Sunday, February 03, 2008

Disagreement with a partner

I don't like bashing partners--it's bad mojo, so I just catharted all of my partner complaints for my career into one post. But I had a disagreement with a varsity-level partner recently that's troubling me, so I'm going to post about it here. I don't think it's partner-bashing to do this; he's clearly comfortable with his position, and I with mine. But I want to post here to get some other perspectives.

It started with the opening jump. My more-experienced partner was tossing. The ball was tipped, rattled around a little bit, and was tied up again--the tall jumper for White and a shorter player (not the original jumper) for Blue. Bizarre, weird situation I've had covered in a few meetings but have never actually had happen before: if there's a tie-up before the possession arrow has been established, we jump again, and the two players who tied it up jump. I love it when bizarre, rare rules come into play. I stepped in and pointed at the two players. He said "Nope...same two jumpers."

He's wrong. I know he's wrong. It's not worth a fight, but I know he's wrong.

The bad part is that the White coach, wanting the advantage of a smaller Blue jumper, asks me "It should be Blue 32 jumping, right?" I had to give him The Big Ignore, because the only truthful response I could give him was "Yep. You're right. My partner is wrong."

I figured partner just had a brain fart (and if you read this often, you know that I certainly have plenty of those myself). But at halftime, I told my partner the rule, and he essentially told me that, while that's true, he did it his way because it was more just. What happened was that Blue grabbed the ball a split second before White tied him up, he said, and rather than setting the arrow for White, giving Blue the ball, and then changing the arrow back to White, he figured he'd just re-jump. I never did figure out why he did a do-over with the original jumpers instead of following the actual rule and jumping with the players who were tied up, but he was adamant that what he did was good for the game.

Then, another similar situation.

Free throw by White. The ball is released. Blue enters the lane before the ball hits. Air ball.

I know this one, because I screwed it up just a couple of weeks ago.

Double violation. We go to the arrow.

I sold it, I explained it to the table, heard nothing from either coach...I got it right.

But at halftime, my partner disagreed.

"We need to give her another free throw."

I told him that wasn't the rule, that I'd learned it the hard way recently, that we need to go to the arrow. He said that we, as an association, had decided that we would award a substitute free throw because of disconcertion. I asked how it could be disconcertion if the White player had already released the ball when Blue stepped in. He never answered the question to my satisfaction. Instead, he said: "You'll never go wrong awarding another free throw. Nobody will ever complain."

This bugged me for two reasons. First, it was empirically wrong. Both coaches knew what happened because I sold the call. Not a peep from either. I had to explain the the table it was a jump ball situation, but that wasn't a big deal.

Second, if we had a coach who knew the rule--like the White coach did for the jump ball situation--we'd be in the untenable position of standing by a position we knew was wrong. I don't ever want to do that.

I realized the discussion had no chance of going anywhere, so I said "I respectfully disagree." His response:

"Well, that's fine, but when you work with me, we'll do it my way."

It's hard enough getting the rule book down solid. Now, thanks to this partner, I not only have to know the rulebook, I have to memorize which rules each of my partners will follow and which rules they will set aside. And even though this guy was a good partner overall, I have a pretty severe problem with that.

His impression of me is that I'm a soulless rule-follower. That's not the case. I occasionally look the other way. For example, if an overweight player in a girls' JV game is wearing the largest jersey they can find, and if that jersey comes untucked every time she reaches her arms above her head, I'm not going to embarrass the kid by continually sending her to the bench to tuck her shirt in.

But something that affects play on the court--like each of these situations do--well, the whole damn point is to get it right. Not right by my internal sense of justice, not right based on minimizing bench reaction, but right based on the book. And when it comes to a ruling that impacts play on the court, I don't feel right about an official's own foibles superseding that.


At 1:56 PM, Blogger Young Ref: The blog for Basketball Officials said...

As much as I think your right, you are treading dangerous waters. Your post the past few weeks have talked about how happy you are doing some varsity ball and while I know you deserve to work it because of your experience, your still new to them.

Every game you do with an "experienced" partner like this one you are judged a lot and maybe it is a good idea to express your beliefs, but when it comes down to it for me, I would do what they do when you have to. Build up your rep with the new group, show your a good ref and soon you will be able to change how things work in this area for the better. From the sounds of it they really need some change....

At 8:28 AM, Anonymous massref said...

I think you did what you could do. You can't stand out on the court and fight it out. You can't yell about it in the locker room later. You pointed out the correct rule and enforced it when it was within your ability to do so.

It's tough to go against the big dogs, no question. And as the new guy in town, it might not be a great strategy for you personally.

But I would simply say to continue doing what you did in that game. You enforced the rules correctly when you could do so without making a scene. When it would make a scene, you deferred. But if you get a call from an assignor, you can say that you tried to get the correct call.

What else can you do, really? Tough spot to be in. But I think you did good. JMHO.

At 8:33 AM, Anonymous massref said...

I forgot about this:

"Well, that's fine, but when you work with me, we'll do it my way."

Even if I'm the new guy, this statement goes right out the window. When I make a call, it's what I believe to be the right one. You want to screw it up on purpose when you blow the whistle, that's your business. But I'm not intentionally getting it wrong.

He's just trying to bully you with that statement.


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