WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 20, 2014, 09:17 PM

Pastor and Cherry Berry owner by day, referees by night

Fargo, N.D. (WDAY TV) -If you've ever been to a sporting event, you've either heard it or you're guilty of it.

By: Jody Norstedt, WDAY

Fargo, N.D. (WDAY TV) -If you've ever been to a sporting event, you've either heard it or you're guilty of it.

We're talking about yelling at referees.

You could call it the most awkward relationship in sports.

Mark Riggs, Fargo referee: “Obviously, the fans and the coaches are rooting for their team, so when they see something that could go 50-50 either way and we have to make a decision on the fly they see it the other way and that's normal.”

Brett Moser, Fargo referee: “You feel like you can't even call the game because somebody is calling travelling and there actually is travelling, I'm calling travelling. I'm just not calling it because you said so. I'm calling it because I saw it.”

The black and white stripes make them one of the most recognizable figures in sports.

But, have you ever wondered who's actually behind that whistle? That answer may surprise you.

Mark Riggs has gotten yelled at by fans on the court.

Riggs: “We have thicker skin if that's what you want to say.”

But you won't find many yelling at him at his Cherry Berry shop in south Fargo.

Riggs: Part of the process of being a good referee is being a great communicator.

Moser: “If you're skeptical of Christianity. If you're just peaking in, welcome to you as well.”

Brett Moser trades his whistle in for a bible on Sundays, he's a pastor at River City Church in downtown Fargo and sees reffing as a benefit to his career.

Moser: “Being able to relate with people is part of my job on Sunday mornings and throughout the week as a pastor.”

Both Mark and Brett agree that referees should be held to a high standard.

But, they also admit that when they put on the stripes, they get treated a bit differently.

Riggs: “I don't think we get a fair shake as referees as a whole of having that first impression being a good one just because we wear striped shirts.”

Moser: “If they see me with my four little girls. I don't think they'd be yelling at a guy with four little girls making diaper money.”

Riggs: “Put yourself in our position just one time and if you think it's so easy, we'd welcome you to come out because we need more officials. We need good ones.”

Which might be a step toward trying to improve this rocky relationship.

Riggs says that there is concern that fan conduct is driving away younger officials from taking a job as a referee.