Two moments defined…

I’ve posted twice in the past year, which is pretty paltry.  I used to crank out blogs with regularity.  Now…unless I’ve got something to say I’ll just take a pass on blogging.    That being said I’ll let you know what’s been going on here at RIPLEY INDUSTRIES.

let me fill  you in.  I’m a fifty-two year old guy.  I’m middle-management at a small grocery store, have been for almost thirty years (THAT…ladies and gentlemen is a Cal Ripken-like streak).  I referee basketball games in the fall and winter, baseball in the spring and summer.  As for the present moment I’m just cooling my heels waiting for the weather to turn warm enough not to snow.  I was supposed to umpire five games last weekend until it snowed seven inches.  I’m supposed to umpire a double-header this Saturday.  I drove past the ball field this morning and its still 40% covered in snow….so yeah.  Not feeling real good about getting out there.

Consequently, though, I spend my days off from work lining up baseball games to work this season.  There’s USSSA.  American Legion, Perfect Game, high school games  and an adult wood bat league all of which will keep me busy each night of the week if I’d like.  Its just a matter of not double-scheduling oneself on the same night in two different places.  I had it happen to me twice last season where a partner didn’t show up to help out.  Ever try umpiring a game by yourself…?  Not easy.  Anyway, here are my favorite two stories about basketball refereeing.  One is from personal experience.  The other is one that I heard second hand.

I enjoy refereeing basketball more than baseball.  Here’s one reason.  Those “feel-good” stories.  It was Senior Night at a local school.  While our crew waited in the shadows of the bleachers each Senior basketball player (it happened to be a girls game that night) would get her photo taken with her parents, one on each side of the player.  This particular team had a special needs girl on their team.  I looked up just in time to see her and her parents photo being taken.  OMG…she beamed, people.  She absolutely radiated light, hope, joy and LOVE with her smile.  Her parents were drunk with happiness…them…sharing a moment together before their name was announced and the three of them walked arm in arm to center court, roses in hand, for the crowd to acknowledge with applause.  I choked upDead serious.  A beautiful, tender moment got to me.     Fast forward to us referees speaking with the head coaches and the school athletic director.  They’d hashed out a plan for this special girl.  She would start the game.  The home team would let their opponents win the tip, go down and score…then they’d let the special girl score, followed with a quick time out to sub in for her (it was a conference game late in the season).    Everything goes as planned, almost.  The visiting team won the tip and brought the ball down court when the home team didn’t let them score.  In fact…they played great defense and got the rebound.  The home team threw a long pass down court to their special teammate who immediately knocked down a tough eighteen foot jump shot from the wing.  The gym…EXPLODED!!  I mean it.  Absolutely ape-shit crazy.  I looked at her coach, who was wildly calling for a timeout, and granted it.  Her teammates poured onto the court hugging and high-fiving this special girl…the full gym rocking with cheering.  Again…I swallowed hard.  Dang kids making me sentimental.  #lovethissport

The next story is second hand.

During Christmas break a local high school teenager drowned.  The referee crew who was to work at the deceased students school right after the break ended wanted to donate their game checks to the young man’s memorial….on one condition…that their donation of their game checks not be announced, it was to be confidential.   The schools athletic director was floored, absolutely floored by the officials offer.  He thanked the officials, literally begging for their permission to announce their good deed.  The officials wanted no attention, nor recognition and that was that….until the officials started their way back to the gym after halftime of the varsity game.  It started with kids intermittently shaking the crews hands outside of the locker room.  As the officials made their way into the gym they heard a smattering of clapping that grew into applause from the whole of the bleachers.  Then players from both teams stopped warming up, turned towards the officials and joined everyone else by clapping.  Apparently the athletic director announced during halftime that the referees of that nights contest had generously donated their game checks to the young mans memorial.

I asked one of the officials why they did it.  His answer…”We’re all parents.  We all love our kids.  Isn’t that what we should all do…?”   I know of several stories like this….where the game fees are turned back to the school or towards the fund-raising efforts of a student who’s fighting cancer, or whatever.  It happens…you probably just don’t hear about it because we don’t shout about the good things nearly as often as we do about perceived slights.  Change that in your life.  Yell about the good.   #positivechange

Well kids…that wraps up today’s edition of RICH RIPLEY.  Take care of yourselves until next time.  God bless…

R

 

My colon’s more popular than your colon

Who’s the worst?

  • During the NCAA basketball tournament, in a game between Northwestern and Gonzaga, the officials missed a pretty cut and dry goaltending call.  You’d expect reporters and especially the fans of Northwestern to come unglued, which they did.  What’s so disappointing to me is the reaction of some basketball referees.  I belong to several websites that you need to be an official to belong to.  Most of the things that are discussed on these sites are videos of plays that are unique, or just officials wishing to get other officials opinions.  What I’ve found is that some officials are the absolute worst when one of their brothers screws up.  Its like they’ve never missed a call in their career.  Did those officials miss that call?  There’s no question that they did.  Are they feeling poorly about it?  Probably.

Big Brothers/Big Sisters

  • I’ve been dumped by my Little Brother from Big Brothers.  More accurately…he and his mother have fallen off the radar.  Everything that we’ve tried hasn’t yielded any response from them.  Its a shame.  18 months of building a relationship with a kid with no positive male role model and then (puff)…its done.  Ended.  Not even a “goodbye”.  We had a lot of good times.  Movies. Dinners. His first baseball game and car show, and lots of talking.  Figuring out the world, school,  people and going over interview questions for his first job interview (he got the job).  I honestly don’t know what caused the sudden shift of him not wanting to get together.  I have an idea, but nothing concrete.  One idea is that he just turned thirteen, and he’s a quiet kid to begin with.  Those teenage years are tough, maybe he just didn’t want to engage.  Another reason may be that he told me that he and his friends were stealing and got caught.  I told our case worker, then was instructed to tell his mother.  I did.  She thanked me, and that was the last time there was any communication between us that wasn’t just me asking if Logan was available to go out.  Long story short…I wish them well.  I hope Logan does great at whatever he chooses to do.  One telling observation is from a year ago when we were on our way to dinner.  I asked him about his dad (who lived in another state and was rarely brought up by Logan).  Logan’s easy-going demeanor changed immediately to agitated.    He curtly replied “we don’t talk about him…” and since then…we hadn’t.  I hope that he’s okay.  I’ll get a new Little Brother this Spring.  More than likely…with a few issues to go with him.

Dieting…

  • Let’s just say that if you’re the type of guy who doesn’t eat a lot of fiber then increases it dramatically one day…your lower intestine will not appreciate it.  It’ll take a look at the large influx of veggies, fruits, nuts and berries that you gobbled up then swoosh them out the back door.  Literally.  Swoosh.
  • Since the swooshing of the berries, or as I call it “Black Friday”, I’ve lightened up on the fiber and eased into it.  I still cheat and eat some bad for me food (when your blood is 7% Frito-Lay you can’t just go cold turkey…) but I’m coming around with smaller portions, leaner meats, and (yes) fruits, grains, nuts and veggies.  Moderation my boy….moderation.
  • I lose a few pounds then put a few back on.  Its difficult when my lovely bride, the honorable Mrs. Richard Ripley, tells me that there’s “summer sausage and three different cheeses in the frig that’ll get thrown out if no one helps her eat it”.  So yeah….my goal is to lose fifteen pounds by next October through better eating habits and exercise, cheese and summer sausage be damned!

My colon is famous!!

  • I have a colonoscopy later this month.  I had to have one anyway, and since March is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month I decided to use our company’s Facebook page to promote the two together (good seats are still available…especially front row).  I don’t like to brag…but my colon is getting quite a bit of air time on Facebook.  Like over 1100 views since Monday.  I’ll venture a guess that my colon is probably the most popular colon of any of my high school contemporaries….so suck on that Ken Glaser! (a classmate of mine who was popular from kindergarten thru our senior year.  Ken’s good.  I think he’s an accountant now.  No hard feelings aye Ken?)  Anyway…the prep will be the worst part of it.  I’ve had them before, but a long time ago…back when they had a person use enemas.  Lots of enemas.  If you’ve never had an enema before I’d suggest that you put it on your bucket-list.  They’re a blast!

BASEBALL IS COMING!!

  • I’m working my way through the baseball rule book.  Its boring, but a refresher is necessary.  Baseball has so many rules with exceptions during many situations that, if you’re on top of them and can recite the rule to the coach when he’s pissed off….its a great thing.  My spring and summer nights are starting to fill up with baseball games.  This season I’m totally off the varsity grid, I’m only working sub-varsity and USSSA baseball.  They’re in my comfort-zone.  I’ve worked the varsity level for a couple of years and decided that the travel, late nights and temper-tantrums from coaches weren’t worth it.  Its not that I don’t get a few coaches that go sideways on me at the USSSA or sub-varsity level, its just that I handle them better AND I’m usually home by ten at night or much earlier.

Thanks for coming along!

God bless!

R

 

 

Its in the books….2016-17

Unless the folks in charge of officials suddenly realize that they’ve left me out of sub-state or state action, my high school season of officiating basketball is over until November.  Its kind of a melancholy moment, realizing that you’re not thought highly enough of to get the “great games” but honestly….I’m sore and tired.  My whole body hurt by the time the season ended.  Oh….by the way…yours truly got three post-season games.  My season ended with a flurry of six games in six nights, with the furthest being an hour and a half away on a Monday night.  Regardless…here are bullet points of my season:

  • Last season I assigned five technical fouls.  This season only one.  I could have had three more very easily but chose instead to talk to the coaches, to calm them down.  In hind-sight…I should’ve whacked ’em.  All three were sub-varsity coaches behaving poorly.  I did the game no favors by letting them pace the sideline, holler like they were coaching the Bulls and question every call.  I applaud their passion, though want the game to be the show…not the coach.
  • I had a (wait for it….) good season.  Only one regrettable moment where I put the ball into play without my partners being ready.  Sounds innocent enough….right?  WRONG.  DEAD WRONG.  I lost sleep over that brain fart.  Lesson learned.  It won’t happen again.
  • I worked a game with the flu.  I thought that I was going to die on the way home.  Didn’t. 
  • I worked a weeks worth of games with a cold.  It felt like my legs were tree stumps. When I work games with a cold I don’t take cold medicine….I gotta keep my focus,  even if I feel like a baby treats a diaper.
  • We have a new partner on our three-man crew for next season.  His name is Jon.  Jon works out and eats right.  Jon’s built like a brick ****house.  Our other partner is fifteen years younger than me and works out too.  I think that I’m in for some serious body-shaming this upcoming season if I don’t lose ten pounds and get into the gym soon…and stay there.  (dammit!!)
  • No sooner does my high school season end for 2017 when…eleven games for 2017-2018 show up in my email.  Eleven!!  (This is how nerdy I am…) I’m looking forward to them already.  Most are teams that I’ve done before though there are a few new ones there.  Good road trips type of games.  I.  Can’tWait!!

Photos gallery of this past season:

Post game meal waiting for us in the locker room. Hot dogs, pretzels, Gatorades, Snicker bars and Doritos. This school takes great care of officials. Others give you a bottle of water and that's it.

Post game meal waiting for us in the locker room. Hot dogs, pretzels, Gatorades, Snicker bars and Doritos. This school takes great care of officials. Others give you a bottle of water and that’s it.

After the game. Do you see all of our groupies waiting for us...at center court? I didn't think so

After the game. Do you see all of our groupies waiting for us…at center court? I didn’t think so

Pregame....just waiting for the sophomore game to finish. Joel stretching out and Dan reviewing the rule book.

Pregame….just waiting for the sophomore game to finish. Joel stretching out and Dan reviewing the rule book.

This night we're in the coaches office. Not too glamorous but at least its warm and roomy.

This night we’re in the coaches office. Not too glamorous but at least its warm and roomy.

Never leave a music teacher alone in your back seat with frosted windows. Never....

Never leave a music teacher alone in your back seat with frosted windows. Never….

On our way to Cedar Falls

On our way to Cedar Falls

At our first tournament game.

At our first tournament game.

An hour and a half drive. Great sunset...again.

An hour and a half drive. Great sunset…again.

Did I tell you that leaving a music teacher alone is a bad idea?

Did I tell you that leaving a music teacher alone is a bad idea?

An hour + drive started out with Joel playing C.W. McCall's Convey three times in a row. Loved. IT.

An hour + drive started out with Joel playing C.W. McCall’s Convoy three times in a row. Loved. IT.

Baseball starts in two and a half months.  Time to get into the rule book.  Sadly…my real love really begins on December 5th….for now.  More games should be assigned soon.  Thanks for coming along.  God bless!

R

On this hallowed eve…

Ahhh….turning 51 tomorrow.  What can I say?  My celebrity pals have been all over it.   Brad Pitt sent me a pair of mittens that he knitted himself (or so he says…).  Beyoncé dedicated a song to me at her last concert (or so she says…I wasn’t there.  Her concerts are past my bedtime) and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that the first touchdown pass that he throws in tonight’s Super Bowl will be for me (he always says crap like that…).   Anyway…celebrity notables aside, here’s what’s on my mind as I turn 51:

  • You know that you’re getting older when the gifts that you receive become more and more about comfort and “socks” are mentioned as your number one item.  Instead my beloved bride bought me a really nice chair to sit my dainty derriere into whilst I sit in front of the computer, making funny for you folks.  Nicely played Connie Sue.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.  If I had come to this realization forty years earlier I can’t help but think just how different this life would be.  In high school I would have danced my ass off at homecoming and prom.  Ass….OFF.  I would have shot the ball constantly in basketball.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I probably would have started down a different career path.  It’s not that I don’t like what I do now, it’s just maybe these talents would have been better suited elsewhere.  At the age of 51…its probably too late to try something different.  Everyday I’m around many young people. I encourage them. I let them know that while I am their boss and hold them accountable for their actions that they are valuable and there’s no such thing as a “perfect life”.  That todays culture doesn’t put enough importance on being: honest, trustworthy, friendly, moral, having a good work ethic and playing nice with others.  That you don’t have to agree with everyone. That life is oftentimes a grind of the boring and mundane.  That it’s up to you to make it happen for you.  And while I’m at it…making work fun and stable for those under my watch.  I really appreciate those tried and true stalwarts of my work day.
Failing...?

Failing…?

  • Are you like me?  Old enough to remember the days when you had to buy a rock groups whole album just to get the ONE song that you really liked?  Albums were like ten bucks or more, and unless the group was really good you had just paid ten dollars for one song.  That’s why I think ITunes is the bees knees.  $1.29 for one song.  Just a couplea clicks and its downloaded into your computer.  A few more clicks and its burned onto a blank DVD-R for the CD player in my old Chevy truck.  Quick survey…who has AC/DC AND the Statler Brothers in their ITunes library?  Anyone…?  Anyone…?  Just…me?  Figures.  The Class of 57 is GOLD people.  GOLD.
  • Yes, I will be getting back into the gym.  Officiating basketball doesn’t really keep a guy fit or build the upper body.  Goals set.  Failure looms.  Let’s see what happens.
  • At this age I’m probably more apt to call a spade a spade, a drama queen a drama queen and walk away from idiots rather than waste my time and energy.
  • I traveled to four different countries this past year.  Headed to Europe this year.  I’m pumped.  I’m also pumped to take a two-day road trip, camera in tow,  of the back roads of my beloved home state…Iowa.  I might even make it a three-day trip.
Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Rooms next to the river.  Nuff said

Rooms next to the river. Nuff said

  • I haven’t gotten any post-season officiating assignments.  There’s still time, I suppose, but I’m skeptical.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do your best, get a glowing evaluation from a state clinician at a big time game, love the sport and work on it daily to get better only to be on the outside looking in…left out of the tournament.  I had a great season, nothing can diminish that.  I’m a good official, and so are the guys on our crew…but it wasn’t meant to be this season.  Failure isn’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lesson to learn from it.  I just don’t know what that lesson is, yet.  I’ll have all off-season to mull it over.  All.  EightMonths. 
It could be a long offseason....

It could be a long offseason….

  • I’ll be published!!  A magazine contacted me about writing an article for them.  Dead serious!  I signed a contract and am getting paid to write.  I had my right-brained wife (who’s real anal about being smart…cause she is…) proof-read the article prior to submission.  She had me add a couple dozen comma’s and apostrophes.  Nuff said.
  • It’s a time of transition.  My old classmates are becoming grandparents.  Those big-haired, sexy vixens from the early nineteen eighties are now grannies…and are totally rocking it!!  I love seeing them with their grandkids on Facebook.  It’s also a time when some of my older friends are retiring.  What.  The.  Hell?!  I can’t have friends that old…can I?  Good for them.  AARP has been blowing up my phone trying to get me into their stable of older celebrities.  I’m not buying…for now.
Ooo...touch tone phones?!  Why didn't you SAY so?

Ooo…touch tone phones?! Why didn’t you SAY so?

  • This next year I’ll try to shore up some long time friendships that have gotten on the cool side of luke-warm.  You may never know what kind of journey someone’s on until you park their ass on a bar stool and buy them a beer, or three.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, for reading along and commenting.  I count myself truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  God bless.

R

 

 

Thank you for commenting. Yes…I am a wiseass

Its that time of the season when my body is constantly aching.  My legs, calves, ankles, feet and lower back are all requesting a steady diet of Advil.  All of the games that looked great last May and June when they were assigned to me have lost some of their shine in the present.  Don’t get me wrong, I still want to work them and love officiating its just the price that’s paid to work them.  The road trip there, up to an hour or more.  The boredom prior to the game, we’re there an hour before tip off and there’s only so much the same three crew mates can talk about.  The drive home and subsequent short night of rest before going back into work at 5:30 AM.  I love it…though it takes a toll.  Its that toll that prompted me to write a short Facebook post about what I’d like the fans, coaches and players to know about the games that I work.  I wrote it for family and friends to read.  Maybe a hundred people.  I wrote it in my usual witty wiseass way making a few valid points along the way.  It started getting shared immediately.  I changed my privacy settings to Public so that others might be able to read it. As of this morning its had almost three thousand likes and shares EACH.  That’s INSANE.  I’ve blogged seriously for several years and have never had a reaction like this.  Its been shared over-seas.  Its been written about in the Des Register.  I’ve had officials from all over contact me and thank me for writing and posting it.  There’s a movie deal in the works….(I’m lying now).  Seriously though, it’s perplexing to me how its resonated with folks.  Over five hundred comments, ninety-nine percent of them extremely positive.  A small fraction of the comments were negative.  I only deleted one, he was abusive. I kept the other negative comments to show readers what referees are up against.  Idiocy.  We’re up against idiocy.  A few folks wrote that I needed to “get out of the kitchen if you can’t stand the heat” or that I was being “thin-skinned”.  A long time coach questioned my motives.  Most readers of that post understood that I was being funny with a thread of truth that ran throughout.  For a  few others I commented that I had originally written this as a humorous post only for family and friends to read…not for the old ball coach at Cornstalk Community High to take as the Gospel.  Relax folks…if its on Facebook it’s not necessarily meant to be taken seriously…especially if its from yours truly.

Its been a good season.  Post-season officiating assignments are being released tomorrow with more games released later this month.  Its a honor to be assigned post-season games.  Fingers crossed I’ll get the call.

One sad note, our crew chief Joel is stepping aside.  Arthritis in his knees is making the games that we officiate together a painful burden.  He’ll still sub in for games when he can, but his departure is leaving a big hole.  He’s a big reason that I’ve gotten as far as I have in such a short time.  While we’ve gotten a replacement for him, and Jon will fit in just fine, we’ll miss our friend.

Dan, Joel and I

Dan, Joel and I

Until later please keep in mind that I am:

#1..a wise ass.

#2…see #1.

#3…don’t believe everything that you read on Facebook.

Fortunately for me I was asked to referee for the Special Olympics basketball tournament again this year.  Its one of the highlights of my season.  True story.

God bless.

R

 

803.5 hours…not that I’m counting

I’m like a caged animal.  A middle-aged, drowsy, impatient, bored out of his mind, tensed-up caged animal.  My officiating season starts in just 803.5 hours, give or take ten minutes.  Oh sure…I’ll “warm-up” with some middle-school games, those are always nice to start a season with, but the meat and potatoes of my season, the serious stuff, the stuff that really matters will start on Tuesday November 22nd.  I read the rules book in August. (it hasn’t changed).  The new rule book arrived Monday.  One major change from last year…e-cigarettes are banned from the bench now.  Who has two thumbs and never thought that he’d see THAT in the rule book?  THIS GUY!!   I’ve been watching training videos of games, gone to a clinic and daily read through more training books.  Honestly…it’s pretty boring stuff.  I can’t wait to get out there on the court.

I worked a preseason girls basketball league this fall, for the fourth year.  That’s always fun.  Informal yet serious.  It gets me some court time and a little spending money to boot.  When I first started officiating five years ago I’d work any basketball tournament that I could.  In the first two years of officiating I worked around 340 games…mostly AAU type of games where the parents and coaches scream and everyone has aspirations of “little Madison” or “little Dakota” getting a full-ride athletic scholarship to a D-I college.  I worked them to gain experience and money.  For the past two seasons I’ve avoided the majority of those tournaments.  The play is usually marginal.  The parents and coaches can be overbearing and it can be a crapshoot on who you’re working with as a partner.  Don’t get me wrong…there’s many good coaches and caring parents but I usually shy away from that environment.  Instead I’ve decided to work a few little kid tournaments where they’re just starting out.  Double-dribbling, traveling and three-seconds are usually overlooked in place of helping them learn and making the game fun for them.  For me…the reward, get new players into the game that I love and having them learn and have fun too.  The other reason that I don’t work as many weekend tournaments is…at the tender age of fifty, I just can’t work five or six games a day and be my best.  Honestly…I usually don’t get yelled at much when I do those games, even if they’re bigger kids games. It probably has more to do with me being a much better official now than when I started out.

I put these photos together on a meme generator.  It’s how I think folks around me view my officiating.

what-i-do

My two goals for this season are being patient with my calls and being a better communicator with coaches.  Sounds easy enough, yet it was a struggle last season and drove me crazy.  To be honest, those two are connected I suppose.

Dan "Double D" Dyrland. Joel "DuffMan" Duffy and me...the Rookie

Dan “Double D” Dyrland. Joel “DuffMan” Duffy and me…the Rookie

So…long story short.  I can’t wait for this season.  The games.  The road trips.  The camaraderie.   The stories told and re-told.  The laughter.  The pregame in the locker room. The athletes.  The echo of bouncing basketballs in an empty gym as we arrive. The excited chatter of fans before the game.  The great plays.  The blocked shots.  The three-pointers.  The drive to the lane where the defense is set up to take a charge and the dribbler dishes to a cutter who lays it in uncontested.  The three-quarter court press with ten seconds left.  The pep-band belting out BTO’s “Takin’ care of business”.  Checking the scorebook.  Working with the table. The explosion of sound from the bleachers on a block-charge.  The rowdy student section.  The smell of popcorn and the squeak of sneakers.  Its constantly learning.  Its being blessed to be on this crew and getting games from our assigners. It’s talking to players when no ones looking, asking them to clean up their game or they could pick up their third foul of the half.  Grandpa and Grandma sitting in the second row.  The starting line-ups.  Our national anthem.  Witnessing good sportsmanship close up. The non-verbals from Lead to Center to Trail.  The post-game break down on the drive home.  The satisfaction of knowing that we got it “right” even if the crowd/coaches/players beg to differ.  It’s knowing that my crew has my back, and I have theirs.  Its seeing the conference standings shaping up in late January and knowing that we have a possible “clash of the Titans”  type of game for first place in the conference on a Friday night.  (the gym will be packed!!)  The anticipation of receiving a post-season assignment.  Game management.  Seeing a third-stringer hit a three-pointer during garbage time and hearing their bench and the gym erupt.  Watching a team come back, the time out to stem the tide and letting the game play out as we watch for fouls, violations and another time out. Its mentoring new officials how I was taught. Its months later when a person sees me in public and tells me that they saw us work a close, hard-fought game at their school and letting me know that our crew did a really good job. Its the anticipation of working a game that adds excitement and possibilities to my work day.  It’s all good.  Its in my veins.  I’m addicted. 

closely-guarded-001

I can’t wait.

Thanks for coming along.

God bless,

R

 

In a nutshell I attempt the impossible

A few thoughts from this past season of officiating basketball…

  • The season had just started when I had a bad night, it came out of nowhere.  Nothing was out of the ordinary in the game, but I made a bad call and got totally reamed by the coach.  I doubled my nights problems by making a second bad call early in the second half.  “Holy sh*t!!” is what I was thinking…TWO BAD calls in one game?!  I rarely have any, much less two.  I was having the worst night in my career and couldn’t wait to get off of the court, and it was only two calls.  Let me preface that by saying that the calls weren’t game-changing per say…every call affects the game but for me….it was a devastating bad night.  How did I make those calls?  Why did I make those calls?  What was going through my head?  I’ve worked hundreds and hundreds of games…why was this happening?! What was different on this night that I’d kick two calls when I rarely, rarely have any calls that I truly regret putting a whistle on?  It was a Tuesday night and I didn’t sleep but a few hours that night…like maybe three or four.  The next night wasn’t much better.  By Thursday I was so pissed off at myself that I couldn’t wait to get back out there on the court and prove to myself and my crew that Tuesday nights game was just a fluke, an anomaly…a minor blip on the radar of my young career.  An athlete can have an off night and its exactly that…an off-night that their shots don’t fall, they can’t dribble the ball nor rebound, their passes sail into the bleachers.  They catch a break from the crowd and coaches.  The coaches can have bad nights with the way that they prepared their teams for the game, and when the other team blows them out by thirty points it was because the other team was better that night…but when a referee has a bad nightdear God help him/her….they’re going to hear it from the student section, the parents, the fans, the coaches and their bench and last but not least…his/her crew in the locker room and the following days.  Officials are to be perfect.  As a crew we thoroughly went through that game the next day, spending almost twenty-four hours critiquing what went wrong.  As a crew…it was our worst night…ever.  After beating ourselves up for a day we put it aside and went out and had a great game our next night out.  I doubt that anyone else knows just how seriously that we take the game, except for other officials.  It keeps us awake at night wondering if we did our best.  I thank God that Joel and Dan were so patient with me during that week.  I was a basket-case.
Bringin' in the subs...

Bringin’ in the subs…

  • There are such light moments in sports that if you just stop and look around its beautiful. I worked over seventy school games this season.  From middle school seventh-graders to varsity boys 4A games where the kids dunk and are Division I recruits.  Each game has its challenges and rewards.  I was sitting in the bleachers putting on my shoes during a C game for eighth grade girls.  C games are the least athletic kids playing and hence…they get the gym teacher to officiate the game.  During warm ups there were toddlers walking on the floor as their big sisters took turns shooting free throws.  Gangly-legged, awkward girls trying to practice lay-ups without traveling with the ball and not having much luck but totally having a blast.  Players looking up into the bleachers expectantly, then upon seeing “Mom” or “Grandpa” breaking into a big smile and waving at them before returning to warming up.  Its seeing someone who isn’t a ball-hog throw the ball to their opponent because they didn’t know what else to do with it and the crowd roaring with laughter at the folly.  It’s kids who apologize and help the other player up after they knock them down.  Its the subs sitting deep on the end of the bench…eating tortillas slathered in nacho cheese sauce when the coach calls them to play and they tell their teammates to “make sure Dakota doesn’t eat these..” as she jogs straight onto the court without reporting to the scorers table.  Light moments, warm thoughts…I chuckle through my whistle.
  • Technical fouls…I rarely give any, I just don’t.  The game is about the game and players, not me and the coach.  Issuing a technical to a coach stops the game and makes it about something that he/she did that I now have to stop and address.  I was having a great season only issuing one technical foul to a kid who dropped the F-bomb fairly loud.  It was an easy call.  Then last week I issued three T’s in less than twenty-four hours, tossing one coach (I whacked him twice within about fifteen seconds…something that I regret doing).  Don’t get me wrong…he earned them and the suspension that’s required, but for me to let him get under my skin when he bellowed “DON’T PENALIZE ME FOR YOUR SCREW UP!!” was enough to really make me angry.  I take this vocation very seriously, always have…and he got to me.  I can’t let that happen again.
  • Last season I earned a post-season tournament game, which doesn’t happen very often for a third year official.  I was honored and hoped that I’d earn that honor again this season, and maybe get TWO (hey…a guy can dream…).  Well…I was lucky enough to earn….(wait for it….)…three post-season tournament games.  One girls semi-final regional and two boys quarter-final district games.  It’s validation of me doing well in this thing that I love.  Blessed to be on a great crew and blessed to get recognition.  My mentors taught me very well.
That...is a foul

That…is a foul

 

“Patience is the art of concealing your impatience”  Guy Kawasaki.

  • So yeah…mid-season we had a game where the intensity was very high.  The coaches were loud, the gym-full crowd was rudely opinionated (I seriously doubt that any one of them had read the 2015-16 NFHS basketball rule book nor its follow up case play book…either of which is a sure-fire page turner).  We heard several personal attacks on us as officials. Regardless, we had a game that as a crew…we walked away scratching our heads.  We didn’t feel that we had a good game as a crew, not nearly as bad as earlier…just not our normal kick-ass game.  My officiating boss e-mailed me later that same week, a friend of his who’s a college official was at the game and wanted to pass on some of his notes.  It went like this….”you’re good, but to be great and work deep into the post season you need to be more patient.  Wait half a second with your whistle and then get the call.”  My boss concurred.  I couldn’t disagree.  I’m as impatient as they come.  I have to work fast at my career, its required.  I eat fast, run fast, talk fast.  I’m fast, period….and now to get better and keep myself out of trouble on the court….I need to wait HALF A SECOND to blow my whistle (if needed) to make a call.  It’s been a struggle.  The average person thinks “half a second is nothing!!  Just wait.”  The game moves so fast. I’m a work in progress is all that I’ll say.  I want too, believe me.
  • My season ends quietly this afternoon at an 8th grade boys game held in a little town twenty minutes away.  Its an anti-climatic end to a wonderfully exciting and fun season.  Two nights ago I was working a game where there was a dunk on a steal in a big school gym that had several hundred vocal fans in it.  Today…I go back to where I came from…small town Iowa.  The game is important to the players, coaches, parents, relatives and now….me.  I want to end this season with a flourish.  I won’t be banging out calls like its the seventh game of the NBA Finals…but I’ll be ready….bet your ass I will.
During my drive to my tournament games Monday night it came to me that tonight...some boys playing careers will end.  They're Seniors in high school, and with a loss...their competitive playing days will be over.  The players and those Senior cheerleaders...its over tonight for them.  The squeak of sneakers on a basketball court, the smell of freshly popped popcorn, the ticket-takers letting you pass without paying since you're the player/cheerleader...it'll be over tonight.  I think of this as I drive towards the school, along blacktop highways on a raw and overcast late winter day as dead prairie grass and corn stalks reach up in vain....breaking the crust of a hard winter snow.  It'll be warm soon, time for baseball and the promise of new dreams...but for now...I'm sad.

During my drive to my tournament games Monday night it came to me that tonight…some boys playing careers will end. They’re Seniors in high school, and with a loss…their competitive playing days will be over. The players and those Senior cheerleaders…its over tonight for them. The squeak of sneakers on a basketball court, the smell of freshly popped popcorn, the ticket-takers letting you pass without paying since you’re the player/cheerleader…it’ll be over tonight. Your parents who brought you up, taught you to play the game and supported you through your playing career will either see that end, or have that career extended if for but one more tournament game.  I think of this as I drive towards the school, along blacktop highways on a raw and overcast late winter day as dead prairie grass and corn stalks reach up in vain….breaking the crust of a hard winter snow. It’ll be warm soon, time for baseball and the promise of new dreams…but for now…I’m sad that it’ll be over too soon for even me.

The hardest part of my basketball officiating season is…the off-season.  I’ll take a few days off then head into the gym for weights, stretching and running.  I’ll read the baseball rules, but its not the same.  My true love is waiting for me December 6th at center court.  Tip time 6PM.  Good seats still available.  I.  CAN’T.  WAIT!!

God bless,

R

I’m tired. Give me a blanket

As I walked into the gym of a small parochial school yesterday, for my last game of the season, I spied a little boy shooting hoops towards a little basket that had been lowered to accommodate little ones.  I took a seat in the bleachers as we waited for someone to unlock the classroom where we were to change into our uniforms when I asked the boy “where’s your uniform?  Aren’t you going to play today?”  He stopped, put the ball on his hip and shrugged his shoulders and earnestly replied “I’m only six and a half.”  I chuckled and replied “but what if they need you…?”  By this time he was dribbling the ball when he patiently stopped playing, retook his ball on hip stance and repeated “I’m only six and a half….” before he added “….I’ll be playing over here” motioning towards the corner of the gym behind the bleachers.  Maybe….some day.

I misspoke earlier…they weren’t bleachers…they were chairs brought out from the sancuatary that they had lined up on one side of the gym.  It was a small school.  Their pep band consisted of 1 tuba, 1 clarinet, 1 oboe, 1 piccolo and one bass drum…and, filled with the Holy Spirit, totally rocked out the TV theme song to Batman (no lying…they were really jamming!)  It was a good way to end my season, in the house of God with kind and patient fans, a good crew of fellow officials and a five piece band.

Its exciting in September when you look at your upcoming basketball schedule and most nights are filled up with games.  Its not so exciting when its 5 AM on the third Thursday of January, its minus ten degrees outside, you have a ten hour work day ahead of you then an hours drive to some small town where two undefeated team are hosting two teams with  lousy records.  Sure…the two games consist of eight 8 minute quarters for just a little over an hours worth of officiating…but by the time you figure in quarter breaks and halftimes, time outs, dead ball situations, pregame and postgame and the drive home you’re looking at a 5-6 hour time commitment.  It wears on me….even though I love it.  I think it wears on the players and coaches too. One of the nicest moments this season came when a team that was on the cusp of winning a conference championship for the first time in 39 years was hosting the worst team in their conference.  The dominant team’s coach substituted early and often so that the point spread wouldn’t be too much.  Once in awhile the players would trip over each other during rebounding, falling to the floor as the ball went the other way.  They’d help each other up, and laugh before jogging down court to rejoin the action.  Late in the game I could have sworn that the winning team was letting the subs of the losing team get their own missed shots and go up and score uncontested easy shots in the lane causing their fans, whom have seen a lot of horrible basketball this season, erupt in jubilation.  You’d have thought that it was a close game and that their team was on the cusp of winning the conference championship!   I’ve worked this winning teams games before….they have plenty of shot blockers to reject those attempts….but I think that they were instructed to “lay off” the other team.  I can’t prove it, but I have my suspicions.

I worked mostly small, rural Iowa high schools this season.  It’s where my roots lie.  Small gyms.  Farm kids for the most part.  Pep bands and cheerleaders.  Bleachers mostly full.  The atmosphere is electric when its the only show in town, the gym is packed with several hundred people and two competitive teams are rearing to go.  The fans are right on top of you, they let you know what their opinions are.  Most nights there are at least two, and as many as five video cameras capturing our game (all I’m saying is that the camera adds five pounds to my figure). I swear that I can tell who’s mother or grandmother is in the stands whenever I hear “GET HER OFF OF HER!!” whenever little Susie decides to pick up her dribble in the backcourt along the sideline during a three-quarter court press and two defenders close down and box Susie in…causing some flailing of arms to ensue (I feel like stopping play, turning to the mother/grandmother and replying “then teach her how to dribble with her left hand then…” but I don’t.  Little Susie had better “pass, shoot or call time out” because she’s at “8” on a backcourt count of 10. I have heard this song repeatedly throughout this season.  It must be a pep band standard as they even played it when I was in high school thirty years ago.  I love it when a pep band nails it.

Here are a few snapshots of the season:

My crew for next season.  Kim, Jerry and me.  Kim, being the oldest of the crew, regales Jerry and I with his stories of officiating games during the Wilson Administration.  "Back then we didn't have whistles...they were using all of the metal for WWI.  We threw road apples at the violators, thus the term 'dirty player' was invented!"  I like working with Jerry the best since he's such a good singer.  Nothing motivates a crew to get out of their locker room and onto the court like Jerry singing "HEY HEY WE'RE THE MONKEYS!!  PEOPLE SAY WE MONKEY AROUND!!"  I like working with Kim the best since his bald spot is larger than mine.  Kim's bald spot starts just over his eyebrows and extends to just above his shirt collar.  Kim's real generous in that regard.

My crew for next season. Kim, Jerry and me. Kim, being the oldest of the crew, regales Jerry and I with his stories of officiating games during the Wilson Administration. “Back then we didn’t have whistles…they were using all of the metal for WWI. We threw road apples at the violators, thus the term ‘dirty player’ was invented!” I like working with Jerry the best since he’s such a good singer. Nothing motivates a crew to get out of their locker room and onto the court like Jerry singing “HEY HEY WE’RE THE MONKEYS!! PEOPLE SAY WE MONKEY AROUND!!” I like working with Kim the best since his bald spot is larger than mine. Kim’s bald spot starts just over his eyebrows and extends to just above his shirt collar. Kim’s real generous in that regard.

Conferring during a time out, making sure that we're all on the same page.

Conferring during a time out, making sure that we’re all on the same page.

A closely guarded count.

A closely guarded count.

I had my whistle surgically  attached to my lower lip.  It saves TONS of time, I never lose it and whenever I want Connie's attention I just TWEEEEETTT!!!" and she's aware of my requests.  (side note....lately she's instructed me as to where I can have it inserted for next season.  I didn't think that her response was appropriate for this blog's readership so I excluded it.

I had my whistle surgically attached to my lower lip. It saves TONS of time, I never lose it and whenever I want Connie’s attention I just TWEEEEETTT!!!” and she’s aware of my requests. (side note….lately she’s instructed me as to where I can have it inserted for next season. I didn’t think that her response was appropriate for this blog’s readership so I excluded it).

A coach with a question....they always have questions....so inquisitive those coaches.

A coach with a question….they always have questions….so inquisitive those coaches.

Its time to end.  I’m tired.  I’m sore.  I’m looking forward to laying on the couch and not thinking about where I need to be tomorrow night, who I’m riding with or who’s riding with me.  No uniforms to wash, no bag to pack.  No Athletic Directors to notify, no worries about the drive time weather or if I can get back home.  No more nights of five hours of sleep.  I can be just a “couch potato”, but I know that a week of that and I’ll be ready to go again.  Baseball starts in late March, but for now I’ll lie low, under a warm blanket.

Driving home after a recent snow of eleven inches.  A full moon, single digit temperatures and an absolutely beautiful winter night.  At a crossroads once again...my new season starts in roughly six weeks.

Driving home after a recent snow of eleven inches. A full moon, single digit temperatures and an absolutely beautiful winter night. At a crossroads once again…my new season starts in roughly six weeks.

Thanks for following along this season.  God bless and have a great week. R

Now I’m gettin’ grumpy…

By this time of the basketball season most coaches know what kind of team they have.  A few have exceptional teams with many victories verses no losses.  A few more have good teams though it depends on the night that they’re playing.  Many have “Jekyll and Hyde” teams that are good in the first quarter but lose focus and things get ugly from there and then there’s the handful of teams that despite their best efforts are winless.  I’ve had the whole gamut this season.  Recently I had a game where the combined records of both teams were 1-19.  Now the upside of that kind of game is that it should be competitive….one team is looking to get their first win while the other team is looking to get win number two (for the record…the winless team won their first game in close to three years.  Talk about a postgame celebration!!

This season, my third, has been about proving that I belong out there.  60+ games, mostly varsity.  Lots of running.  Late nights.  Five hours of sleep.  Getting up at 5 AM and doing it all over again.  Its been physically draining, though thank God I had the foresight to schedule a few well placed vacation days after a stretch of games that would’ve been real difficult to recover from.  I’m getting old, I need time to rest.  My body aches from head to toe from the nearly “five nights a week” of officiating games.  I’m working through some minor injuries but it hasn’t slowed me down…much.  Its fun.  I love it.  Its probably keeping me more fit than killing me…but sometimes I wonder.

I told my wife that for Valentines Day she could get me a massage, a professional, work me over like I’m a ball of bread dough MASSAGE.  I think that it could possibly go like George Conzantas’, but maybe not.

 

Thanks for reading and God bless.

R

 

Don’t smile at me….

So the first month of my basketball season went well, nothing out of the ordinary.  My games are usually an hours drive or more from the Palatial Estates of RIPLEY INDUSTRIES.  The two other referees that I work with the most usually drive most of the way to the game after I meet them somewhere along the way.  Kim and Jerry have worked for several years in the conferences that I now find myself.  At a recent pregame coaches meeting the coach warmly greeted and joked around with both Kim and Jerry then extended her hand to me and said “I’ve never seen you before…” in a tone that was slightly weary.  No joking around followed with the handshake so I guess that I had to prove that I wasn’t a total idiot (its harder than it sounds….).

We work quite a few small school games, which is fine with me…those are the kind of schools that I played against while in high school.  Recently we were at a school and the pep band…all ten of them, were really putting on a show.  I’m dead serious, those kids played their hearts out for the benefit of those at the game.

At another game the wireless microphone died just as the announcer started with the teams starting line-ups.  The batteries went dead and none could be found quickly so he just belted out the line-ups as best as he could and it turned out fine since everyone in the small gym went silent so that he could be heard.  The young lady who sang our National Anthem (one of the three cheerleaders that night) went without the microphone as well.  Its interesting to note that everyone seemed to pull for her by singing just a little bit louder so that she wouldn’t have to sing alone.

At one hotly contested game the home team coach wasn’t happy with some of our calls (it happens…).  I called a foul on one of his players and jogged over to the scorers table to report the foul and overheard the following:

COACH…Katy, if you had used your left hand to block that shot you probably wouldn’t have fouled that girl.

KATY….But I’m right-handed.

COACH….No you’re not…you’re left-handed.

KATY…Ah, no I’m not…

COACH….Katy…you’re a lefty

KATY…NO I’M NOT.

TEAMMATE OF KATY….KATY YOU’RE A LEFTY!!!

Fun stuff these kids!!

And finally, when an official calls a foul on a player they usually stare down the player…not to intimidate but to memorize the players uniform color and number, something like “BLUE 24” so that when the official gets to the scorers table they can report the correct information.  With me I USUALLY say “BLUE 24 BLUE 24 BLUE 24 BLUE 24 BLUE 24” the entire way to the table so that I won’t lose the information.  I didn’t do that one night recently and got to the table, started to report, lost the number and had to look back over my shoulder and find the player that had committed the foul.  Fortunately the girl had easily distinguishable curly hair and was short….so finding her was easy.  I turned back around to see the official scorer (an older no-nonsense kinda gal) smiling at me since she was aware of my brain fart.  Later on in the nightcap, after the players, coaches, Kim and Jerry had taken their places on the court I turned to the scorer and said “don’t smile at me….IT THROWS ME” and she roared with laughter.  The remainder of the night whenever I had to report a foul she’d cover her mouth with her hand when I drew near but the sparkle in her eyes let me know that she was still laughing at me…which was fine with me as long as she got it right.

January promises to be a busy month.  God-willing it’ll be a good one with safe travel, no injuries and some fun along the way.  God bless and thanks for following along.

R