Tuesday, August 30, 2005

By 11 days...

I was beaten to the punch. A TV station in Evansville, Indiana is sponsoring a blog by a football official this season. Here's the link.

Well, my point holds. There's still room for a ref blog--or two.

Monday, August 29, 2005

A good place to start...

Why not start with the most famous official in the world?

Pierluigi Collina resigned today. The reason: he signed a sponsorship deal for Opel cars, which is the main sponsor for AC Milan. This means that Collina's objectivity would be called into question when officiating AC Milan matches. So, in spite of his many fans, personal website, and immense popularity, Collina is done.

NPR's The World made it sound like Collina was stepping down against his will. However, in the CNN/SI article above, Collina appears contrite and even embarrassed: "Respecting the rules is fundamental for me...It was an error. I should have respected the rules."

This is fundamentally against what Collina said in 2002, when he appeared in an ad for Adidas. When he officiated the World Cup final between Nike-sponsored Brazil and Adidas-sponsored Germany, he was quoted as saying: "A business can sponsor my shoes, never my conscience."

I don't doubt Collina's conscience, but he got it right this time and didn't in 2002. As officials, it is not impropriety we must avoid...it is the appearance of impropriety, which is so much more difficult.

It's hardly a World Cup Final, but my status as a high school teacher can make for some potentially ticklish situations. It's a given that I won't officiate my school. I do officiate my school's rival school sometimes. I don't give a rip about that, and call the game totally evenhandedly, never noticing which team is which, and with a completely clear conscience. But what if folks found out? That's a little dangerous. But should I back down to those who would accuse me of favoritism? I think not. However, if my high school's team is ever in the thick of things for a conference title, I'd recuse myself from all games within my school's conference. I could ref them fairly and well, but it would just be too risky...too much at stake. So that's where I draw the line.

All of that said, the most incredible part of this is that Collina is so popular that he can be courted to sponsor companies. Red Cashion is the only official I've ever seen in a commercial, shouting "FIRST DOWWWWN!" to tout Coors Light after he retired. It might even be against the rules for officials to be in commercials, but if it is, that rule feels totally unneccessary. Ed Hochuli for BowFlex? Tim McClelland for Atra? Lisa Mattingly for Wrigley's Spearmint? Steve Javie for Head and Shoulders?


Welcome to Illegal Screen...the only officiating blog I can find (and I've looked some).

The idea to do this blog actually came to me last year. Throughout the basketball season, I would write postmortems of a good number of my games on my regular blog. Some of the posts were interesting and oft-visited. Some were little notes to myself. But as I wrote, I thought two things:

1. The reffing posts didn't seem to fit in with my other musings about the world. They felt qualitatively different, somehow.

2. I simply couldn't find an officiating blog out there...anywhere. A Google search on "officiating blog" yields many results...but almost all of them are team's fan blogs bitching endlessly about officiating. I couldn't find anything by any actual officials taking us through the vicissitudes of the avocation--refs speaking about their games, preparation, opinions, difficulties, pet peeves...the fabric of a season in stripes.

I want that blog to exist. So I've decided to write it.

I also want to record, for my own records, what I've been doing well and what I need to work on. A good ref keeps a journal of his/her work, but I've never been disciplined enough to do it. That all changes here.

Therefore, I present to you: Illegal Screen.

Who I am:

I'm a high school teacher who lives in the suburbs of a big U.S. city. I officiate girls' basketball, and was promoted back to the varsity list for this upcoming season. Since I've just been promoted to varsity ball, I'm likely to get some low-quality games next year (first place against tenth place, eighth place against ninth place, etc.), but that's fine by me--I haven't earned my way higher yet. I have no desire to officiate anything higher than high school ball, as I don't think the travel I'd have to do as a college official would leave me the time and energy it woudl take to maintain good teaching. I also don't want to cross over to officiate boys' basketball, as the massive testosterone in the gym doesn't feel right. I may consider trying it later on, but not soon.

I don't want to tell anything more about myself than that. There will be no identifying information here about me or any schools, partners, associations, etc. I won't get into ref politics or association intrigue (and there's a good deal of that in every association). I'll limit myself to:

1. Talking about my games and my progress.
2. Mulling over what evaluators tell me.
3. In the off-season, I'll chime in occasionally to discuss issues of interest to officials. I don't want just to rehash what I've seen in every month's Referee magazine, but I'd like to be here to chat about referee issues as they pop up. For instance, if a sportscaster says something innacurate or stupid to berate an official, I'll be here to slam the guy. (I'm looking at YOU, Joe Theismann.)

I will keep the comments on to take in opinions and questions. I will not hesitate to delete pinhead comments, of course.

Down the road, I'd consider expanding this to include other officials...so an in-season official is always blogging about his/her sport. But not yet. Let's nurture this sucker first.

Glad you came by, and I hope to see you here often.

(Thanks, Jim, for the name.)

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