Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cricket, anyone?

HUGE controversy in England over the test match between England and Pakistan. The referee, an Australian named Darrell Hair, thought that the ball was moving funnily, and accused Pakistan of scuffing the ball...a very serious accusation in cricket. He penalized Pakistan 5 runs and allowed England to select another ball.

Pakistan was so upset by the accusation--they claimed the ball looked like a ball that had been knocked around for more than 50 overs, not like a ball that had been tampered with--that they protested by delaying their return from tea by a few minutes. That turned out to be a very bad move, as Hair "removed the bails" (whatever they are) to signify a Pakistan forfeit, the first forfeit in the history of Test cricket.

Bad enough for you? It gets worse. A former Pakistani captain criticizes Hair's decision and his demeanor (in an article I could understand even though I have a preschool-level understanding of cricket). Others are saying Hair has a history of anti-Asian bias, which Hair denies. Still, Asian sides seem to feel strongly about it--Sri Lanka has asked that he not officiate any of their matches, and Pakistan protested his presence at the Test Final even before the first batsman took his place faced his first googly. (No, I don't know what a googly is, but I know I used it correctly there.)

Even Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has entered the fray, backing his side's protest.

The International Cricket Council has upheld Hair's decision.

In short, this looks like it could be one of the ugliest officiating rows ever, and I'll follow it as closely as I can...but I offer no guarantee I'll understand any of it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Great question from a Google searcher

An individual has reached this page by searching on the following phrase:

"why spit up Theisman and crew"

Well, my friend, because they were so bad they made us all vomit. That's why we spit them up.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Game Log: The End of Camp

Two games today. One not so good, and one (the seventh-place game) good.

The first was exceedingly difficult. The first half was pretty smooth. Then, in the second half, there was a strange series of events. A whole batch of calls went against Green, and almost all of them were called by my less-experienced partner. More-experienced partner and I were almost locked out of the first half. I recall only one foul call. My evaluator--a good one I trust--said that my posture went to hell because I was hell-bent on getting a call. This is evidence that I lean in to concentrate, and that's doable. I was expecting to be lambasted in the evaluation, but instead, I got some good advice on how to reel in a partner who's calling a million billion fouls and might not realize it.

Then, a game I was looking forward to...a good one to end camp on. Two good teams...conference rivals...the kind of game I strive to do someday. Two experienced partners. A good pregame. And the first half was marvelous. Smooth as anything, we all felt. Six team fouls per side. There were a few imperfections: we missed two switches, and I had a kid go to the floor in my area while my eyes were following a pass (to the other side of my area). Didn't hear boo from either coach, one of whom is noted for barking a lot. Didn't hear boo from the crowd. Then the same evaluator--the one I trust--came out to talk to us. Here's what he said, as best as I remember it:

"I'm going to take off my evaluator hat and give this to you in street slang. This game is shit. You guys are fucking up this game. You've got these good athletes, and the game is going to shit. You've fucked up two switches. You've got players going to the floor and you don't have calls. 22 Blue is grabbing a fistful of jersey and you're not even seeing it. You're concentrating so hard on your rotations that you're forgetting to watch the game. Here's what we're gonna do: No switching unless the ball goes to the wing. Call the damn game. You're better than this. I know you can officiate, but you're fucking this game up."

I endured all of that with quite a hell of a lot of surprise. In fact, for the first three sentences of the evaluator's tirade, I honestly thought he was joking. The game was imperfect, as all games are but smooth and clean. We were barely noticeable, nor did we need to be. So I was, needless to say, quite confused. I said nothing, then chatted with my partners. We made a commitment to communicate better (although I thought crew communication, like everything else, was actually pretty good).

The evaluator made the game sound like a horrific melee'...like WWE meets Lord of the Flies meets the Bataan Death March. It was completely alien to the game I was experiencing. Fair enough...maybe the guy had a different view from mine. So I belted down a bit (perhaps a little more than my partners did). Within a minute, I got 22 Blue on a foul I'd normally have taken a pass on--figured I needed to send her a message, since she apparently was being sneaky. I called another couple in order to get back in control of a game that I never though we'd lost control of. My nascent efforts to rotate were stunted...three times I started to rotate, then figured I'd face more verbal abuse as a result, so I stayed put, which was frustrating. But the game stayed good. Nothing whatsoever from either coach. White pulled ahead late and won by ten.

After the game, I go for more abuse, and it's not coming. Instead, he gives a long talk about how we need to let the players play more, the athletes don't want so many whistles (I think the 2nd half foul count was 9-6 or 9-7 or so...not terrible), they can play through a little contact, and the like. I was a bit frustrated because we had made it through the first half without reaching the bonus, and the extra foul calls in the second half...at least for me...were preventative officiating because the evaluator told us the game was going in the crapper.

I think I'll just shake this one off. I like the evaluator too much to assume this is the norm. I'll assume my several past interactions (all positive) are the norm. I'm all for criticism, but verbal abuse I'm less fond of, and not just when it confuses me. Anyway. It is what it is, and it's over.

The good news is he told me my posture was better in the second game. And in spite of the haranguing, I know in my heart it was a great game, as do the players, coaches, and even fans, I'd say. So I'll take that with me.

I'm glad I went to camp. I think I'm a better official now.

THINGS I DID WELL: Handled a good game with two good teams solidly, posture good in game two, call selection good under weird circumstances in game two

THINGS TO WORK ON: To be honest, I have no idea from game two. I'm way confused by conflicting advice. Still, I learned a bunch from game one. I need to get better at handling less-experienced officials who are dominating a game...get better at communciation and calmness under those circumstances, and to stand up straight even when the stress level rises.

NEXT UP: I may do a few games in October in preparation for the season in November.

In spite of that... or Game Log from Yesterday Afternoon

Yesterday's game was better. A lot of good comments from evaluators. One even said she didn't notice any posture issues. "I wasn't looking for them specifically," she said, "but I didn't notice them today and I did notice them yesterday, so that's a good sign." Agreed! Still, I don't think it was perfect...I even caught myself a few times. But I'm conscious of it now, and that's the first step.

The videotape don't lie

I've watched my videotaped game several times now...once alone, and twice with fellow refs. (It's only about a half-hour long...so don't think I'm overdoing it.)

My original stance, that I am crouching over as I blow the whistle, stands. I will work on slowing down and making sure that only my arm signals the foul and my feet close to the spot on a foul or violation call. The leaning-in crap has to stop. Slowing down will ensure I do that. Yesterday, I realized I wasn't doing it after every call...which is a step in the right direction.

But I found something a little more alarming...

I'm not hustling.

At first glance, I thought that it was an issue with running mechanics, and that I'd need to re-learn running all over again. On a second and third look, however, I'm finding that I'm seldome going at faster than an amble or a saunter. That makes me look bad. I'm seldom out of position for a play, so I don't think it's having a lot of impact on the game (although I'm sure it does periodically). And no clinician or evaluator has EVER come up to me and said "Hey! You're not hustling!"

But by God, there it is.

I think a lot of it is the switch from 2-man to 3-man. I no longer need to run as far or (frankly) as hard. So I only give as much as I need to. Routinely, therefore, I'm arriving just before I have to, and in a slow, seemingly disinterested way. Evaluators don't catch it, I suppose, because I'm not really out of position much (for that reason, anyway).

But it plays into my Blogging-Ref-has-to-fool-them-into-thinking-I'm-an-athlete deal. I just don't look good because I'm not going hard.

That ends today, and permanently.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

By the way...

If you want a sure-fire set of compliments to your wardrobe, wear your "What Would Ed Hochuli Do?" T-Shirt to ref camp.

Game Log: First three camp games

Time to do a little journaling on the first games I've had at camp, and for me that means logging in here. Even though I've only had three games, they're blending together a bit (in part because all three were blowouts). Still, here's what I have.

FIRST GAME: No huge issues in this game. One of my partners was doing her first-ever three-person game, and she did a hell of a job considering it was her first time. Still, there were some missed rotations, and I had to dash back and forth a couple of times as lead.

Speaking of lead, I was caught ball-watching as lead. I never used to do that, but I think that, since I'm going down to close-down, I want to decide whether or not to rotate, and so my eyes go to the ball...and just sort of stay there. I got some good comments as well--one clinician said I was hustling well. They were concerned with crew communication--they felt like we were doing individual games. I made it a point to start communicating a bit more with the partners--to realize how their game is going, more T to C stuff, more smiles, etc. I got good kudos for call selection late in a blowout.

SECOND GAME: This sucker was videotaped. We were rightfully chewed out for two consecutive shot-clock screwups...there was a failure to reset that we missed. I was told I need to get closer to the play as trail, and on the videotape, I can see that. It looks like I'm not in the game.

THIRD GAME: Again, they felt we weren't really a crew. I'll work on that. Also, as I run up the court as T, I need to be on the floor and closer to the ball if it's on the other side of the floor. In general, I need to move more...like I used to for two-person. I will work for angles.

ALL GAMES: I have posture issues. In general, while looking at myself, my posture isn't terrible while I'm standing and reffing the game. It's not perfect, mind you, but it won't draw undue attention to myself. The problem happens after I toot my whistle. I hunch down to make my calls and my signals. I think part of it is just that I have bad posture overall, but part of it is that I tend to lean in to concentrate. When I have a lot to concentrate on, I lean, and at the moment I'm making a call, I lean and hunch. Ick.

I've decided the way that I will fix this is to SLOW THE HELL DOWN after I toot the whistle. In my last two games at camp, I will pause and breathe after every whistle. I'll stand up straight. I'll wait a beat or two, rather than my usual immediate leaning-and-shouting. Since everyone will be looking at me, I'll project "Hey, I'm an athlete!". Then, I'll calmly make the call from the good posture, which will be good for my voice.

It's a little frustrating at this point because I'm undergoing growing pains. I make a call, and then go "Damn. I'm hunched over." Over and over again! But that's better than it used to be. And in the game I'm doing in a couple hours...I'll get it right. I'll SLOW THE HELL DOWN.

That pretty well cover the "things I did well" and "Things to work on."

Next up: Two more camp games. One today, one tomorrow.

Mid-camp update

No time for a full update. Two games yesterday were mostly uneventful--got a lot (and I mean a lot) of feedback.

Today, whatever happens, even if I blow every call, I will have good posture while I do it.

Damn it.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

What a manager does

I recently attended a Pittsburgh Pirates game. While there, I noticed that, as they introduced their manager, Jim Tracy, their Diamondvision showed highlights of him hollering at umpires.

Is this really the image the Pirates or Tracy want to give? Acting like an idiot is a highlight? Why not show him clapping, or stoically leading, or giving signals, or about a dozen other things?

Camp preview

It won't be quite as intense as the last camp I went to years ago, but I'm off to camp this weekend. Five games in three days with better-than-me refs barking at me about my every move. There's a lot to look forward to here.

At the end of last season, here were my four areas I wanted to work on:

1. Mechanics. I'm too loosey-goosey, and since I can't use my voice, I need to overcompensate with perfect, crisp, confident motions. I will have perfect posture on the floor and exude confidence.
2. Screens. I want to get those rules cold, and enforce them confidently.
3. NO MORE CALLING ACROSS THE KEY AS LEAD unless it's an egregious miss by a partner.
4. Shooters. I can't let my eyes follow the shot. More than one evaluator caught me doing this, and it's inexcusable.

Well, my plan is to be on those this weekend and to come up with a couple other areas of improvement. I studied screens today, and they weren't as complex as I remember them being. I will try to be a mechanics stud, and being videotaped in one of the games will be very helpful. #s 3 and 4 are just a matter of being disciplined with my eyes.

This is going to be a great camp.

Monday, August 07, 2006

New NFL Officials' Uniforms

are ugly. Horrible idea.

It looks like a 1920s Decatur Staleys uniform...and that's not a good thing.

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