Avid readers of RICH RIPLEY (all four of them) have been literally making the phones ring off the hook here at RIPLEY INDUSTRIES, clamouring for new, fresh and interesting material to read (apparently their monthly subscription to Reader’s Digest just ain’t cuttin’ it any longer).  Regardless of their reason’s I have decided to sit down and hammer out yet another freakin’ piece of literary wonder (this blog)…it’s either that or I have to go shoe shopping….so yeah….writing a blog it is.

This past month has flown by for me as my newfound passion (officiating basketball games) reached a fever pitch (seriously…it was at a fever pitch...just last week I had the flu).  Here’s a “workout routine” that you won’t find at any fancy fitness center…have the flu complete with (how can I write this so that my older, more sensitive readers won’t be offended)…I had the shits…Have the flu, rally through the day at work, then run up and down a basketball court with people a fraction of your age AND do a good job…and lose several pounds in that week.  As my two brothers (and their wives) will attest…I must be “full of it“.  Anywho…I survived.

During the month of January I worked fifty-five games.  In one fourteen day stretch I worked thirty-six games (I won’t do that again).  I simply overbooked myself.  I wanted a lot of work and I got a lot of work.  I learned not to do that again.  The upside to such a heavy workload is that I got a lot of reps in on how to officiate, I got exposure to coaches and the public, and I made enough money to pay for a basketball officials camp that I’ll attend in July.  Would I work that hard again in such a short time?  Not at the level of competition that I was working a lot of…which is little kids tourneys and leagues.

Probably half of the games that I worked in January were league games or weekend tourney’s that were held locally.  I’d work anywhere from four to six games a day (or night).  The kids ages were anywhere from seven to twelve.  The coaches are parents and act like they’re the out for blood...which troubles me as an impartial observer, but it’s their lives and not mine…so I just work the game and make it as fair and safe for the players (they’re under my care when they’re on the court…not their overzealous loudmouth coach).   My new goal this year is to become such a good official that I can get enough work at the high school level that I can turn down these tourney’s and league games.  The coaches and parents are just over the top…in fact the three times I came close to issuing a technical foul were during these league games.  My worst experience was after a freshman game where a guy came over and told me and my partner that we did a “horseshit job” of officiating the game.  I kind of blew the guy off since he’s a weirdo to begin with but my partner and the weirdo really got into a shouting match.  Long story short, the weirdo was removed, and a week later he approached me at a game and apologized.  Strange stuff for this hobby of mine.

Now that I’ve given you the worst of what I’ve encountered I’ll tell you what happens the majority of the time.  At least one if not both coaching staffs complement my partner and I as we leave.  We get paid to do something that we love to do.  The players are usually decent enough to keep their mouths shut when we call something that upsets them AND it’s not uncommon for folks at the game to compliment and or thank me for calling the game the way that I did.  I don’t know if this is uncommon, but it’s something that I never expected.  I’ll end this today with this experience.

I was working a two freshman boys games (that’s eight, eight minute quarters) and since they have a lot of boys out on their teams they pay us an additional $7.50 to officiate a “fifth quarter” so that the rest of the boys who didn’t play earlier get a chance to play (it’s a good deal for the school and boys, but boy…is that some bad basketball).  They keep score during the fifth quarter, but keep the clock running, they don’t call time outs and even though we call fouls we don’t report them.  Simply put, the fifth quarter doesn’t matter; it’s not “official.” Anyway…the home team that night has this short and skinny little point guard (he may not even weigh a hundred pounds).  He’s like the Tasmanian Devil of Warner Brothers cartoon fame, except that he’s shorter, skinner, wears glasses and has a decent case of teenage acne going for him.  Long story short…”Taz” is having his usual game.  He’s sprinting all over the court.  He’s harassing the other team, he’s going up for shots and then dishing off to a teammate and, in general, doing what he loves to do…play the game of basketball.  Old Taz even scored a couplea points for his team, though I did light him up for a foul as his youthful eagerness got the best of him and he fouled the opposing player.  Taz’s team was down by three points when Taz’s team got the ball back, threw it to him as time expired (honestly the horn had gone off and had quit blowing) when Taz threw a three-quarter length of the court shot from the back court and swished it.  The gym exploded.  The coaches knew that it didn’t count, the official scorer knew that it didn’t count and the other official and I knew that it didn’t count.  I conferred with my partner (the senior official between the two of us) and told him “it was after the horn, but it’s your call”.  Dan looked around, looked at the official scorer and said “what the heck…count it.”  Again…the place erupted.  The other team…they didn’t care.  The final score…12-12.

The next morning I was at work when I saw one of my regular customers come in.  I asked him how he was, the usual small talk.  I asked him if his son was still playing basketball.  He said “yeah…you worked his game last night.”  I replied “oh…I didn’t know if he was in uniform last night” to which my customer said “you know the kid that made that last second shot last night?  That’s my son.”  We had a nice laugh over that and then my customer got serious and said “you know…my son knows it’s going to be practically impossible for him to make it onto the junior varsity squad next year…he’s not as good as the other kids.”  I agreed that it would be tough, but added that nothing is impossible and that his son has a great love of the game.

I’m happy that if that’s one of the last school games that young man plays in that he has that memory of his (albeit late) three quarter court length shot that tied the game.  Maybe it was just a lesson put in front of me, there for me to learn from or maybe it was there for others to see, maybe it was just for that young man and his family.

For an unofficial moment…it had revalence.

Have a great week.