Sunday, May 15, 2022 |
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Forgive me Kaua’i, for I am a hypocrite.
For too long I have put down the referee, and I must admit the “throw the first stone” bit has caused me to re-examine my own ability to judge.
“They are the most incomptent people,” I’d say. “Where does the league get these guys?”
I dogged them with the Staten Island Yankees. I dogged them in the NCAA’s Atlantic 10.
I even dogged them here in the KIF.
But then I turned on the television last night, and saw a wounded stadium in Cleveland. Thousands of bottles strewn all over the field-debris cluttering what once was an incredible football game. Brave and unbreakable football players were reduced to scared children.
“It felt like I was starring in Saving Private Ryan or something,” said Jaguars wide receiver Jimmy Smith. “We just wanted to get in here (the locker room) without anyone getting hurt.”
Well, I’m not sure I’d compare it to the infamous battlefields of Normandy, but with a portion of 72,818 fans (that’s about the number of people on this island at any one time) launching projectiles from the bleachers above, I can understand why they were a bit nervous.
It wasn’t the initial incident that really got to me, though. It isn’t what planted this subtle guilt within me. It was what was said by Browns President Carmen Policy the next day:
“I have been in games where snowballs have flown in New England, I have seen snowballs fly in the Meadowlands, and I have been involved in a game where a snowball has disrupted a field goal attempt that could have meant the difference in the game. I don’t think that Cleveland will take a black eye from this. I like the fact that our fans cared. They care about their team and they cared about this game.”
Snowballs!? These weren’t snowballs, they were beer bottles. And some of them were entirely full. And you like how the fans care? Then why is Tim Couch, Cleveland’s prized quarterback, running to the locker room for his life?
Everyone gets upset with a referee, sometimes. Some grumble to themselves, others grumble to the guy in the next seat. Most shout like they can’t hear themselves. But you never, ever, use violence to prove your point.
It endangers not only the referees, but the mothers, wives and children everywhere around you.
So why should I feel guilty?
Well, I was a ref once, too. Yep, I used to ref basketball at this camp in upstate New York. I was a lifeguard at the camp, but they didn’t have enough refs for this inter-camp tournament they were holding and I volunteered my time.
Turns out I was a really bad ref.
It’s hard. I thought this would be easier than slicing bread.
From the first jump ball, I was already messing up. I threw the ball too far to the right, and pretty much garanteed one team the first possession.
The coach gave me the ole’ “What the heck are you” look and grumbled under his breath. This was a children’s camp, so there was no vocal dissent allowed. But I knew he wasn’t pleased, and so I figured I’d give his team a “gimme call.”
Every heard of that? It’s one of those calls you make against the team you just favored to make-up for your previous error. It is a recognition of your own mistake, and I thought that is what the coaches and fans would want.
It was the worst decision I could have ever made.
The two coaches ended up in the middle of the court screaming at me and each other. They were steamed, and I looked like an idiot.
I then made error number three: I tried making no calls at all.
“This should work,” I thought to myself. If I don’t call fouls and just let the kids play, at least I will be consistent. Sure, the coaches and players will be mad at first. But I would be fair to both sides, right?
Wrong. One of the better ball players in the camp went up for a layup and was tackled onto the cement court. He broke his arm just before the start of his JV High School season.
The game got out of control, and it was because of me.
No one truly knows how difficult it is for a referee to call a fair game.
They have to be confidant in what they call, and they can’t turn back and change his mind because then he will lose control of the game.
A ref on the basketball court and baseball field is no different from the guy that stands between two boxers in the middle of the ring. He must keep the peace at the same time as call call a fair game.
Heck, half the time a referee knows when he made a mistake. But he can’t turn back, or he might lose control of the game.
That’s why a good referee makes his call, stands with it, and denies fans any attention following his decision.
The referee is not there to be perfect, he is there to be the objective eye of a contest between two foes.
Did the Browns get the right call?
Probably not. Reports say the replay showed in favor of Cleveland.
But should the fan blame it on the guy in the black-and-white striped shirt, or the flailing Browns offense that is ranked 28th in the National Football League?
Should the fan blame at all?
All I know is the idiot wasn’t the referee, on Sunday. It was the drunken so-called fans who threw bottles over their own players.
Now, tell me, who looks like the idiot here in the KIF? The guy in the white-stripe shirt, or the guy losing his mind over a high school soccer game?
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