Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Friday, April 8, 2011

Day 85 - Mastering the Time of My Life

I'm leading a blessed life and I'm very grateful for it.  I've been to the final game of the NCAA Division 1 Womens Basketball Tournament in Tampa, been to the NCAA Division 1 Mens Basketball regional games in Jacksonville Florida, officiated on Duke's court, and my biggest sports event was very personal.  I knew the local school had a great facility and the Womens USA Olympic team was going to be practicing there.  I was at work thinking about "what if."  What if I got the call to officiate their scrimmages.  What if?  I wonder who was assigning the referees for this team while they were in town.  I belonged to the conference that officiated at this school but the USA is a separate association than that conference.  Oh I was just dreaming and I went back to work.

Around 2 PM a friend of mine who assigned the Bob Gibbons Tournament and always was very good to me when I volunteered to officiate that tournament, called me.  He said, "BJ are you available Saturday?"  I said, "Yes."  He asked, "Would you like to officiate at UNF a scrimmage between the Olympic Womens team and men?"  I tried to be calm in my voice, "Of course." After he told me the details of where to be and when I hung up the phone, ran out the front door of my place of business and ran in a sprint in my suit screaming the loudest scream and jumping up and down.  I kept running and running around the parking lot.  My co-workers had lined up at the front window and wondered what was the matter with me.

2004 Womens USA Olympic Team
In essence, this is probably the closest I would get to my dream of being a WNBA official.  The Olympic team consisted of Lisa Leslie, Tina Thompson, Katie Smith, Sue Bird, Cheryl Ford, Sheryl Swoopes, Dawn Staley, Delisha-Milton Jones and Tamika Catchings.  This was a WNBA All-Star Line up!  It really was just an honor to be on the same court as these basketball athletes.  I was the only female Womens college official and the only local official as the rest of the men were on the Mens side coming in from Atlanta to do this. The male officials in my local high school association were shocked when they found out.  Only my true friends congratulated me.  I count them on one hand out of 180 officials in the association.  The rest whispered to each other after I told them.  I was so excited, their attitudes couldn't keep me down.  Officials are sometimes like crabs.  They try to bring down any crab that has an opportunity to escape the kettle. 

When we arrived, Coach Van Chancelor, met us at the door.  He said, call this like you would any game you officiate.  Truth was I was such a fan I was a little star struck. When the game started, I had stars in my eyes.  These women were fast! They were kicking the butt out of the men.  And the men were embarrassed to be losing to girls!  At one point I remember Lisa Leslie telling one of the younger females to be in a position on the court like a string connecting a triangular shape.  If the other two teammates move, clear out to form the triangle.  We're all on a string.  What a great description to explain the strategy of spreading the court.  At one point a man elbowed Tina Thompson right in the chest, I blew the whistle as she coiled in pain.  I said, "Are you all right Tina?"  Crossing the line of familiarity.  There weren't wearing jerseys with any numbers.  My partners were shocked that I knew the names of these athletes.

DUH!!! You don't know who these women are?  I hear all the time that womens basketball is a joke.  No the reality is that its a more fundamental team oriented game then the mens.  I've had many good partners talk about this and they are womens officials.  I wonder to myself if they would say the same sexist remarks in front of the Assignor.  What are they doing on the womens side if they don't appreciate and support the game?  Oh yeah, they couldn't make it on the mens side.  There are other male officials who do appreciate the game and for that I am grateful.  I just wish there was a way for Assignors to ask the females about these male partners so that they could weed these bozos out.  They don't care about the females on the court if they are bad mouthing the womens game off the court. Period.

At another point I blew the whistle for a three-second violation on Sheryl Swoopes.  She turned to me and with a stare-glare muttered, "Little college official."  That really pissed me off.  The stars had stopped twinkling and were shooting away from my eyes.  My vision was clear now.  I wanted to give her a Technical and I should have.  We have a saying in officiating, you should never leave the court with the feeling that you "should have" done something.  Just do it.

That was the best lesson I learned in officiating that day and this was only my third year.  I had walked on that court as a fan.  I learned from that point on, I didn't care who was on that court, they were players and I was an official.  She had committed the violation and was used to getting away with it.  So she tried and was successful at intimidating me and diminishing my authority by her degrading remark.  When officiating if we are caught off guard the first time, we should learn from it.

I had been in this position before when a college coach muttered "just a high school official" on that same court.  I popped that college coach with a technical the second time it happened. The second time it happens, we have been there before so we know the right thing to do, realize it's a mockery of authority and this is unsportsmanlike conduct.  Technical foul. Draw the line and let the players and coaches know they are there to play the game without disrespecting referees. The first time you hear a remark of disrespect, you are so shocked you wonder if that is really what you heard.  You try to give the player or coach the benefit of the doubt. 

I was given two nice polo embroidered shirts, a USA basketball Fox-40 whistle, a hand-written thank you card and a check for officiating this game.  To this day I have not cashed that check.  It is my way of giving back to the game.  Respecting the process of getting that team ready to represent our country and the game of basketball.  People always tell me I should cash the check.  To be honest, after all the camps I have paid to officiate, I did this for free.  I learned more on that court that day than all the money I have paid for some camps I have attended for a weekend.

The Olympics is a pinnacle for any basketball athlete.  Now that the Olympics is adding Golf in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, it will add more athletes who will fall in love with the sport of golf.  Until then the Masters is the pinnacle for any golfer. This weekend I'm attending the Masters.  I am not going as a fan as I just don't LOVE golf the way I love basketball.  I'll be more objective and already have learned my lesson that these pros are human too and can be "players" off the course as well as on the course.  It is another blessing in my life and there must be a reason why I'm going. You can't just get tickets to the Masters and there is a waiting list to have the opportunity to buy tickets. We have a connection just like I had a connection who gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to run with the "big girls." I'm truly grateful to both of them.  If I can repay either of them I would but the truth is, the moments in time that these two have given me are both priceless.
Amen Corner

Amen Corner
“Time is free, but it's priceless. You can't own it, but you can use it. You can't keep it, but you can spend it. Once you've lost it you can never get it back.” ~Harvey MacKay

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