all started...


Brian was kind enough to give me some Ref You Suck T-shirts to give away, so I asked you the DAVE FM listener to call in and give me your best REF YOU SUCK! yells!

Impressive, very impressive.
The Big Afternoon Radio Show
KDAVE 107.5 FM Kitchener, Ontario
Weekdays 2pm to 7pm
(And Weekends 3pm to 8pm)

Prime Time Sports with Bob McCown (Canadian TV/radio personality)
Here is the link to the tv/radio interview that took place on 11/5/09 with Canadian sports show "Prime Time Sports" with Bob McCown and Jim Kelley. Our segment is towards the end of the show. Brian Gilmore talks about the referee protest that took place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, CA on 10/30/09- which resulted in the arena banning the t-shirts and turning away ticket holders who refused to remove their t-shirts.

(audio link has been removed by host)

the untouchables

Chatham Daily News Post
Posted by Editorial on Nov 13th, 2009
Ref You Suck Instant Replay

Instant Replay – By Ian Kennedy

In the sporting world, we often want to yell three powerful words. Words that no coach or player can utter without fear of suspension. Words, however, that fans can say with freedom: Ref, You Suck.

Being one of the blind mice on the ice or field is never an easy job. I’m sure every referee has heard their fair share of taunts and insults. I myself was once suspended three games while coaching for a few choice words with a referee. For the record, that ref really did suck.

Sometimes, fans will terrorize referees just for calling a good game, other times; the booing and name calling is well deserved. Remember Phil Luckett? No, well he’s the ref that couldn’t tell “heads” from “tails” in a coin flip during a Thanksgiving Day NFL game.

How about that goal Brett Hull scored while in the crease to win the Stanley Cup? The entire city of Buffalo let out one long profanity after that obviously missed call. Some referee’s really must be blind to make (or miss) the calls they do.

Remember when the New York Yankees’ Chuck Knoblauch supposedly tagged Boston Red Sox runner Jose Offerman in the 1999 ALCS? Wow. I think every 80-old-grandmother in the last row of Fenway Park knew Offerman was safe.

My list could go on of infamous blown calls. Being a referee in sports is one of the toughest jobs on the planets. These men and women are forced to make split second decisions and live with the consequences. That doesn’t however; give them a free pass to make the wrong call.

Fans, media, and league officials should be vocal when a call is wrong. In minor sports, when the referee is often only a teenager, we need to cut them some slack. In professional sports though, when this is your role, your employment, and your profession, there needs to be consequences for making bad calls.

Referees and umpires should be fined, suspended, or flat out fired for consistently bad calls. Crowds can be merciless and rightfully so. If I pay good money to watch a professional game, I’m going to yell and scream when some bozo can’t get a coin flip right or can’t follow the rules they’re paid to enforce.

Fans should be allowed to make their feelings known (within reason). Recently, some faithful Anaheim Ducks fans held a referee protest. Why? They felt that their experience was cheapened by the bad calls during the Ducks vs. Toronto Maple Leafs game the week before. They had had enough of bad calls, in this case, bad calls that cost the Ducks the game and helped the Maple Leafs to their first win of the season.

What was the response? The Honda Center banned the group of protesters, all wearing “Ref You Suck” t-shirts, from the arena; most of whom were season’s tickets holders. In fact, entire websites, such as the one they purchased their shirts from, have popped up devoted to this topic. According to the arena, it wasn’t the fact they protested, but the fact they were wearing “Ref you suck” t-shirts that caused the ban. Check out the shirts at They’re neither crude, nor offensive in any way. Unless you take offense to the word “suck.” And if you do, you’re probably rather offended by this column.

I’m not telling everyone to start a protest, I’m not saying to curse or throw things onto the ice or field. I’m saying, without fans, there would be no professional sports. Just as players are penalized for not following the rules, referees should face similar penalties when they fail to enforce the rules. It’s about integrity in the game, and upholding that integrity for the fans.

As paying spectators, it’s our right to boo, or yell during a game. It’s definitely our right to wear a t-shirt to a game that says “Ref you suck;” because frankly, quite often, a referee does stink up the place. No umpire or referee will ever make all the right calls, but when they mess up, there needs to be consequences.

Until then, feel free to scream at the TV and from the stands. Not that the referees will hear you. Remember, they often can’t hear buzzers, rational explanations, or their own whistles.

ref you suck tattoo