Thursday, July 20, 2006

This happened last week...

The ball goes out of bounds. I toot my whistle and raise my arm.


I pause a second...partly for effect, partly because I need to remember which way to point.

Then I point.

However, in that second I used to gain my bearings, a player for White has snuck in behind me. I forearm her across the face. It's light, but it obviously startled her.

I instinctively put a hand on the back of her shoulder (I know, I know, never touch the players...but when I accidentally pop one in the nose, I'll make an exception). She said she was okay. I just blathered: "Oh, man. In ten years, I've never done that."

After a subsequent time out, I again got confirmation that she was okay. Partner joked around, saying "Come on, I know you've wanted to hit players for years!"..and I begged her not to sue. She promised she wouldn't.

This just occurred to me...

Actually, I only need a certain number of officials to retire or quit or take a leave of absence, and bang-bang, I'll be on the playoff list.

Okay, so that number is just a tad too high to be feasible.

Does anyone have the phone number for Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly?

(Kidding! Kidding.)

Rankings are in.

And while I'm not on the playoff list for next year, I'm higher than I've ever been on the list. It's all okay--I had a three-year plan to make the playoff list, not a one-year plan. And for the most part, I feel like the officials at the top are really good and the officials around me are about my quality.

I'm hoping camp will jack me up the list a little for 07/08. Hard work, luck, and pluck.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Game Log 7/13/2006: Two more good ones

Two more games today as the big tournament finished up in town. I'm told that the games were finals for their brackets, but I don't by it...we were on an auxiliary court and there were only a very few friends and family watching.

Both games were smooth.

The first game was a little weird. One of my partners is a chronically late guy, so the other partner and I simply assumed that we would start the game in 2-man. We were right. Sure enough, the guy showed up 5 minutes into the game. It became clear that he was going to call it a lot tighter than the on-time partner and I wanted to. The game was going pretty well, actually, but this partner called something like 6 of the first 8 calls in the first half. It might have looked funny, and some of them were gray-area calls that I had not missed, but chosen to take a pass on. Oh well--not worth getting too worked up about such things. Life is short.

Green led White by 20 points at half. I was pretty stoked because I thought that meant that the clock would run in the second half. No such's a 25-point spread that activates the running clock.

Amazingly, White started pressing Green, chipped away at the lead, and won. White played beautiful defense...they were actually out-fouled by Green in spite of their press!...and Green just never figured it out.

I felt in control and fine throughout.

The second game was another comeback. Blue totally took it to Gold in the first 3 minutes. They ran several was tremendous. 10-0 before we'd warmed up. Gold called time out, and I said to my partners: "If every game I did had teams that ran like this, I'd either be dead or in the best shape of my life." I geared up for more running...and that running never happened. Blue must have wanted to work on their halfcourt offense, because they slowed it down. Gold caught up and wound up winning by double-digits.

Blue had a couple of whiny players: my partner (the on-time one) T'd one of them. Rather than handing him the ball, she knocked it away from him after a call she didn't like with 3 minutes left. I'm not sure I'd have called that, but I think she probably said something too (I forgot to ask exactly what happened). But the game was quite easy to officiate. We had no fouls in the first 7 minutes or so in the second half...just two teams playing clean defense. I ended that streak with a player-control foul on Blue that was so easy that anyone in the world could have called it. Why didn't the kid jump-stop?

Anyway, it wasn't a hard day. There was minimal coach chirping...all were calm. One wanted a critical jump ball to go his way, and lobbied for it, pointing towards the table, claiming they had it for him. I was next to him and I said: "Nope. You got it at half, and there hasn't been a jump since then." His response: "You're right. Damn!" Cool. I love being right.

I don't put much stock in this sort of thing, but both losing coaches came up and shook our hands after the game. I liked that. I told one: "Travel safely." As he walked away, I realized that his team was not from another state, but from a matter of blocks from the gym. Oh well...I guess I can still wish him safe, albeit brief, travels.

I'm realizing that these smooth games are helpful, but I'm sort of looking forward to the next difficult or weird one. I think I can handle easy games at any level I do without issue now. The challenge will be to handle the next intense or bizarre situation properly, and to keep my head together throughout. Bring it on.

THINGS I DID WELL: Stayed focused in a game without too much action, call selection
THINGS TO WORK ON: Missed a partner's whistle that was at the same time as mine, still giving too much voice

NEXT UP: Four weeks to camp.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

French lawyer to challenge World Cup in Court

Well, this is nice.

A French lawyer, Mehana Mouhou, is asking a French court to question the World Cup Final's fourth official, Luis Medina Cantalejo, about whether he saw Zinadine Zidane's now-infamous head-butt with his own eyes, or if he used replay to dismiss him (which is not allowed by FIFA).

I've heard this video replay theory elsewhere, as well. A friend said "Of course he used video replay. Why else would he have taken so long? He had a headset!"


1. The fourth official has no access to video replay. He could not have seen it on the sideline monitors. Period.
2. While the replay was shown on the scoreboard (very bad idea, by the way), no self-respecting official would watch it, especially when hell has a chance of breaking loose on the pitch imminently. Cantalejo had referee Horacio Elizondo's back. It wouldn't even occur to any official at any level to look up to the scoreboard.
3. It's the job of the fourth official to look at action that the main official doesn't see. That's exactly why he's there.
4. The delay was entirely necessary for Elizondo to restore order. He was busy every second of it, not waiting for someone to see the video.

As to why Elizondo ran to Cantalejo rather than getting the information over the headset, consider a few more things:

5. The stadium is damn loud--loud enough to overpower a headset microphone. Have you ever tried talking on a cellphone at a stadium? I have. I gave up--too loud. This stadium was way louder than the ballpark I tried to talk at. Add onto that possible accent issues when Elizondo, an Argentinian, listens to Cantalejo, a Spaniard. Hard to hear AND hard to understand. Better to run over to have a face-to-face.
6. Nevertheless, let's suppose, just for fun, that Elizondo heard Cantalejo. "Red card to Zidane!" Whoa! That's pretty huge. If it were me, I'd run over for an explanation and to be certain I heard correctly.

And, of course, to repeat:

7. Cantalejo told us he saw the head-butt with his own eyes, and FIFA is confirming it.

Even though it will undoubtedly die, this lawsuit is offensive. And given that these sorts of overturn-the-refs-decision lawsuits are getting more common in my country, I take offense at it. In one swoop, Mehana Mouhou is calling Cantalejo an incompetent and a liar.

What kind of bottom-feeding pond scum could make such an accusation based on absolutely no evidence?

Oh. I forgot. The guy's a lawyer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Worst Possible Partner

An almagamation of bad moments over my career. Hyperbole is used, but only slightly.

Worst Possible Partner walks into the officials' changing room 15 minutes before tipoff, talking on his cell phone. I had to assume that I'd be working a two-man game with the other partner, but when WPP arrives, our harried discussion of two-man mechanics ends. We heave a misplaced sigh of relief and head to the floor. WPP continues his cell-phone conversation until we're approaching the court, where he pockets his cellphone. He then introduces himself and insists on being the referee. Good Partner and I, shocked, decide not to fight that battle. Our mistake.

When I ask when we'll step out to talk to captains and coaches, WPP rolls his eyes. "I don't do that for non-varsity matchups," he says. "Nobody cares." We go out and do it anyway. WPP leads a brief, perfunctory chat with the visiting coach, but then talks with the head coach, who he has "worked with for years," for about five minutes, laughing it up. I don't feel like I can leave my partner alone with this coach, but even WPP deserves to have his partner stay by his side. Still, I manage to slink over to chat with the table personnel. He later says I shouldn't have done that, since he's the referee and I'm merely the U1. We go back to the other side of the court, where he talks to his girlfriend in the second row. "She had to drive me here," he says, "because I took three Percoset today." Three? Good Partner and I are stunned. "Yeah--I had my wisdom teeth out today. Check it out!" He then draws back his lips to expose the new, blood-filled holes in the back of his mouth, holes which Good Partner and I do not want to see.

Good Partner and I are hauling ourselves up and down the court in this JV game. WPP is not. He appears disinterested...jogging 2/3 of the way up the court, then walking to his position as Lead, his back to the play even as the fast breaker zips to the lane behind him. (This is especially annoying because when I saw this ref do a bigger, varsity game, he ran very well.) "He's mailing it in," I hear the chirpy coach say behind me during a free throw. I can't argue with that: my partner is standing with his arms crossed, looking at the ceiling. Still, chirpy coaches need to be dealt with. I chat with the coach briefly while the ball is being brought up the floor. I then see the only hustle my partner will exhibit all night: he blows his whistle in order to run over and yell. Not at the coach. At me.

At halftime, WPP whines nonstop about association politics, saying that biased evaluators are holding him down. He then talks smack about his last three partners. He laughs and looks at me knowingly. I wonder what he'll say about me to the next guy. I never bash partners, but I decide that I can make an exception to the rule to bash WPP, and begin composing this blog entry in my mind.

The game is a two-point spread with a minute to go. During a time out, Good Partner and I get together to talk about time-outs, three-point coverage, the foul situation, etc. WPP doesn't immediately join us, electing instead to shoot hoops and chat with his girlfriend. We call him over. He says "Oh, you want to talk to me?"

The game ends. I dread the conversation in the locker room. No need to worry--he gets his cellphone out before we get out of our stripes.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Game Log 7/10/2006: A pair of good ones

This is the third time I've officiated a really good summer tournament. The first time, at ref camp years ago...although it felt good on the whole, there were definitely moments when I was in over my head. My last go 'round was five years last games before injury sidelined me for three seasons. I recall several not-so-hot games that time.

I must be getting better, because today's games went fine.

The first game was terribly easy...a blowout, and not a lot of calls to be made. Green had one of the best players in the state...I could see several college coaches salivating in the stands...and they led by dozens very quickly. We got to run the clock due to a mercy rule in the second half. Yay. That got my sea legs under me.

The second game could have gone wrong at some point. First of all, one of the coaches has a rep as a whiner. Before the game, one partner simply said: "Oh. That's Jacob." Sure enough, he chirped on every call. So, about four minutes into the game, I gave him my standard line: "You've got to pick your spots, coach. You can't ask for everything." His response: "But I'm not getting any response from you." I replied: "This is your response. Pick your spots."

He was still whiny...that's just his nature...but it went down from there. I don't want to be guilty of post hoc reasoning, but I'd like to think that my actions helped. Both of my partners went with the ignore method, which is a legitimate choice...but I think talking to him helped.

I had one call I'm not sure about. On the rebound, Blue's tall post girl went to the ground. I saw her trip over White's leg. I felt that White's legs were spread rather far apart, so I called her for a block. The proper terminology (which I wish I'd used with Jacob when he complained) was "unnatural guarding position." I just said "Her legs were way far apart." He said it was a box-out. When I got home, I stood in front of a mirror and put my legs as far apart as I thought hers were...and in the mirror, I saw me executing a perfectly reasonable box-out, the very way my coaches taught me to do it in sixth grade. Should have had a no-call, but when a player hits the ground, I guess it's okay to err on the side of tooting the whistle. Not a terrible mistake, but yes, it was a mistake.

I also was running upcourt as either new trail or C (I think as C), hugging the sideline behind the dribbler who was also hugging the sideline. In jumps a Blue player. Contact is imminent, and as the contact happens...damn it...a third player jumps into my line of sight. I called a block. The ball went out of bounds...I should have just given the ball back to White. This was an error of positioning...even if I hadn't been screened, I would have been straightlined. An experienced official who was watching me said that, when coming up the floor (and especially when the ball is on the sideline), I need to be a couple of steps onto the floor. This play demonstrates's all about the angles.

But on the whole, I kept my composure and felt in control. The second game in particular got very agressive but never ugly...we were on it, letting the players show off their abilities for the scouts and college coaches without letting them get any unfair advantage. I'm very happy with the progress this showed over the last time I had summer ball of this quality.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach management, call selection
THINGS TO WORK ON: Voice (I still can't back off!), avoid sideline-hugging when running up floor, stay attentive when trying to chat with coach (I let my gaze wander from the floor).

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Please respond to this critical question...

In summer ball, we get to wear black shorts. I still wear my ref shoes, which are black...they're the best for my feet and good to run in.

Given black shorts and black shoes, which is better: black socks or white socks?

Summer ball...

I have a few games next week at a big summer tournament...lots of scouts and college coaches will be watching these games.

I have mixed feelings about these games. On the one hand, it's great basketball. On the other hand, the parents and especially the coaches are legendary for being really awful at them. I suspect that a high school coach is often a teacher who cares about kids full development, or at the very least someone who is interested in working with the whole young man or woman. These summer coaches often are exclusively about the kid-as-basketball-player, and when these kids get their scholarships, the summer coaches take it as their own, and not the kids', personal accomplishments. (I stereotype, of course, but the stereotype is based on a little truth.) As a referee in this situation, I am viewed as an obstacle between the kid and his/her college scholarship, and the abuse flies a little more readily here than elsewhere.

At any rate, I'm ready to roll...much more equipped for the challenge than I was the last time I did such a tournament 6 years back...and I'm more confident in my abilities in coach management and behavior modification than I was then.

Mechanics often go loosey-goosey in summer ball. I won't let myself go overboard in that direction, but I know better than to make that be something I'm working on next week. Instead, I'll work on this:

1. No calling across the key as lead, unless it's an obvious miss (not pass) by a partner.
2. Go easy on the voice.

That will be the project for next week.

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