Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Day 75 - A Pair of Pears (Part 1)

English is a language that has many synonyms and homonyms.  This became an issue when trying to help Felipe and Jula understand English.  When Felipe first arrived we explained the NUMBER ONE RULE in the house.  If you don't understand something, too often you will be conditioned to say you understand.  IF YOU DON'T UNDERSTAND SOMETHING YOU MUST TELL US. Having had experience with foreign exchange students I knew it was common for them to be embarrassed and say that they understood something when in fact they really didn't.  When Jula arrived, she was informed of the rule also.  So we tried to do our best when explaining English. This sometimes proved difficult when it came to homonyms and synonyms.  We know that blinds cover the window through which we see, yet when we can't see we are blind.  "It is just the way it is," we explained and we know it doesn't make sense.  Welcome to America!

There were many homonyms that didn't make sense either, but they too were "what they were."  They sounded the same so we would spell them out to try to explain the difference.  A pear is a fruit from the rose family that has an oblong shape in which a broad base end tapers upward to a narrow stem end. A pair is two similar or associated things.  We had a pair of foreign exchange students.  People often asked us if we were glad we had two foreign exchange students instead of one? Yes for a number of reasons.  One is they were forced to speak English to each other as Portuguese and Deutsche don't sound similar.  They did find some sayings in common however.  On rare occasions we all had the same translation for a word such as dandelion.  In German it is Löwenzahn which translates the teeth of a lion.  It is the same translation in Portuguese and English
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As a pair, we explained that it was their responsibility to each other in this family to have each other's backs.  Jula helped Felipe get up in time for school.   Felipe helped Jula with computer applications. Jula helped Felipe solicit the guidance counselor for graduation rights and so on.  This was an integral part of our family as officials, we knew the importance of having each other's backs. A partner can make a rough game smooth or can turn a game into a game from hell.  I took it one step further and defined a good partner as someone who not only has your back on the court but off the court as well.

This was a big issue for me.  Loyalty was paramount as we were always taught that we have a hierarchy of loyalty in officiating.  The highest loyalty is to the integrity of the game as I've mentioned before.  The second loyalty is to your partner.  And the third loyalty is to ourselves. Many inexperienced coaches tried to chirp in my ear while I was on their court about my partners.  This is a tactic in which coaches use to try to get an edge. Split the enemy and they're easier to defeat.  The problem with this logic is we are not the enemy, the opposing team should be their puzzle to unravel.

I was taught by my mentor that even if we didn't agree with our partners call, we never were to let a coach know this.  On the court, our partners are the only thing we've got.  I need to know that after a call, my partner won't go sell me out to a coach.  My mentor taught me the exact words to use and I put them into my game and used them for the rest of my career.  If a coach started chirping this old song, I replied, "Coach, don't talk about my partners and I won't talk about your assistant coaches."  That usually did it.  A line of respect drawn on the wooden floor.


I defined a good partner as one who also had your back off the court.  When somebody talked about me off the court, I could count on one hand the officials who would have my back. I had four laminated tags made to put on my referee bag and handed out the other three to partners who had my back. The tags were black and yellow that said: A Good Partner: a) One who has your back on and off the court. The few partners who earned this title, proudly displayed this tag on their bags as we rolled into a gym.  What a great game we would have when all three bags had the tags on the same crew. 

Ironically it was my mentor who broke his own golden rule he had taught me that started the end of my career.  Two female players from opposing teams were talking to each other in such a way that I knew they didn't want to have tea together after the game.  I warned them the first time. When we came back down the court, I told my partners as I pointed to them, "Keep an eye on 22 and 11."  The defensive player face guarded the offensive player away from the ball and immediately she retaliated by pushing the defensive player back.  I popped  them both with a technical foul.  Evidently the offensive girl had never gotten a technical in her life so coach thought I was a bad guy because I had made her cry.  I had given this coach his one-and-only technical in his entire career and he had "scratched" me.  Since this was a tournament, he couldn't pick and choose which officials he "preferred" to referee his games. My mentor, who was on my crew in this game, and this coach were good friends on and off the court.  And as I have explained before, unprofessionalism is when the inexplicable happens.  After my call, my mentor went over to the coach and being the avid lip reader that I am I saw my mentor mouth the words, "I don't know why she called it, I didn't think it was a foul either."  


I was livid.  I wanted to finish this game and just get out of there as I know that when I get pissed, nothing good comes out of my mouth.  To be honest, I was hurt.  I had his back no matter how bad his calls were yet he sold me down the river in a row boat without oars to a coach!  The cardinal sin in officiating.  As I put on my earrings and changed, he stopped me to do a post game.  I told him I really wasn't interested tonight.  He said he could see that I was upset and I should tell him why.  I said, "If we are going to talk I need to be able to really talk and not be cut short."  He agreed and I let him have it.  

We ended up having a heated discussion with the next crew listening before they went on the court for their game.  He confessed that what he said was what I thought. He didn't think that was a foul that warranted a technical.  "Are you shitting me?  Face Guarding an opponent away from the ball is an automatic technical by rule. Retaliation is a non-basketball act of  unsportsmanship. Both warranted a technical."  But even if he hadn't agreed, why would he tell a GODDAMNED coach? As it turned out, they needed a third for the crew of the next game and before he placed himself on that crew I spoke my peace. "You of ALL people sold me out to a coach.  That is unforgivable! Particularly since I have looked up to you and you are the one who taught me never to do this.  You  have broken your own Golden Rule!" I screamed.  

He called me on the phone after I had gotten home, we talked for an hour eventually agreeing to disagree.  The next day we talked again for an hour and at the end of the conversation I said, "Do you realize after three hours of discussion, not once have you apologized for selling me out to a coach?"  To which he replied my call wasn't right.  To this day, my mentor has never apologized. I apologized to him years later for letting it cause a rift between us but he has not been professional and returned the apology. I hear the words of Richard Bach, "We teach best what we need to learn most."


I wasn't a first year official anymore, I had six years under my belt.  Others were afraid of him because they knew he could ruin their careers on the local level.  He went on to do the Division II Women's NCAA Elite Eight game and after being denied a Division I spot upon his return from camps, switched over from the Womens to the Mens side to be an official.  I can't help but think that I wasn't the first official that he sold out on the court.  Later after telling others of what happened, they shared their own stories. They too had had similar stories. The right thing to do for anyone is to apologize if the another party brings it to your attention that you wronged them.  Especially if you break the same golden rule you taught them to follow. This broad based pear tapered up to a narrow stem of superiority that night to which he never returned. (...to be continued.)



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