Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Day 76 - A Pair of Pears (Part 2)

(.cont'd) This morning we woke up to two new bird songs.  After searching we found that the black and white warbler and the northern parula had returned to our back yard during their annual migration.  I am familiar with the chickadee and titmouse traveling in pairs but I wasn't aware that these two traveled together.  In both of these pairs neither looks like each other.  They seem to be an odd "pair."  

In officiating, this happens a lot.  The non-officials think we are all alike because we wear the same stripes.  The reality couldn't be further from the truth.  This quickly becomes evident when an official quits.  The only officials that keep in touch are the ones who are like-minded.  Sometimes the phone never rings.  Its a great brotherhood when you are a part of it but it's extremely lonely when you are not a part of it.  The Good Partners keep in touch and continue the friendship after the last call. I'm fortunate enough to have about three Good Partners.

I met one of my Good Partners the next night after the night my Mentor broke his own Golden Rule.  I was scheduled to go back to the same tournament and call another game.  My crew chief (the head referee on the crew for the evening) was someone from out of state who I had never worked with before and who had relocated to Florida due to a new job.  His pregame consisted of the story about the chicken.  He explained that in his game also after I had left yesterday my mentor had questioned one of his calls too. My mentor OVERRULED him DURING HIS GAME.  An official is not allowed to change another officials call.  They can come to their partner and give him/her information and let them decide if they want to change their own call but they can't just change a partner's call. The FHSAA Officials manual states Rule 1.2.8 Teamwork: Allegiance to fellow officials implies an active, intelligent desire to carry out the intent of the rules by a well-coordinated team.  Each official must be willing to share the responsibility and must avoid attempts to shift the blame.  Do not negatively comment about a game, worked by another official and never criticize a fellow official when you are a "fan."  So the theory goes if  the code of conduct doesn't allow us to criticize a fellow official off the court, it sure as hell means we shouldn't criticize each other on the court in front of fans!

The crew chief had called an over and back in his area.  My mentor came out of his area to ask him what he saw.  He said the offensive team tapped the rebound to his teammate in back court and held the ball on the tap.  In his opinion, the player had control of the tip.  If the team has control then the ball can't be passed into back court without the over and back violation.  If I had thought the call was wrong, first of all I wouldn't have addressed it on the court.  But if I had come to my partner after that call, and he had explained what he saw, then that would be end of it.  I trust my partners. If a play happens in their area and their explanation is valid then we simply play on.  If I didn't agree with the control issue, I'd save it for post game at which time I would have asked him, "Would you have given the rebounder a time out?"  If he answered yes, we're done.  He got the play right.  

My crew chief was told by my mentor in that game to not call technical fouls on the assistant coach as he was also the Superintendent of the school district. As he told the story, I started to smell something fishy. Never had I been in a situation where the leadership of an association was afraid to call technical fouls.  So much that they actually "frowned" upon it.  So the question I have in this situation, is if you don't want us to call "this" rule what are the other rules you don't want us to implement?  It's an all or nothing proposition.  

The crew chief told us the story about the fair in Mayfield, Kentucky where the Governor was coming to speak.  The Governor had arrived late and stopped by the tent to get some of the famous chicken lunches before going to the podium.  He stepped up to the line and handed his plate to the old lady behind the counter.  She put one piece of chicken on his plate, to which he replied, "Mam, could you please give me another piece of chicken, I'm really hungry and I'm about to go give a speech."  She replied, "No sir. Every body gets one piece of chicken."  The Governor in his entitled manner responded, "Mam, I was late and I really would like one more piece of chicken. Do you know who I am?"  She answered, "No Sir."  He said, "I'm the Governor of Kentucky."  She extended her hand to shake his and said, "Well Sir, it's a pleasure to meet you. Do you know who I am?"  To which he replied, "No Mam."  She smiled and said, "I'm the lady with the chicken and everybody gets one piece!"

We laughed and got the point of the pregame, implement the rules and take care of business as a competent official and don't be intimidated by the off-court-title of an assistant coach.  If the coach is the president off the court, when he or she is coaching, they are still a coach on the court. Period. And as my crew chief explained we had the chicken, or in this case the whistle.  

So it was becoming clear that my mentor wasn't practicing what he was preaching.  As a leader of the association, he was also showing favoritism which is also clearly defined in the Code of Ethic handbook. Rule 1.2.6 Fair and Impartial: A good official will be courteous, but will avoid "visiting" with players during the game.  Carelessly placing an arm on a player's shoulder or around his/her wast tends to destroy respect.  Loafing in the coaches office or carrying on long conversations with the coach before, during or after the game may give the appearance of favoritism.  If conditions warrant a conference both coaches should be involved.,  a player should be addressed by number rather than name.  In addressing the captain of a team, do so by title.  The quickest way to lose respect of coaches and players is to get the reputation of being a "homer."  All actions should reflect strict and total impartiality. 

My crew chief that day became one of my good partners to which I trusted.  We were a pair.  We traveled to games and took other officials with us to train them.  Many of them went on to be Division 1 officials.  They would tell us what people would say about us.  Most people looked at us and scratched their heads on how we had become good friends.  We looked nothing alike. A pair remember is defined as having a similar association.  The friendship was built on the foundation that night that integrity was more important than the reputation of "going along to get along."  We both eventually left this association.  My mentor went on to bad mouth both of us for not fearing coaches titles off the court.  How we gave "too" many technicals.

As I continue to tell the stories, it will become clear that we both continued to do the right thing and it eventually cost us both our careers. We are an honest pair and didn't buckle under the pressure of the leaders of the associations to which we belonged to show partiality toward any coach or team.  We are tough and fair.  Isn't that what coaches really want anyway?  Consistent fairness. We don't care if you are POTUS, our child's doctor, or our own kids when we walk out on the court with a whistle.  (I have given my own son a technical foul when he threw the ball down in disgust.) I'd rather be associated with someone with whom I can eat soup than someone who is not a good partner that will buy me a steak. We may not look like each other on the outside just as the northern parula and the black and white warbler pair appear to be different. But we traveled together like this pair of birds. When we put on our stripes, we have the same philosophy and we hold similar values on the inside. Integrity, Honesty, and Justice.  This is why we have remained friends to this day.

During that tournament it wasn't the coaches, players, fans or administrators that were our opponents.  Unfortunately it was a battle between the lines within the crew.  These are the hardest games to officiate. You begin to second guess every non-call or every call because of the fear that your call might be overturned by your partner unjustly and unethically.  I resigned from that association because I had lost faith in my mentor.  It had gotten back to me that the same leaders who were mentoring me went on to tell officials from the association I was planning to join the upcoming year, "We're sending a good one back to you."  No I didn't need to be sent anywhere, I wasn't there anymore to be sent.

So it is with pride I stand by the one partner who had my back.  We bucked the establishment and wouldn't carry out an illegal order.  My partner learned he was not required to carry out any order that was illegal while in the Air Force.  As an USAF, Major Retired, he never gave an illegal order for this same reason. It simply was not the right thing to do.  If this is the kind of character a man has, then the only people who oppose him either don't know him or are the ones who weren't righteous in the first place.  This is a very hard lesson to learn as we really want to believe in the leadership of the people who mentor us.  The right thing to do is realize there is corruption everywhere there is money to be made.  It's the honest old ladies handing out the chicken who implement the rules under the most extreme pressure of interrogation and intimidation.  And it was the honest old lady from Mayfield, Kentucky with the chicken who actually had a "pair."

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