Sunday, February 25, 2007

Cricket update

Darrell Hair, the umpire I've talked about in the past who was accused of racism for what turned out to be an inaccurate penalty against Pakistan for ball-tampering, has dropped his lawsuit accusing the Pakistan Cricket Board and International Cricket Council of racism in dropping him.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

06/07 Season in Review

I improved a good deal this year.

I'm confident that the evaluators will notice. OK, there will be one low score in there, due to a bungled rule in the big game, but I can forgive myself that, and the low score is dropped anyway. And, of course, I have found it difficult to predict evaluators scores in the past...some of the most complimentary post-game love-fests have resulted in low scores, and some reamings have resulted in high scores. And, in any event, the scores don't matter at all since I'm moving to a new city this July. The only way making the playoff list will affect me is through my confidence/ego. But what's important is that I feel like I did very well this year.

First, let's go to the numbers:

22 varsity games.
Zero JV games. Which was nice, I admit...I was fresher for varsity this year.
3 freshman games.
9 junior high games.
12 rec-league games of various levels (5th through 9th grade).

Total: 46 ballgames. Down two from last year...would have been higher, but loads of weather cancellations were never quite made up.

Now, let's look at what my goals were from the end of last year:
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.

And now, analysis of how I did on all of these this year:

1. Mechanics. I'm still too loosey-goosey, according both the videotape and an evaluator I trust. Some of this is simply physicality. I'm a loosey-goosey guy; I've always had arms that sort of flop around like wet spaghetti. But I think this has a fairly simple solution that I've noticed as I've watched a lot of great refs working the HS playoffs.

I just need to slow the hell down.

If, after making the call, I inhaled once slowly, just standing with my fist in the air, I would then be able to slow down the mechanic as well. Instead of bouncing in and shouting "nonononono" while my arms did whatever the hell they were doing, I'd be able to give a nice, definitive, authoritative, solid mechanic. I'm fine at the table, I's loosey-gooseyness at the spot I need to work on.

2. Screens. I didn't notice a problem with these this year. I probably passed on one or two I could have called, but next year I'll be more definitive on the bad screens, especially as C. The rules, however, I feel 100% confident with now.

3. Poaching across the key as lead: I'd be lying if I said this hadn't happened this year...but I did improve a lot. I've also learned to be a little more patient as I did it, and to defer on any double whistles. People are less upset about this call than they used to be. I wasn't perfect, but I'm satisfied with how this went this year.

4. Staying with shooters. Noticed no issues whatsoever with this.

So, three out of four ain't bad.

Beyond these personal points of emphasis, I just felt like my games were really smooth this year. Even the single most challenging one never felt like it was out of control. I never got a feeling like my partners and I were messing up a perfectly good simply was a smooth year. I don't know whether I'm better or more confident or what, but I never felt like a game was in the crapper.

On top of that, I handled higher-pressure situations and games well. The big one, in spite of the one error, felt okay...the next one will feel better, I'm sure. (Update: one of those teams is already in the state tournament, and the other will be in if they win today. Yes, it really was as big as it appeared!) Other non-marquee matchups that were nonetheless important also went well, and the blowouts and lousy games were pretty good too. I simply felt up for every matchup. If I were sticking around town next year, and if my scores got me up to the playoff list, I'd be excited for the challenge of a really, legitimately, ohmygod big game. But, given that the best I can hope for is to be the newbie on the varsity list, I'll use the year to get my bearings, make an impression, and get another year's worth of experience.

Additionally, every varsity game I did this year except for the last one was a 3-person game. At some point during this year, 3-person became my default way of thinking instead of 2-person. That's a huge, definitive change in my mindset. When I closed out the year with a 2-person varsity game, it just felt weird. Given my past discomfort with 3-person, that's a major bit of progress.

Coaches were fine this year. I went from 1 T last year (on an assistant) to 3 T's this year (all on head coaches, a stretch of 3 Ts in 5 varsity games). I thought it was a coincidence at the time, and it turned out it was, since I didn't have a T the whole rest of the season. Mostly, I continue to feel like I'm getting more respect from coaches. Maybe it's that I bring more of a presence these evaluator and the video seem to show that. Perhaps I get more respect because coaches recognize me now...I entered several gyms this year to friendly waves from coaches, and while that's not something I consciously work for, it does make the job easier. Perhaps those coaches now know that yelling at me will be ineffective (because I'm either too good or too'll have to ask the coaches). As a new guy in town next year, I'll be starting at square one. I'm confident I can get back.

In any event, here are some things I can work on for next season.

1. SLOW THE HELL DOWN. All of the worst errors I made this year have going too fast as a common denominator. Additionally, as I said before, this negatively impacts my mechanics as well. Next year, in weird situations, I will breathe once before making a big decision. Literally, physically, deeply breathe while in the conference. It's a trick I learned as a singer...when you're nervous, breathe. Don't remember to breathe, don't focus on breathing...actually breathe. And when I stick my fist up, I will breathe once before delivering the call at the spot.

2. FIND A DEFENDER. ALWAYS. I got better at looking at the defense this year, but was still surprised by a defender or two. In the last month or so, I improved, mostly because I started to look not only at the ballhandler, but where the ballhandler is going so I could pick up a defender. The thing is though, paradoxically, the more I improved at refereeing the defense, the more I realized what a long way I had to go in refereeing the defense. I suspect this will be a career-long of those tough tasks that I always get better at, but never 100% get well. Still, it's on the list.

3. MORE PARTNER AWARENESS. Slowing down will help this too, but I'd like to bring my partners a little more into my know what they're looking at as well as what I'm looking at. There were bumpy T/C ball tradeoffs this year, and a couple of times I missed a double whistle (some near-miss blarges). I will be a better partner, not just at dead balls, but on live balls too.

4. NO MORE ZONING OUT. Late in games, I find I have gotten tunnel-vision. This is a little related to #3, but I need to find a way to be less zombie-like late in games. Is it fatigue causing this? Whatever it is, I need to beat it.

And thus ends season #8. Next season is season #9, but season #1 with everything new as I move from my big city to a slightly smaller city three hours away. You can rest assured that I'll be blogging about it here. This blog makes me a better do those of you who read it, whether you comment or not. Just knowing that there are officials out there, reading this, whom I have to be accountable to makes a difference to me and pushes me to get better more so than I would without this blog.

So thanks, y'all, for reading.

Have a nice summer, but keep coming back. I'll be sporadically talking about officiating-related news.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Barkley/Bavetta challenge...

Well played, Dick. You're giving up 24 years, and you damn near caught him.

Funny guy, Dick Bavetta is...and this is a good way to humanize refs and make a few bucks for charity.

If I'm in Bavetta shape at 67, I'll be thanking every lucky star I've got.

Check out the race here.

It's hard to be in the crowd...

Hey, coach of a ninth-grade select team! I sat next to you at last night's playoff games. Remember me? We were both there as fans...I recognized you from doing one of your games last weekend, but you probably didn't recognize me.

Let me give you a clue:

You can't yell "Let them play!" back-to-back with "Come on! Call that!" It makes you into a walking paradox!

You probably aren't capable of recognizing the fact that you looked bad last night. Your best bet going forward would be to cheer for your team and keep the officiating comments to yourself.

Or, you could join our association. I'll buy you your first shirt. Come on board.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Game Log 2/13/2007: Season finale

The last game of the season was my first 2-man varsity game of the season. I have to say that I do NOT miss 2-man mechanics! I ran a hell of a lot more tonight than I have in any game this year, and they weren't running that much. Hooray for 3-man.

The skill level of these small teams was not all it could be, and the net result is that it looked like they were traveling a lot. Looked like isn't the same as doing it, of course. I had a good look at a lot of pivot feet staying on the ground while a lot of wacky stuff was happening elsewhere, while both coaches and the crowd yelled "Travel! Travel!" Knowledge of the rules is not necessary. Ick.

There was enough "Travel! Travel!" in the first half that at halftime, my partner said he thought we should go out and warn both coaches to start the second half. I said "If you think that's best." By the end of halftime, he was having second thoughts. The score was 11-6, which was enough to convince him we shouldn't start the half adversarially. He did wind up warning the home coach.

Meanwhile, I warned a visiting assistant. She did a LOT of bitching, and finally I'd had enough. The deal was, she was complaining about the stupidest thing! Here was the play that brought on the warning: Blue was on a drive. White was standing in her path, waiting for about a month and a half. Blue sees this and pulls up--not straight up, but sort of awkwardly a little bit forward. She releases the shot (a miss) and as she comes down, makes way, way light contact with White. White falls over onto her back...a pretty clear flop. No call.

Blue's coach says: "FOUL! CALL THE FOUL!" Um...any foul there is player control. Is that really what you want?

Another weird one. White goes up for a shot. Blue reaches in and gets all ball as she goes up, but White is stronger. She goes through it and leaves her feet for the shot...but doesn't release it. She just landed. Travel. Coach hollers for a jump. I tried miming what happened to the coach, but didn't communicate it well that way. Bad move. When I finally explained it to the annoyed coach, I wound up saying "She didn't have enough control of the ball." Partner put it better at halftime: "She powered through." I should have had the vocab at the ready. Tough break.

A weird play in the third quarter. Blue has the ball. Shot clock clicks down. Wild desperation three. The buzzer goes while the ball is in the air, and the ball just grazes rim (yeah, I know as lead I shouldn't have been looking, but when the buzzer went, I looked up. I'm human.). My partner blew his whistle as White gathered the ball under the hoop (Blue had given up at the buzzer). White was going to get the ball anyway, but it was a missed call. I wanted to talk to him to give him the out of an inadvertent whistle, but that was the moment he'd had it with the White coach. He said: "It's your ball under the basket, coach. Now sit down and stop talking!" I figured from partner's facial expression that, um, we weren't going to have a conference. I inbounded the ball.

On the whole, quite uneventful. A fine way to end the year.

I'll have a year in review up in a few days. Stay tuned for that, and for sporadic updates through the summer as officiating news breaks and stuff.

THINGS I DID WELL: Had pivot feet. Stayed in position. No errors in 2-man positioning.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Weird coach communication.
NEXT UP: I'd like to go to a camp in July, but my wife and I are moving this summer, so it's not a sure thing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Game log 2/11/2007: Four in a day? Is that legal?

Thankfully, my four-pack today was in the right order: 8th, 7th, 6th, and finally 5th. Makes it a lot easier on me. I didn't half-ass it as I tried to get through the games...maybe I three-quarter-assed it, but not half. I ran and didn't walk. The net result: Four good games. I can't recall a call I want back. We did take a lot of passes, especially for the little kids, but I think that's good. The kids learn more from playing in a game with a little flow when we let a few things go. The 6th grade game was highly unusual: the visiting team won by a LOT, but it featured my first 11-1 foul half. (The eleven were on the winning team; it was the second half). I kept looking to call something on the losing team, but they were so timid (that's why they were losing) that there was just nothing there. The winning coach had nothing to complain about; he was way up and a class act.

I knew I wouldn't put up with anything today, so I warned coaches in each of the first two games before things got out of control. They never did.

I believe I got thanked by coaches after every stinking game. So it feels good. Emotionally, I mean. My ankles and legs do NOT feel so good. But they're not terrible either.

I learned today that when I wear a sleeve over my knee with shorts, the sleeve creeps down. It doesn't do that under my polyester black ref pants.

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, coach management
THINGS TO WORK ON: Mind wandering late

NEXT UP: Small-school sub-.500 varsity on Tuesday night. Even matchup; could be fun.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Game Log 2/9/2007: Embarrassing

It was my fourth time visiting this school this year. Three times last year. Every damn one of them a 7:30 start.

Tonight was a 5:45 start. But I didn't see the damn thing on my calendar. My eyes just blew right past it.

My partners, people I trust, didn't email me, nor I them. (Error number two.)

I walked in nice and early to evaluate the JV game. Right at tipoff.

Tipoff of the varsity game.

My game.

I ran into the locker room, changed in the stall, and was on the floor with 3:31 to go in the first quarter.

The game itself brought few was a 40-point game and not terribly physical. There's one call I want back: I called a block at least partially out of mercy for the losing team in the third quarter, but I think it was too good a position to call a borderline call. I won't do that again.

I handled a good situation with the home coach. He didn't like a no-call by my partner near the end of the first, and told me about it. I said "My partner had a great look at it." He asked me to talk to partner about it. I did. Partner said the kid for White tripped over a kid in good position to fall down. I relayed that to coach at the start of the second (with partner's permission). Coach was cool and pacified.

I can't call three seconds while a coach is barking it in my ear as C. I was ready to, but I can't look like a ventriloquist coach's dummy.

Anyhow. Even though both of my partners said they wouldn't tell anyone about my tardiness (both are frequent partners who know this is way, way out of character for me), I went ahead and let my assignor the unlikely event one of the coaches or the AD lets her know I was late, I don't want her to be blindsided. It's possible I'll be fined, but I can't argue about it. I simply blew it. But I'll shake it off. It won't ever happen again.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach management, blowout management, especially in second half.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Fucking remember to fucking read the fucking schedule. Email partners no matter what. Reward good defense on block/charge call.
NEXT: Fortunately, I'm on my assignor's good side, because I volunteered to take some kid games this Sunday when we were shorthanded. She gave me FOUR. I haven't done four in a day since I was 9 years younger than I am now. I was bummed about that, but hey, now it's just penance for today's blunder.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Game Log 2/6/2007: Slogging through a flu

I've been under the weather these past few days, and today, well, it felt like work. I might have missed a couple of rotations, but we endured. Got compliments from both coaches at the end of the night, had a couple of good partners...can't complain.

I did go to the visiting coach before the game and told him that I was disappointed with how things went down the last time I saw him...that I felt like I missed a call, and then didn't get a chance to talk to him about it. He was cool, and actually surprised to hear from me. Good guy.

Very close to a blarge tonight. Fortunately, my partner (T, who had a forearm shove), was a tad slower to his PC foul than me (L, saw player didn't get there on time), who was way quick to the block. To be honest, that's a textbook blarge, not that anyone would want to call it. Good thing I was oblivious. This time.

Not going to spend more time here now...I've already called in sick to work tomorrow, and I'm hoping that a good, 11-hours-of-sleep night will lick this lingering least before my next game on Friday night.

THINGS I DID WELL: Gutted it out. Refereed the defense.
THINGS TO WORK ON: Didn't pick up a secondary defender as T. Mind wandered a bit late.
NEXT UP: Probably blowout game on Friday.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Game Log 2/5/2007: A pair

Junior high game first, for which I was given the wrong site (probably not my assignor's fault, though). I arrived 3 minutes into the game...partner was fine with it, since he had also gone to the right place. I only remember one call...a quick judgement on a block in spite of hard contact on the torso. I thought I'd blown it...partner told me I didn't. "In fact," he said, "the contact was exaggerated because the defender was NOT set." Cool.

High school game. Went smooth. Small Rural beat Small Religious with a big third quarter. Each half started with one team getting way up on the foul count, and ended with the fouls right about even.

Fine night, all in all. Now, five more days of reffing this year...

THINGS I DID WELL: Good judgement on quick calls.
THINGS TO WORK ON: I need to be more aware of partners.
NEXT UP: Tomorrow night...two sub-.500 bigger schools.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Game Log 2/2/07: Yuck

At the end of the third quarter of tonight's small-school varsity game, the home team led 31-3.

That is not a misprint. 3 points in 3 quarters.

I remarked to my partners that I had never had a team score in single-digits before in a varsity game. Neither had they.

Red (the losing team) had several trips to the line, but couldn't hit a free throw...but in the fourth quarter, they wound up getting a few buckets and making it to double digits.

I barely broke a sweat tonight. We were lulled to sleep, I'm afraid, and late in the game, partner had a good call away from the ball that we gave shots for. Bad idea, since it was team control. All three of us missed it.

Yeah, we blew that call. But it didn't (believe it or not) have an impact on the final outcome.

THINGS I DID WELL: Lots of good passes on calls, game management
THINGS TO WORK ON: Focus, even in a mega-horrible game
NEXT UP: Tiny-school tilt on Monday.

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