Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 162 - Rules and Rulers

As an official, we deal with rules.  Rules, rules and more rules.  Just when we have figured out for the most part all of the rules (you never figure them ALL out as you have never seen every play and therefore some plays application of the rules may vary) the coaches get together and change, amend, add or delete rules.  This is not good for inflexible people.  We as officials have to learn how to adapt.  I didn't mind this as it got everyone talking about a particular rule every year at the same time during the off-season, usually the middle of summer.  Both NCAA and NFHS come out with rule changes every year at this time. These then trickle down to AAU, USSSA and YBOA immediately.

As I've explained in earlier blogs, camp is another place where the rules change almost daily.  We meet in the morning and at night after the games have commenced.  If something isn't working particularly if we have heard from a coach, "Well the last officials didn't do that." This is the time to bring it up when we are all in the same room and make sure we are all on the same page of the rule book.  [My standard response to this comment from coaches is, "Coach, I can't control what happened on the court when I'm not on the crew, this is now my court and I know the rules and this is what I can control.  This is how we are doing it in my game.  I will be glad to show you the rule at half-time or after the game if you'd like."  I always carried my rule books with me to every game.  This was the right thing for me to do. It would be like being a Pastor or Preacher and not carrying around a Bible wherever I went.]

There were unwritten rules of conduct in officiating also.  But most importantly, we were a family away from your real family and we did what it took to mentor young officials.  All of us have had non-working officials come into our pregame, half-time and post game to help us get better.  It goes with the territory.  Steve and I had spotted talent in three local officials and we mentored them.  After two summers of working with them two of three went to camp and got "picked up" on the college roster to which we belonged.  We knew it was the right thing to do. We were not going to be like the other crab officials trying to keep everyone down.  We relished in the idea that we were giving birth to new officials and welcomed the opportunity.

As is tradition, we would go to our first mentee's college assignment if we were available.  That was tradition for everyone that I knew.  Kerry our mentee, called us and let us know his first game was going to be at the NAIA college fifteen minutes from our house.  We confirmed our attendance and with excitement for support went to the game.  We were absolutely dumbstruck when we got there at what we saw.  The assignor had put three new officials TOGETHER ON THEIR VERY FIRST GAME!  Consequently the shot clock was not watched the entire twenty minutes of the first half.  The shot clock didn't reset when the ball hit the rim. The shot clock wasn't reset after a bucket was made and then when the shot clock operator realized the thirty seconds had run down to zero, he would reset it so the horn wouldn't go off.  It was so painful to watch. The agony continued as we tried to get Kerry's attention on the court during time outs.  Even during the free throws the shot clock would sit at where it stopped.  Twenty, eighteen, nine, anywhere but at the correct time of thirty seconds.

At half-time we went in to let them know what had happened as we had done to us and has been done to officials before us.  I went reluctantly but Steve was adamant about letting the man we had recruited, instructed and supported know that he had to be the bigger person on this crew and take charge of the shot clock.  Which he did.  When we got home we received an email from the assignor of that league, Mitch Kaufman which stated NEVER EVER GO INTO THE LOCKER ROOM AGAIN IF WE WEREN'T OFFICIATING the game.  We were shocked.  This was news to us, we received no courtesy of a phone call to ask why we went into the locker room first.  In officiating we ALWAYS give the other person the benefit of the doubt prior to giving our opinion by asking, "What did you see?"  We weren't even asked this by our assignor.

Shortly before midnight, we received another e-mail from our assignor from another league entirely, Tony MacDonald.  It was obvious the two had talked and he echoed Mitch's sentiment.  Tony MacDonald signed the e-mail with a smart ass non-professional comment which was indicative of his unprofessionalism...Some things never cease to amaze me.  To this day we see officials going into the locker room to be with, listen and or help other officials.  It has been the standard forever.  Our Panhandle Assignor has said it is our duty to help each other out and told us he expects us to do this. This is the part of rule interpretation that I hated while officiating.  I'm ok with rule changes as long as they are done professionally, consistently (like once a year), and with the integrity of the game kept as the foremost reason for the change.

Watching that game was like cutting yourself with razor blades, painful.  I'm truly surprised neither coach noticed the atrocity of the incorrect shot clock.  I was just thankful that the teams were both run and gun teams so the shot clock really didn't come into play in that first half.  The bottom line was Mitch Kaufman acted in the manner of a tyrant, a ruler of rules.  A tyrant doesn't use democracy or diplomacy.  He expects the peasants or in this case the referees to do what is told, how it is told, when it is told...oh yeah and By God, don't ask any questions....The right thing to do when people change the rules and then chastise you in "amazement" that you did something wrong is to ask why so that you don't do it again.  Why is a good question....And in this particular case, the questions should have been:

Why did you put three new people, especially two rookies together at their very first college game?
Why weren't you there to watch if you had no other choice but to assign three new people together?
Why wouldn't you want us to help our mentee and keep the integrity of the game in tact?
Why didn't you ask us first what we saw?

Those are the things that never ceased to amaze me about that event. Don't ever ever change the rules and not communicate this event to the people you wish to follow these rules.  By definition you have no longer filled the role of an Assignor but have filled the shoes of a Tyrant.

Footnote:  Steve immediately gave his resignation letter after this event.  Steve's letter stated he didn't want to work for anyone that was that unprofessional and punished people for doing the right thing.  Particularly helping mentor younger officials.  He quit Tony's league too as this event had nothing to do with Tony's conference yet Tony wanted to pile on.  I was subsequently not given any games by either conference two months later without an explanation for my association with Steve.  I never did anything but referee, study the rules, help mentees, help coaches, help players and be a good partner. Just the kind of referee that coaches would want to have officiate their games.  

These Assignors have the same characteristics of tyrants. The officials fear speaking up or standing up for what is right because they don't want to lose games.  The assignors have no leadership skills and give more games to the people who just do what they say.  Ever wonder why you see the same referees?  They keep the yes men and women. The good referees are either picked up by a higher league conference or quit due to the politics.  The Athletic Directors after hearing the voices of the coaches' disdain continue to renew the contract with the Assignor usually because they are cheaper.  You get what you pay for and the whole system wreaks of nepotism. Who you sleep with and who you drink with.  The only difference in modern day is that they don't eat turkey drumsticks with their hands and drink wine out of goblets.  Chicken wings and beer are now the preferred the food of choice.

To speak and to speak well are two things.  A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks. ~Ben Jonson

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