Gym rats: Palmyra's Butlers share deep love for basketball

Mark Butler is a basketball official who enjoys going to area games with his son Brock, a sophomore at Palmyra High School, when he isn't officiating a women's junior college game or junior high school game. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)
Posted: Dec. 22, 2011 9:48 am Updated: Jan. 12, 2012 1:15 pm

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

PALMYRA, Mo. -- Mark Butler learned when his son Brock was quite young that there was no need to buy him toy cars or trucks.

"We have trucks still in the basement in boxes, unopened," Mark Butler said. "All he wanted was a ball -- all the time."

As Brock grew up, his passion for athletics -- especially basketball -- never waned.

Brock, a sophomore guard, leads Palmyra in scoring at 13.6 points per game, and he's shooting 40 percent from 3-point range.

But as much as Palmyra coach Matt Thomas is pleased with Brock's on-court production, he's just as impressed with his interest in basketball when he's not playing.

"A lot of kids will say, ‘I really love basketball,' but when the gym is open, where are you? When there is a game going on down the road, where are you?" Thomas said.

For Brock Butler, he's likely at that game down the road, sitting in one of the first rows of the bleachers next to his dad. Mark is a basketball official who enjoys going to area games with Brock when he isn't officiating a women's junior college game or junior high school game.

"We like to see what other teams got and see what we can do to help our team win against that team," Brock said.

Thomas said it's not uncommon for him to be out scouting a future opponent and see Brock and his dad in the stands.

"I might be up top, and they're over there in the front row watching," Thomas said.

Brock already has attended games as a spectator this year at the QND/Gully Transportation Tip-Off Tournament, the Monroe City Tournament and the Rumble on the River, among other games. He said he'll probably watch about 30 high school basketball games this season in addition to the 25 or so that he'll play.

If Mark can't go with Brock, he'll go with someone else in the family, such as his sister Brooke -- a junior at Palmyra who Mark calls Brock's "biggest fan" -- his mom Teresa or his grandpa Jim Brumbach, who was a basketball official for more than 30 years.

"It's not just (Brock). It's a family thing," Mark said. "My daughter loves it. She's his biggest fan."

Mark Butler was an all-state guard for Clark County, graduating in 1982. He played two years at Hannibal-LaGrange before he suffered a serious knee injury in a car accident, ending his playing career.

He kept his love for athletics alive through officiating. Mark umpires softball and recently starting officiating junior varsity and junior high football games. He used to officiate about 70 high school basketball games each year before scaling back so he could watch Brock's games.

Brock said he'll sometimes consult his dad after a game if he thinks an official missed a call.

"After games, I might ask him if he thought the game could be called better," Brock said.

Mark doesn't have a problem with his son disagreeing with an official's call, but he's got one piece of advice for his son: If you disagree, do it quietly.

"My biggest thing with him is how you act on the floor," Mark said. "Don't be cocky. Don't be a showboat. Let your game show what you can do, and don't bring attention to yourself.

"As an official, when you're on the floor and people bring attention to themselves and act that way, they get a little closer eye than other players. I've been on him a couple times this year already about how he reacted on some calls that he didn't think he did. We can talk about it at home. Don't show it on the floor."

They can talk about it at home, or they can talk about it at a gym -- which is where they'll probably be.

"If we're not in a gym, something's wrong," Mark said.