Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rules Guy

This also happened: I was visiting a varsity game where there was an unusual call in the first half. I headed into the locker room, where there was a disagreement on the call, and one of the officials looked at me and said "So, Rules Guy, who's right?"

I gave my take on it (which was right, by the way).

I'm feeling pretty good, since I have my wife give me those Referee magazine quizzes every single month, and I know that I'm pretty good about assessing the appropriate penalty. All that hard work is paying off! A veteran official trusts me with the rules! It's an honorable moniker...I'm Rules Guy!

(By the way, as an aside, wife and I have fun with the rules quizzes. As soon as wife says "A1 has the ball..." I tend to respond with "Oh, A1! Whatever will you do today?" It's a laugh a minute. Maybe we need to get a babysitter and get out for a change...)

I then asked the veteran official: "So, how did I get to be Rules Guy?"

" just look like a Rules Guy."

OK. So it's not my dogged determination to be right or my ability to get it right under pressure that he noticed by calling me Rules Guy. It was simply the fact that I'm kinda dorky-looking.

Well...I'll still choose to take it as a compliment. I'm Rules Guy.

I'll admit it...

I can't be the only person this has happened to. It's towards the end of a tough doubleheader, and I'm standing for a free throw, arms extended sideways to signal a one-and-one. And suddenly, it occurs to me...

"Man, do I ever smell bad right now."

Game Log 1/29/2010: When the junior high JV coach complains...

Challenging games on Friday. We had unskilled junior high boys who aren't quite good enough to be on the top teams. And I had a partner who was doing his fifth and sixth games...ever.

It's almost impossible to come out looking good in a game with players who--and I say this remembering my own junior high years, not to ridicule the players--aren't quite acquainted with their newly-long arms and legs. The game wasn't violent, but there was enough contact and violations that we could have blown the whistle almost all the time. On top of that, my partner was struggling, as I certainly was during my fifth and sixth games. So I tried to keep an eye all over the court...sort of had to.

Between giving encouragement and basic lessons at time outs ("Be sure to get your arm up when you blow the whistle!"), I just worked as hard as I could.

But the coach for one team kept chirping. "The fouls are ten to four!" "You can't let him plow in like that!" I talked to her once, saying that I wasn't going to listen. She kept it up. Finally, I said this during a free throw:

"Coach, this is a challenging game, and I have a partner who is new. I'm not going to listen to you today."

As soon as I said it, I felt bad. I didn't intend to throw new guy under the bus, but I sort of did. Fortunately, the coach took it the way I wanted it to be taken. She said "He's new?" and then didn't say another word all day long. But next time, I'll want to be more careful...maybe say "still learning." A more buttheaded coach could have gone a different direction.

The first game wound up being a one-point game. It came down to free throws on a foul I called out of my area--too obvious to let my partner die with, I thought. Kid made one of two. Losing coach didn't like the call (it was not the coach I had to warn), but his team also had multiple free throws, etc. down the line.

Second game was a blowout with two very kind coaches. Same problem as before--lots of limbs and little control of them. We passed on a LOT. I felt bad because one kid got a bloody nose, but it wasn't because of a was just two kids reaching for a loose ball, and one got it in his schnoz (and I didn't see how, but it sure wasn't much of a foul if I did). Most of the game was spent beseeching my partner to get his hand up. I look forward to seeing the guy down the's too early to tell how he'll do, but it's always fun to see improvement.

THINGS I DID WELL: Adjusted game to unusual circumstances, handled whiny coach
THINGS TO WORK ON: Geez. This game was so bizarre and such an outlier that I'm not sure where to go here. Maybe go easier on novice partner? Early on, I may have given too much advice.

NEXT UP: Small school girls/boys varsity on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Game Log 1/28/2010: Coach management

Some ticklish situations tonight in my JV/Varsity girls' games. We had a winless team against a middle of the pack team. I was the R with two surprisingly inexperienced partners...this isn't a complaint, since both worked hard, but I had to do a LOT of traffic cop on 3-man mechanics. But still, it's always a surprise when I'm the Big Dude In Charge.

JV game was especially challenging, since the winless school had only 6 players on the squad. Those girls were also doing enough fouling that we could have made them go the second half with 4 or even 3 girls, but we held our whistles on the the borderline stuff, and perhaps a couple of things just on the other side of the border too. Winning coach was a little annoyed, but this was a least-of-several-evils situation.

Anyway, with about a minute and a half left, winless fouled out its second player and was then stuck with four. Winning coach told my partner she'd willingly pull a kid and play 4-on-4. Partner agreed. While that is certainly a sweet sentiment by coach and partner, I had to tell partner that this was against the rule--winning team had to play with 5 or get an illegal substitution technical (and then be required to put a fifth kid on the floor after the shots). Partner went in and reversed his decision. Nice move.

Much to everyone's surprise, the Varsity game was tied after a quarter, but Winless couldn't keep it together after that and wound up losing by several dozen. We called the game properly, I think--didn't ever ease up (they pretty much didn't let us). I'm proud of my coach management from tonight. Winless coach is a good guy, polite throughout. Reasonable people are easier to deal with, but I'm still proud of how I handled some situations with him.

Case 1:

COACH: You've got to call them for keeping an arm on our dribblers! You're letting them get away with stuff you're calling on us!

ME: Coach, I disagree, but I'll look.

-Immediate silence. (For what it's worth, Winning team played pretty good straight-up defense, partners and I agreed.)

COACH: Sir, could you explain that last call before halftime? (This was early in the third.)
ME: Coach, without going into too much detail, let me tell you we talked that one over at halftime.
COACH; All right.

Oh, and one funny one, after winless absolutely creamed a shooter:

COACH: I'm not going to complain about that one.
ME: [cracks up at table]. Thank you.
COACH: Yeah, she creamed her. Nobody could complain about that one.
ME: But people do.
COACH: Well, I won't.

Nice moment overall.

The game was as good as we could make it--on the whole, it came together just fine, especially for a pair of inexperienced partners on a varsity/JV doubleheader. I won't pretend it was perfect, but I was a leader, managing personalities of coaches and partners under some tough circumstances. I'm proud of the work we did tonight.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach management, partner management
THINGS TO WORK ON: May have let the losers of the JV game get away with just a shade too much.
NEXT: Junior high boys doubleheader tomorrow (Friday).

Game Log 1/25/2010: Junior high stuff

I'm a few days behind on my game logs--I'm finding that a boy on sleep strike makes it difficult to blog at night after the games. But I remember enough about these games to know there wasn't a serious problem. Coaches behaved well and kids (8th and 7th grade boys) were surprisingly talented. The second game came down to a last shot. I was lead when a kid for the team trailing by one drove and tried to force a shot. Not much contact on the shot by the defender, who knocked the ball out of bounds. Blue ball. They missed three shots in the final five seconds thereafter, and the kid who drove on my no-call was none too pleased, but I'd do it again.

Pet peeve: parents who stand back behind the baseline and bitch--in a gym with inadequate seating, there's not much to be done.

I also debuted new shoes in these games. Have a blister on top of my right big toe, but no sign of tendon trouble. Hooray.

THINGS I DID WELL: Call selection, stayed in area
THINGS TO WORK ON: Keeping up with quick, turnover-plagued boys

NEXT: It already happened. JV/Varsity girls tonight.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Game Log 1/21/2010: Good game with one bizarre moment; did I get it right?

Freshman boys tonight. While doing one game in a night is not nearly as lucrative as my usual JV/Varsity boys' doubleheader, it certainly is a lot more pleasant.

What I liked about this one is that my partner (a third-year official) and I had a really good pregame and stuck to it. We said we would take care of the dribblers; each of us called hand-checks in a way that showed crew integrity. We said we'd watch off-ball; we had some good post play calls. While the home team got out ahead significantly, we never changed the way we called the game; the game didn't call for it. It's a good thing, too, since the visitors almost made a game of it.

Lots of shot clock problems. It's certainly possible we missed a bum reset or two, but we noticed problems often enough that I'm proud of our alertness. And I even put a coach back into his box!

One bizarre moment tonight that I think I got right (but I'd like verification).

Late in the game, there's a foul on White. It's the kids' fifth foul. Two shots (double bonus). I head out to report it, where the table tells me the kid is disqualified. Coach doesn't care for the call, so I provide a quick explanation which delays me a little bit as I tell the coach and the player that this is the kid's fifth foul. Long story short: when I turn to tell my partner about the fifth foul, he already has the kid for Blue shooting.

He misses.

What do do now?

I brought on the sub and had the kid shoot two. Explained to the White coach that "you only had four players on the floor."

Not sure this is right. What would y'all do in that situation? Ignore the missed free throw and shoot two, or count it and go on to shoot the second of two?

Anyway, a relatively problem-free night. I'm glad we were the ones on the job; we kept it clean and stuck to it throughout.

THINGS I DID WELL: Followed through on pre-game talk, crew integrity, coach management
WORK ON: Got beat down the floor a time or two, posture probably wasn't good

NEXT: While I originally had a girls JV/Varsity doubleheader scheduled for Tuesday, I had to turn it back due to a work commitment. In exchange, I made myself available on Monday. Net result: I'm doing junior high games on Monday. I'll use them to work on posture and slowing down on the spot.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Game Log 1/14/10: Surprise! Boys' varsity!

Had a JV game scheduled tonight: two-man. Headed out there and handled it all right. Partner and I discussed things clearly, put together a few decent quarters, cleaned up the game, and headed to the locker room. We simply shook hands and readied ourselves for a surprisingly early trip home.

Problem: There were no officials in the locker room.

We called our assignor. My partner reached him. Fortunately--indeed--because he wound up heading up for a three-person game.

We needed him. It was a physical matchup--and it was probably the toughest boys' game I've ever had (not that there have been many).

Home team jumped out to a big lead and basically held on thereafter. And, in the second quarter, visiting coach became really pissed off at me. Down on his offensive end of the floor, visiting post player thrusted out his butt and displaced his opponent. He doesn't get to do that. Foul on Red. I wound up in his ear for the next possession. "Look at that in the post! Don't call it on them!" First thing I saw worth calling? A push on Red.

Coach was irate. He actually called time out just to holler. Didn't think it was a technical, but didn't really have much response either. Eventually, I just said "Coach, are you done?" He was speechless. He didn't want to say "yes," since I hadn't said "Gee, coach, you're absolutely right." He didn't want to say "no," either. So he said "Are you going to start calling that?" I just said "I'll keep calling the game as best as I can."

I did wind up warning him in the third quarter, which pretty well stopped him for the rest of the night. Red had launched a shot that hit the shot clock above the backboard (after the rim). I blew it dead and gave it to White. Correct call--as correct as it comes. Next time down the floor said "You know, that ball didn't hit the shot clock." How the hell do you respond to that--a simply false statement? I responded with "Are you done?" again, and then a warning.

One other weird play. I had a double foul on banging post guys. Shot clock was NOT reset, which it should not be. But in my mind, I got screwed up when someone shouted "Reset!" I thought..."wait, we just had a foul" and blew my whistle too soon. But I caught myself and said " the shot clock at 16." White's assistant coach--a former college official, or so I'm told--said "No! You reset it to 20!" I'm pretty sure that's the college rule, but I know damn well it isn't the high school rule. I wish I'd either been a little more assertive or not responded to the assistant coach at all. But I said "That's the college rule." When he persisted, I said "I'll look it up." Better would have been "Let's both look it up, coach, but it's the college rule."

I do think we were tending to catch the second foul instead of the first, but this game was so physical that anybody would have struggled with it. (Did I mention how glad I was that a third official showed up?) It wasn't an incredibly great game on my part, but it wasn't a crash-and-burn either. As I continue to move up, I'll take that.

THINGS I DID WELL: Kept cool with loud coaches, handled weird situations reasonably well
THINGS TO WORK ON: I was a little timid, and I think my posture was a little off.
NEXT UP: Boys freshman game on Thursday.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Game Log 1/12/2010: One stupid, stupid mistake.

Worst game of the year tonight, and all because of one screw-up. It didn't impact the game, and I did fine in all other aspects of the JV and Varsity games, but with about a minute left in the first half of the varsity game, this happened.

White scores. I make my way upcourt as C. I head the coach say "Can I get a time out?" I toot my whistle.

Shit. Shit and damn and hell. Black was bringing the ball up the court, and I just tooted my whistle for White's time out request.

I did manage to say "Inadvertent whistle." If I had it to do over again, I would then have run away from White's coach and motioned my partners to inbound the ball again before White could call time out. But I didn't. I said: "Coach, I couldn't give you that time out then, but now the ball is dead. Do you still want it?"

Of course he did.

Black's coach said "Isn't that a technical foul?" I said "No, it isn't. It's a mistake by me." A minute later, at halftime, she said "Did they change that rule this year?" I don't think it's ever been a rule.

Anyway, an error that stupid really, really frosts me. I'm better than that. I've been having an awesome year, and even had a really good one -last- year. Then I up and do something like this. Crap.

It was a little bit in my head for the second half, but I don't think it impacted the quality of my calls or my game. It just sort of kept me mentally distant. Which, clearly I was to begin with, since it screwed me up.

I'd like to focus on the rest of the game--I had a few tough block/charge calls that I think I got right (and so do my partners), and we had good crew integrity and nice call selection.

But all I'll remember from this night is one breathtakingly stupid moment.

GOOD: Call selection, decent coach communication
WORK ON: Keep my goddamned brain in the goddamned game

NEXT UP: Boys' JV (alas, it's 2-person) on Thursday. Gotta shake the one whistle off.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

This heckle is no more. It has ceased to be.

I went shopping for ref shoes at the mall yesterday. The sore ankle freaked me out, but it looks like it's absolutely nothing--the pain was gone the next day. But it did freak me out enough that I decided I needed new ref shoes.

In the past, I've ordered them on-line, but after shutting down early for tendinitis two seasons ago, I've concluded I have to wear the things before buying them. So--to Foot Locker.

I was greeted by a very friendly, helpful clerk who put up with me as I tried many different pairs of shoes. I noticed he was wearing the old, collared black-and-white ref shirt. And in the midst of this, out of nowhere, it occurred to me:

I can't remember the last time a fan told me to "Go back to Foot Locker!"

It used to be one of the top five heckles in frequency. What I liked about it was that every pinhead fan who shouted that thought he or she was the only person clever enough to come up with it, when in reality about they were in a subset of about 15 percent of all heckles.

What happened to the Foot Locker heckle?

And all at once it hit me:

In our area, varsity officials now wear the grey (which I don't care for). Foot Locker salespeople have not made the switch. Therefore, during varsity games anyway, officials no longer dress like Foot Locker salespeople.

Heckle, we hardly knew ye...

Friday, January 08, 2010


I woke up this morning to ankle pain--the back-outside part of my right ankle hurts--a bone-on-bone kind of feeling--when I point my toe. I can still walk, and probably run too, but I'd better see a doctor before my next game. I hope to heck I'm not sidelined--I'm having a great year.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Game Log 1/7/2010: Another good set o' games

I don't like going to this gym because they put us in the boys' coach's office, and he usually is in there with us. We watch ESPN on his computer. There's really nowhere else to go (it's a very small place), so we just sit around and talk. I don't mind that, but I do NOT like the appearance that I'm hanging out with a coach for an extended period of time. I don't see a way around it, though.

Anyway--boys' and girls' games tonight. The girls' game was pretty smooth. These were very tiny schools (student body of maybe 100-200)--a tiny rural town school coming here to face a tiny religious school in a conference matchup. So there weren't too many skilled kids around. Didn't hear much from anyone, really, until late. With about 45 seconds left, White was down by 4. Green inbounded the ball and White pressed. I waited for the foul. No foul. Just good, stand-up defense in the backcourt. Green passed and dribbled. More good defense. The clock ticked down. Then I heard it from the White assistant coach.


Puh-leeeeez. I normally don't talk to assistants, but when I headed back down the floor with about 10 seconds left, I started to tell him there is no backcourt 10-second rule in the girls' game. He'd obviously been clued in, because before I could speak, he sheepishly said "I know, yeah." White hit a bucket with a couple seconds left, but lost by two.

When I saw the boys' teams, I was worried. Lots of big boys; I was ready for physical play. But each team settled into a zone and stayed there. Made life a LOT easier. Partner said we could have rotated more, but in a zone when the ball is kicked back and forth, I'm not so sure.

Anyway. Two weird calls. One was early in the second half. White went up for a shot, but while the ball was about waist level, Green blocked it. The ball didn't go far, but it popped out of the shooter's hands a little. He gathered it in while he was still in the air, dribbled, and scored an and-one.

White coach shouted for a jump ball. I said "Nope, coach...he lost control." To his credit, the White coach asked me for a explanation later, and accepted it.

Then, there's the When Should You Call The Same Thing At Both Ends question.

Green, who had stayed with White all day, totally fell apart in the fourth quarter, and were down by 18 or so with about 2-3 minutes left. They shot a three and missed. Partner had a call on the knock-the-kid-over-with-his-butt "box-out." The player had landed, so we shot one-and-one.

Coach and crowd were livid. Incorrect, but livid. They couldn't understand why were weren't shooting three shots.

Just my luck, though...About a minute later, White shot a three. And before he landed, Green threw a little forearm his way and made contact.

I may have scowled, since I knew how pissed off the losing team and their fans (who were already playing the "we're getting homered" card even though their team was down by 20 by then) would be. But that's a 3-shot foul.

Green coach was mad, but he made like a Jeopardy contestant and phrased it in the form of a question.

"What's the difference between the play down there and this play?"

I may have shown some annoyance, but I answered his question.

"That player down there had landed. This player had not yet landed."

There was no response. It's nice to be right.

I know that there's a school of thinking that, if similar plays at opposite ends occur, we need to call the same thing. But that feels chicken-poop to me. It's not my goal to be popular; it's my goal to be right...and I was.

I'm noticing an old, bad habit creeping back in...I'm saying stupid crap after I blow the whistle. The only call I want back all night was the first call I made in the boys' game...shooting foul...but not much forearm contact at all, and a helluva lot of ball. Nobody complained, but I didn't care for it. And I showed it, because the first words out of my mouth were anticipating complaints: "That's not all you got!" What the hell is that? SLOW DOWN, dude. Take a beat and you're less likely to say stupid stuff.

Another fine night, though.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach management, in position, call selection
THINGS TO WORK ON: Slow down, slow down.

Next: Girls JV/Varsity probable blowouts on Tuesday.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Game Log 1/5/2010: Boys' doubleheader

For the first time, I was assigned a boys' JV/Varsity doubleheader tonight. I've done boys' varsity before, but only as a part of girls/boys doubleheaders that the tiny-tiny schools do. These schools were merely small.

To be honest, I was quite nervous before the game, in a way I haven't been all year long. But I was a part of a good crew (including a 30-plus-year veteran), and the night went pretty well, all things considered.

The JV game was 100% uneventful. Got a moving screen early, flew through the first half without any bonus free throws, and made it through a surprising blowout second half (the team that was down by 10 at half outscored their opponents something like 30-3 in the second half. It was crazy.).

The Varsity game is the one I'll remember.

As my partner pointed out, it was a game that forced us to make a lot of decisions. Little handchecks, little bits of contact on rebounds, incidental crashes on loose balls...which ones do we like?

First, the Green coach was bummed because his team had committed 6 fouls to his opponents' 2. Then, the White coach was bummed because the next several fouls were on him. "We've had four in a row against us!" he said. I didn't see why that was significant. His kids kept fouling, and he thought it was ridiculous that they'd get to 15 in a half. Obviously, my partners and I did not feel the same.

The third quarter was crazy. Partner called a T on a kid for in-bouding the ball and then standing out of bounds for a few seconds. Coach's argument was "He was only there for three seconds!" The argument proved the infraction.

Then came a bizarre double-whistle. I was T on a full-court press, doing the ten-second count. I got to ten, tooted my whistle, and held up "Ten seconds!" Unfortunately, my partner tooted his whistle at the same time because White had called time out. We came together. He said he had the time out before the ten-second count. I said that it was close, and I thought it pertinent that the shot clock had ticked down 13 seconds. It seemed to me that, with that evidence sitting in front of everyone, it was the safer route to call ten seconds. We did. I stand by that.

Finally, I had the last shot at the end of the third quarter. It was an unusual gym with a clock at only one end, so I was keeping a corner of an eye on it when there was a steal and a break for White. I hauled my butt down the court, waiting for a possible crash on the breakaway layup and listening for the buzzer all at the same time. Stealer went up--and I had a block, a clear no-call. But I was taken by surprise by the second shot that took place as soon as the player recovered the ball. I had another no-call, but it's one I'm a little less confident in.

The third quarter therefore ended with some of the loudest boos I've ever endured.

Here's the thing: it didn't bother me. It surprises me, sometimes, to notice how much I've improved and matured as an official in the past few years. I was totally calm under great stress.

Of course, my veteran partner put it best, I believe. "Well, guys, we're not going to redeem ourselves in White's eyes. So let's just go out and keep reffing our game."

The best part: the fourth quarter was awesome.

Coach started the fourth quarter by saying "He was fouled on the layin." I asked "Which one?" and he said "Both!" I responded thusly: "Coach, I had a good look at the first one. The second one...well..." Coach nodded, and that ended that.

Not long thereafter, I had a stone-cold push-off on White's big post kid. Two hands on the upper back, and he then gathered in the ball for a laying. From my position as C, I had it perfectly, so I closed and sold it.

My mojo with the White coach continued. "He only had one hand! It was just one hand getting the ball! He can't have pushed off."

My response was 100% effective. "Coach, if that's what you saw, the you started watching the play a little after I did. The push was before that."

He nodded.

Man, do I love feeling competent. And tonight's games have given me confidence for boys' games in the future. I still have some work to do, to be sure--I need to be prepared for more blocked/challenged shots than I'm accustomed to on the girls' side. But this was a tight, stressful game in which I felt neither tight nor stressful. The game could have gone into the crapper in the fourth quarter, but it didn't. Most of the credit for that belongs to the players, but a lot goes to us, and I'm proud of that.

THINGS I DID WELL: Coach communication, rotations
THINGS TO WORK ON: Adjustments to boys' game

NEXT UP: Tiny-school girls/boys varsity on Thursday night.

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