First off, hats off to all area coaches, umpires and officials. I don’t know how you do it.

I covered a baseball game earlier this week, and the insults parents hurled at the umpire made me realize there are more thankless jobs than being a sportswriter.

The umpire called a tight strike zone, specifically on the inside corner, which drew the ire from dozens of fans watching the game.

Mind you, this isn’t an indictment on area parents or fans. When covering baseball and softball, I typically stand near the first-base dugout, simply because it’s easier to get photos since there are more right-handed batters than lefties.

That means I’m usually within earshot of fans of opposing schools, as was the case this week.

The insults ranged from reasonably thought out, “Your strike zone is the size of an index card,” to thoughtless and mundane, “You suck, blue.” (Blue being the nomenclature for baseball umpires.)

There was one parent who even told their child to “forget everything he taught you,” referring to the player’s coach.

The isolated jeers quickly multiplied in number after the umpire made a call that was 100 percent correct but went against the visiting team.

Once again, insults flew.

After the dust settled, I heard one parent say to another, “I didn’t even see what happened. I was just yelling because you were.”

Hard work, dedication and learning how to work with others are noble rewards of playing sports. But all that goes out the window the minute a player sees his father or mother swearing at an official, someone who likely has a family of his or her own and is only trying to earn a few bucks.

So, the next time you feel as though an official owns a personal vendetta against your child or your child’s team, set a good example and bite your tongue. And encourage those around you to follow suit.

On this week’s schedule

On a separate note, there are some great games scheduled for this week.

When I spoke to Ninety Six baseball coach Chad Ellis last week, he was cautious of gloating about his team. He knows he has a good team (the Wildcats are 11-3 this season), but he also knows they’ve played some not-so-good teams during the early run.

So how good are the Wildcats? We’ll get to see Tuesday when Greenwood travels to Ninety Six.

The Eagles are 7-3 during the regular season and are suddenly riding a four-game win streak entering Tuesday’s game. Greenwood will also host Ninety Six Friday.

Greenwood and Emerald softball will square off Wednesday, then on Thursday, we’ll get a glimpse at Abbeville, Calhoun Falls and Greenwood track when Emerald hosts a six-team meet that includes Berea and Palmetto.

On March Madness

Finally, I’ve long lobbied for those who don’t watch college basketball to fill out a March Madness bracket anyway.

I believe the casual college basketball fan has the same odds as someone who hasn’t watched a game all season when it comes to filling out a bracket.

It’s all luck.

Case in point, the best bracket in the newsroom this year was filled out by our education reporter, Ariel Gilreath, who is the only one who had more than one team standing in the Final Four.

Virginia was a popular pick that burned a lot of brackets. Sportswriter Skylar Rolstad, who figuratively bleeds college basketball, picked Michigan State and was out of contention by the time the Final Four rolled around.

Newsroom coordinator Wanda Rinker, Abbeville County reporter Conor Hughes and I had Duke winning the tournament and each finished at the bottom of the pool.

So congratulations to Ariel Gilreath, whose bracket proved it’s better to be lucky than good.

David Roberts is a staff writer for the Index-Journal. Contact David at 864-943-2530 or follow him on Twitter @IJDavidRoberts.