When John Callahan began shouting at referee Dennis Buchman during a district wrestling tournament Saturday night at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Pa., the 22-year veteran official wasted no time ejecting him. But what makes this story worthy of national news is the fact that Callahan - the father of a wrestler from nearby Freedom High School - also is Bethlehem's mayor and a candidate for Northampton County executive.
"I applaud the ref that kicked the mayor out," psychologist John Mayer, vice president of the Center for Ethical Youth Coaching in Chicago, told The Morning Call newspaper of Lehigh Valley, adding Callahan set a bad example that suggests disrespecting officials is acceptable behavior. "He deserves a badge of honor. I don't care who you are. You have to follow the rules and you have to behave appropriately as a parent."
According to reporters Adam Clark and Irene Kraft, Buchman (who was named an Outstanding Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association referee in 2009 and was unaware of Callahan's status in the community) has rarely ejected fans. But the mayor's tone during persistent shouts of "That's terrible, you're horrible, that call is terrible" proved too much. "I have very thick skin," Buchman said. "So obviously, it had to be bad enough for him to be removed."
Clark and Kraft went on to write:
Callahan ... gave a different version. [He] arrived midway through the tournament, just in time for his son's match. During a bout after his son's, he yelled "that was an awful call" one time, which he said was a respectful way to voice his displeasure.
"[The referee] turned around, pointed at me and said, 'You gotta go,' " Callahan said. "I kind of looked at him incredulously and said, 'What?'"
The mayor left, but on his way out the door told Buchman he has "rabbit ears," implying the referee is overly sensitive to criticism from the stands. Callahan repeated the rabbit ears comment in a tweet Saturday night.
"Pretty sad when a wrestling fan can't express displeasure about a call," he tweeted. "Talk about rabbit ears."