Officially retired – Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald: Sports
Basketball fans in the Roanoke Valley, I have good news — youwill never see me officiate another basketball game in this areaever again.
Let me bring readers up to speed. I had the bright idea that Iwanted to go inside the world of sports. Do some real participatingjournalism, but I wasn’t sure what to do exactly. It hit meWednesday to contact coaches at the Betty A. Ballard girls summerleague and ask if I could be a referee for some games Thursdaynight. In theory, I just wanted to do one game, maybe just a half,just to get the experience and write about it.
I ended up doing two and a half games of girls basketball andlearned one valuable lesson. Officiating is a lot like sportswriting — no matter what you do, there is no way you are going toplease everybody.
Armed with a whistle, I was the newest member of a three-manofficiating team, along with Tracey Wilkins and Jibrell Davis, whois kind of responsible for talking me into this whole thing.Imagine the looks on the coaches’ faces when I told them I would bethe guest ref for the night. There were some smiles, but more likethe nervous-type smiles.
The looks on the faces of the players when I took the floorwhere even better. There had to be some sort of mistake they werethinking. But I was dead serious. I was there to maintain order onthat basketball court and took it very serious. Initially, my mainconcern was the coaches, but when Weldon took on Northampton West,I didn’t think Grady Williams or Jerry Squire would give me a hardtime. Besides some friendly ribbing and Williams pulling on myshorts when I got too close to the Weldon sidelines, they werefine.
The hardest part right out the gate was to transfer my mindframe from fan to official, as in I couldn’t just watch the game, Ihad to remember there was a whistle in my mouth and I was some whatin control. I completely failed that in the first five minutes. Iwas Jonas the Sports Editor who just happened to be on the floorwith a whistle. So I had to snap out of it and do my job. My firstcall was a simple one, an out-of-bounds call that I was completelyconfident was right. As a matter of fact, I was 100-percentconfident in all of my out-of-bounds calls, some of the others, notso much.
My first lesson about officiating — people don’t care who youare. If you are calling the game, you better call it right. I knewthat I was just doing this for a story. The coaches knew that. Thefans and players, not so much. Even if they did, they didn’t care.I had to whistle, and I had to make the call, part-time ref ornot.
Another thing, as a ref you hear everything!
Roanoke Valley fans don’t wait until basketball season to workon their heckling. Us (yes I said us) summer league refs get ittoo. Coaches, players, fans — they want every call. I had to askmyself, is this summer league or a regional title game? I’ve alwayssaid Weldon fans are die-hard, but being in their wake on the flooris a whole different world. I think Williams put it best when Iasked him how I did.
“You can’t win,” he replied. “Even when you are right, somebodyis going to think you are wrong.” He did give me a short of lefthanded complement, saying “you’re not any worse than some officialswe get around here.”
For the first game I gave myself a C-plus, and may be generous.The second complete game was a lot better. Another thing I quicklylearned. Communication is important even with officials. They arewithout a doubt a team.
A few times Wilkins and Davis would blow the whistle and forsome reason the players on the floor, and the coaches, would lookto me. I had no idea what the call was. One time I even looked atDavis and said, “I didn’t blow the whistle, what was the call?”That didn’t go over well with the players and coaches.
Another thing I had to be conscious of was not getting in theway. Officials have the best seat in the house, but too many timesI got caught looking and almost became part of the play. So I madesure I stayed behind the action, and out of the way.
Another mental note, as an official when you are on that floorin front of everybody. There is no place to hide. There were a fewtimes I didn’t want to make the trip back down court because Iwasn’t in a rush to hear some fan point out another call I missed.It’s kind of like the Gladiator days, where you are in the arenaand the fans are screaming, waiting to see you fail.
I even encouraged Northampton East point guard Alexus Shoulders,who after the game rated my officiated skills at a “7.5 out of 10”to walk the ball up the floor to kill time. With a running clock, Iheld onto the ball a little longer before handing it to a playerfor an inbound and cut time-outs short.
I didn’t want to ref anymore, and I’ll never understand whyanyone ever would do this on the regular. I’ll stick to my pen andpad, and leave the whistles to the real officials.
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