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 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?


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