Sunday, October 29, 2006

A good day in the NFL

I've watched bits of two morning games: New Orleans/Baltimore and Seattle/Kansas City.

Dick Enberg and Randy Cross witnessed an overrule of a Steve McNair fumble due to the tuck rule. They actually anticipated the replay reversal and understood the rule. When Jerome Boger made his ruling, they complimented the ruling while criticizing the rule. I'm okay with that--it's good to see that a rule is being enforced properly and give props for that even if one dislikes the rule. (And Randy Cross ifs often a bad ref-basher.)

In the KC/Seattle game, sideline reporter Jay Glazer called NFL head of officiating Mike Pereira to clarify an upheld replay that a Garo Yepremian-style play by Chiefs holder Dustin Colquitt was ruled a fumble and not a pass. Made the play much clearer for Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson to analyze.

I'm telling you, NFL...more information is always better. Talk to an expert ref. Always.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Game Log 10/28/2006: Back where I belong

This was nice. Two good games today got me back on track. Last week clearly was an outlier.

I'm glad that the games were not easy. The first, in fact, was especially difficult. Green had six players and White had four. Right off the bat, loads of fouls. On the first two, Green's assistant coach gave lip. I stopped that right away and told my partner. It worked--the assistant didn't talk anymore. Head coach started whining a bit. Didn't warn him until the second half, in part because I couldn't tell for sure whether it was him whining or a parent a few rows behind him. It became clear to me in a big hurry that he didn't know what he was talking about. We probably could have T'd him, but we didn't, for reasons that will become clear momentarily.

After yet another shooting foul with about 10 minutes left (running clock), one of Green's players fouled out. That left them with five players. Head coach talked to partner. He felt the calls were soft. They weren't. Still, partner and I came together, and agreed to make all future fouls on Green "good ones." Not a minute later, I had a good one. Two forearms raked across two forearms. And what do you was the kid's fifth.

Green was left with four players.

They were winning by four with ten minutes left.

The coach called me over and asked if he'd have to forfeit if another kid fouled out. I said no: he can play with one player if they have a chance to win the game. Nobody else fouled out, but Red was just too exhausted. White took a lead and won by six.

But not before the technical. It was a weird, weird call.

Green #2 drove to the hoop. White ran at her for what looked like it would be a very ugly attempt to block the shot. She wound up and looked like she was jumping to deliver a fastball...sort of like a cricket bowler. Everybody in the gym saw her approach.

She whiffed. Flat out whiffed. No call.

Green #2 didn't appreciate it. She bitched. The rebound kicked around. She bitched again. She wouldn't stop, My eyes went to her and I blew the whistle. Technical foul on Green #2.

Green's bench and fans cheered. See, I blew my whistle while the ball was in the air. The ball went in, and Green thought I had an and-one. I didn't.

I counted the hoop and called the T. We went down to shoot for Blue's two T free throws. Then the coach wanted the one shot for the foul.

I didn't have a foul on the shot, of course. I called the T, which was elsewhere. Should have expanded my vision, I guess, but then I would have had a bizarre false double-foul...and the T was first. In which case I could have waved off the shot...

Well, damn. Now that I'm looking in the rule book, I'm not 100% sure I shouldn't have waved off the basket. I can't find the stinking reference in either rule book or case book. I'm confident I got it right, but I'll have to confirm somewhere...

Okay, there are many permutations as to what I could have done. But since I didn't call a foul, I had a T and counted the hoop. I explained to the coach that I didn't have a foul on the shot. He said: "If I'd have known that, I'd have had a technical foul too."

The best news: I stayed calm through some bizarre calls and some angry fans. I believe the whole thing went well. Perhaps somewhere in me I wanted a calm, easy game today, but in hindsight, I'm glad I didn't get one. I had a test, and I passed it. We controlled a tough game.

The second game was way calmer. 15-point game between two not-terribly-talented teams. I worked on focusing on defense and picks. "Defense and picks! Defense and picks!" I kept saying to myself as I worked off-ball. Did I actually focus on them? Mostly. But even when I wasn't, I know that when I chanted that internal mantra, I wasn't ball-watching.

We almost had a dreaded blarge call in the second game. I was trail, and the drive came from my side of the court...a fast break-y situation, so it was forgiveable for my partner to call it as lead. We double-whistled the contact. I closed hard, but my partner punched out her fist to signal a player control foul...then immediately dropped the signal and gave the call up to me. Fortunately, I was doing the right thing...keeping my fist up. And I had a block. The defender was moving sideways at contact, and I don't think she was ever set. Plus it was in my area. At the next time out, my partner said "Here's something to think about. The defender was backing up, right?" I just said "Nope. I have a block. She ws moving sideways."

I need to mention the opening jump of the second game as well. I was the umpire, so my partner had the toss. The ball hit Red, then White, then was caught by Red's jumper. I believe it was before the ball hit the floor. Violation. Alas, I didn't come up with the fact it was a violation until I had run about five steps down the floor and went "Whoa! That wasn't right..." And it was my job to whistle it. Or did the ball hit the ground? I don't remember. Rulebook says that the ball should hit the ground.

One girl for Green cried, claiming she had been punched in the nose. I told her I'd watch for it. I don't think she was punched in the nose. I was set to keep an eye on her, but she was removed from the game right away. My partner had called a shooting foul on her...said she had initiated the contact. That sounds about right. If I'd had a little more game awareness, I would have stopped the conversation with Red after finding out she was okay and not needing to be replaced.

Again, weird...but it's good that it happened in the off-season. Prepares me for the season better.

THINGS I DID WELL: Handled bizarre situation great. Call selection felt right. Watched the defense well.

THINGS TO WORK ON: Jump ball weirdness...keep an eye on it. And I need to get my butt into condition in the next four weeks.

This was nice...

Today, an official who made me look bad on the floor in one of my games over the summer (and whose sins are included in the Worst Possible Partner post) approached me.

"I've been thinking about what happened at that game we did, and I wanted to apologize. I should have handled it differently; been more supportive on the floor. I've learned a lot from it. I didn't want to do it over email or on the phone, so I'm telling you now."

Nice. I taught a good official--someone way ahead of me on the list, and with far more experience--something about being a partner. And the apology is nice. With an apology, I can forgive and forget (without, I would simply forgive).

We shook hands. I told the official that he/she could be my partner anytime. I meant it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Game Log 10/20/2006: Well, this one is behind me.

Funny--when I really think about the first of my two games today, I can recall only two errors. But they were bad--and the net result was my worst game in years.

The head coach for Blue didn't help. I could actually hear her coaching her team to foul the other team. "Bump her! Let her know you're there!" What the hell? 32 was giving forearm shivers to the big kid for white all the time. I called a couple. They put somebody else on her. Then came the double fouls.

That's right...I had two double fouls. I normally don't call more than one in a season; but I had two in a half this time. I usually find it's an effective means to stop ugliness. The first, I had white reaching around to grab Blue, and Blue pushed her in the back. Double foul. I explained it quickly and went away. The Blue player pronounced my call "bullshit." Partner had my back; technical foul. I stand by call. Partner said: "I trust you."

About five minutes later, White came down to post up, and Blue was waiting with their customary forearm shove. White came down with her forearms up to. They collided like a pulling guard and a linebacker. Double foul. Can't have that shit. I stand by that.

The net result is that we were sort of unpopular at this point. The double foul is never popular, but it's what I had in each of these cases. Blue had only 2 players on its bench; White had zero. I'm hoping that these calls will ease things up. They don't really.

Then, my first big mistake, which, upon analysis, was actually a combination of three mistakes.

Eleven seconds left in the half. We run down the floor. There are a couple of passes. White scores. I'm waiting for the buzzer. We run back down to Blue's end of the floor. I have a blocking foul on White. We look up. There are three seconds on the clock, and White says the clock started late. I am to check it out.

At this point, I've already committed Error Number One. Neither my partner nor I have looked at the clock to see that it started. Yeah, I know this was a weekend league with a clock on the sideline, which is hard to see...but still, we've got to do that.

Next, I commit Error Number Two. I didn't get together with my partner. She might have had some information, and it would have slowed me down. I needed to be slowed down to figure out all that was going on.

I go to the table. I say: "What happened?" She says: "I didn't start the clock on time." I say: "Was it more than three seconds?" This is a minor, unnumbered error...the question was leading. I would have done better to say "How late were you?"

She said it was more than three seconds. So this leads me to wipe off the foul. I never, ever should have done that. Dammit. Error Number Three.

I've checked the rule book, and it says what I thought it said: I need to have definite knowledge to make a fix. Neither my partner or I did. Does the timer's knowledge count as definite? Upon reflection, I'd say not. I think the correct thing to do was to keep three seconds on the clock. Second choice was to fix the time, but to let Blue shoot their one-and-one. But I wiped off the foul.

I talked with a veteran official and told him our situation...a "what would you do?" situation...and he said "Gee, that's a tough one." But as I see it in the rule book and case book, I blew it. Better in fall league, I guess, but I'm still angry that I made the wrong call and managed to leave my partner out in the cold as I did so.

I compounded this in the second half with a bad block call.

It was a bizarre play. Blue is back on defense. She's set. White goes up and grazes her thigh a little. I have a no-call at that point. But because she grazed her thigh, White loses her balance and we have an ugly three-car pileup featuring an injury. I've got to toot my whistle. And I call...a block??? Huh?

I feel like I've been indoctrinated to the point of view that a Player Control foul needs to have fairly good contact on the torso. That didn't quite happen was just a weird pileup. But Blue didn't do anything wrong. Yet, when I went to call the foul, I saw it as White being tripped and decided in my head that she must have been set too wide. God damn it, I've made this mistake before, so it's inexcusable now. That's a PC foul. Sure, the original contact was light and not worthy of a call, but the subsequent contact counts too.

An idiot mother for Blue screamed. Loud. For a while. And this is where things got interesting. As I was turning to the gym manager to ask her for some help, number 32 for White turned to her and spoke at some length. It felt like 15 seconds...not just one second, but a paragraph's worth. Calmly. And when she finished, the majority of the crowd cheered. From there, I didn't hear from any parent again. Thank you, White 32.

The rest of the game was a little smoother. Thankfully, both teams switched to a zone, and it cleaned up. And the second game was not a big problem. I'm glad, because the two big mistakes took me out.

That might be what I take from today. I need to have a much shorter memory. I don't think I did poor work other than the two calls, but it took effort to get focused after the two oh-shit messups.

I'm glad I'm back out there next week. I need to put this one behind me.

THINGS I DID WELL: I'm not in the mood to fill this out.

THINGS TO WORK ON: SLOW THE HELL DOWN when faced with a bizarre situation. Bring my partner in. Watch the clock. Call no "legs too far apart" blocking fouls again unless the player is nearly doing the splits.

Sure, I'm a little rusty, but this performance wasn't good enough. I need to do far better.

Preview of today's games

I've got two games today and two games next week. I will stand up straight, watch off ball, and hustle, as these were some things that I noticed in camp.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Referees are the sexiest

Couldn't help noticing that in this New York Times article that the #1 best-selling costume for women from is a low-cut, skin-tight referee costume. They pitch it thusly: "Super Sexy and not afraid to call the guys out for a bad play."

I'll leave the interviewees in the Times to haggle over what all of this means. I'll just say a few things. First, I haven't seen this woman working in our association, but if forced, I'd be willing to take her under my wing. Second, I'm wondering what sport is best suited to her footwear. Finally, please note that the NFL took a step closer to this outfit this year. How would Hochuli look in this getup?

Saturday, October 14, 2006

If it were me...

I was going to avoid blogging about this, but it's become such a national story that I couldn't resist weighing in on Matewan High School coach Yogi Kinder's decision to leave a senior running back (whose name I won't use...I don't want to reward this butthole coach's tactics one iota) in a blowout game to set a national rushing record. The player ran for a record 658 yards and 10 touchdowns as Matewan blew out its obviously overmatched opponents 64-0.

Incredibly, it was even worse than it sounded in early reports. Matewan ran a no-huddle offense in the second half. They ordered their punt returners not to return punts, but to let the ball set up more possible rushing yards for the player.

Kinder demonstrated just about every ugly aspect of human nature. Seriously: check out the quotes in the very good Washington Post story.

There was a similar game last year in my sport of girls' basketball, when another butthole coach, Ed Grezinsky of Murry Bergtraum High in Manhattan, kept a player in to score a record 113 points in a 137-32 victory.

I've officiated horrible blowouts. I remember one that was something like 85-10. It was a JV game in my second year of officiating--the eventual 1A state champions against a rural school that didn't have any kids who could handle the ball. The coach took off the press at halftime (when they were leading by whatever ungodly amount), but the losing team's point guards would look at the ball as they dribbled. They'd get across halfcourt, and their defenders would swat the ball away and run upcourt for an uncontested layup. They must have scored 12 straight points that way. I wanted the winning coach to tell his kids to back off, play a zone, focus on rebounding, or something other than continue the humiliation.

For the most part, I'm not sure there's anything an official can do in such situations. I would have called any contact whatsoever a foul against the winning team on those steals--you bet your butt. But there wasn't any contact, I can't invent fouls. Just because the coach has no integrity doesn't mean I get to lose mine.

But an ESPN columnist, Greg Easterbrook, wrote this last week, and it's making me think:

The National Federation of High Schools 2006 Football Rules Book states, in Section 9, Article 3, "Neither team shall commit any act which, in the opinion of the referee, tends to make a travesty of the game." The head official present was derelict in not stopping the turning of the game into a travesty. Rule 9.3 is the most sweeping in football -- violation can be punished by "any penalty the referee considers equitable," from multiple flags per down to forfeiture of the contest. Yet the officials did nothing, allowing the integrity of the game to be mocked.

There is a similar rule in NFHS basketball.

Under what circumstances would I enforce the "travesty" rule?

I'm trying to imagine options if I'm the referee for the Matewan game. Do I go to butthole Kinder and say: "You will take your player out. Right now"? No, I don't. I'm not into making substitutions.

Do I force him to make his kids return punts? Maybe. If it's obvious that they're doing letting the punt roll for the sole purpose of giving their kid more rushing yards, that's not in the spirit of the game. I might flag an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty...but of course, if it's assessed after the punt (as I assume it would be), that would actually work to the advantage of butthole Kinder, since it would give his kid more rushing yards.

What about the no-huddle? The no-huddle is clearly not a strategic choice here; it's only intended to run up the score. It feels like an obvious "travesty" flag to me. But again, I'm stuck figuring out the rule. Does West Virginia run the clock under the mercy rule? Because if they don't, throwing a flag stops the clock, which works to Matewan's advantage. Backing them up 15 yards also works to Matewan's advantage. But if the clock is running, I suppose the ref could throw the flag and encourage the opponents to decline the penalty. While Butthole Kinder bitches about it (which a man of his limited morality clearly would), let the clock run!

What about a forfeit? No. That's like a nuclear weapon: we don't want to go there. That would punish the kids' deserved victory for the coach being a turd. I'm not comfortable taking away a win for that, or even threatening to (because you know Butthole Kinder would call my bluff).

So, in the end, there are few good options for the refs in such difficult situations, and while I'm glad ESPN's Easterbrook wrote what he did--it made me think--I think he's too hard on the officials. I'm simply can't come up with an effective and fair way for the officials to stop what happened. All of my ideas, which were developed over a couple of days of thinking, are far from perfect, and I doubt I'd be able to come up with them under pressure and on the spot.

Sometimes, I guess, the bad guys win, and we can't stop 'em.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Joe Buck gets sensible

He actually repetadly complimented Tim Welke and crew for the Scott Spezio triple call tonight. Tough call, and I'm glad Buck and McCarver are actually capable of giving the umps some love.

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