As I ended my last blog (an award-worthy presentation) I was headed towards a small junior high school twenty minutes out of town in the country for an 8th grade boys game. I was a little melancholy about it as it was my last school basketball game to officiate of this season. I’ll miss officiating, period. It gives me something to look forward to. I meet great people. I meet new people. I make new friends. I see great athleticism up close. (there’s a lot of “I” in this…) Its a challenge to get it right, to manage situations and people in an emotionally charged atmosphere. I love it.
That days “A” game featured two schools who have blossomed into conference rivals and their 8th grade teams really got after each other, throwing elbows and charging into other players. I called two player control fouls and one team control foul in the FIRST HALF!! (the three other basketball officials reading this blog just said “THAT’S INCREDIABLE!!” while the rest of you just glossed over that part with a shrug of your shoulders). Long story, short. Great game that went down to the last second. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
Do you know what’ll make you feel old and very mortal? The answer…falling down. Flat, on your side from a running position. I did exactly that…at that game, try THAT sometime. Tripped on my own size 11 feet while turning towards the new front court as the players were headed towards me….tripped and fell to the floor…at half court…in front of a hundred or so people. I won’t lie (like I normally do…). It hurt. It took my breath away. As I laid there I wondered if my officiating partner that day would see me down on the floor and blow the play dead then rush over to inquire as to my good health and equilibrium. Nope. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, will make you feel old. I should have just laid there at half-court until SOMEONE…SOME CARING INDIVIDUAL exclaimed “DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN!! THAT WONDERFUL AND ADORABLE REFEREE HAS FALLEN!! DOESN’T ANYONE CARE?!?!” but no one did…so I gamely got up and wobbled down court. One of the teams took a time-out shortly thereafter, thank God. I took the ball to half-court where we’d inbound it….right where I’d fallen. As I walked to that area a lady looked at me, patted the video camera in her lap and told me “I got it all on video for you…” The folks around her chuckled and I had to as well. I replied “If you submit that to America’s Funniest Home Videos and win I want 25% off the top” and she topped that with “I thought that you might need it for insurance!” Needless to say…I was sore for the next few days….hip and ribs. Feeling old and venerable, but adorable…that’s the way that I ended the 2015-16 season. (I knew that you’d want to know….)
I’ll jot a few notes during the season about the games that I’ve worked. I don’t use many of them, though here are a couple of my favorites.
- One Friday night, during a heated rivalry, we were officiating in a packed gym. No one liked our calls. Not the coaches. Not the players. Not the adults. Not the kids. We were getting an earful from all quadrants, and some of it pretty nasty stuff. As I walked with the ball towards the far sideline (I rarely look up into the bleachers to make eye-contact) I neared and in the middle of a bunch of raucous adults voicing their displeasure I made eye contact with a older lady with bright red hair (probably somewhere in her sixties) who was sitting there…quietly…with a little smile on her face looking back at me as the folks around her protested. She was so calm and pleasant in those surroundings. I gave her a quick wink and smirk. She returned the wink and grinned. I thank God for reasonable people in the midst of the foolhardy. Play on.
- At one of the junior high games that I worked I ran into two teams that were totally the opposite of each other. One knew how to play the game very well, the other did not. The first half ended with the score 38-5. I didn’t call fouls (they didn’t foul…they were that bad) or traveling, or double-dribble and the opposing coach could see what I was doing and was very good about it. They were awful and not having fun, you could tell by their body language and expressions. Time drags during games like that. Each whistle stops the clock. Everyone in the gym is silently pulling for the bad team to do ANYTHING a little better. Even the good team would steal the ball then cross over into the front court and would then back it out waiting for the defense to catch up with them. Eventually one of the girls on the bad team launched a 1950’s style shot from behind the three-point line. It hit the rim hard, bounced high then kissed the backboard before coming back down and rattling around the rim before settling into the net. The gym exploded. Literally EXPLODED. A three-point basket!! On their next possession the same player launched another three-point attempt and….nothing but net!! SWISH!!! The gym was going bananas!! Players were jumping up off their benches!! The bleachers were filled with folks high-fiving each other while others laughed openly wondering “what got into her?!” types of looks. I stole a glance at the opposing coach as I ran down court, she was doubled over laughing. I’m not sure what the final score was, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 60-15, but what will be remembered by practically everyone there were that players two back-to-back three-pointers, and the fun that they could now say that they had….playing in that game where sportsmanship prevailed.
Many folks don’t have any idea just how much spandex basketball officials wear during games. The answer is…A LOT. I’m literally covered from my neck down to my knees in spandex, then knee braces, then two pairs of socks, one of which is a thirty dollar pair of compression socks….all covering a body lathered in Ben-Gay. True story…we were getting ready to work a game when an older referee walked into the locker room. He walked in, started saying something then abruptly stopped and exclaimed “WOW!! SOMEBODY SMELLS GREAT IN HERE!!” That…ladies and gentlemen…gets you noticed. Ben-Gay. Good for me. Good for you.
Here’s something that’s kind of awkward. For instance, the home school pays for the officials of that evening game(s). Its roughly $90. Most send you a check within a few weeks. I track whom I’ve been paid by and who hasn’t paid me. As of yesterday’s mail I’m still owed by two schools, so on Monday…unless the checks arrive today…I’ll call those schools and ask if the checks have been issued. It’s awkward at one school since the coach is the athletic director and it was his team that lost a hotly contested game on a shot that fell with a few seconds left to play. “Umm…hi coach…remember me? You planning on paying our crew for that nights double-header…? Coach…? Hello…?”
In conclusion (I’m wrapping it up…pay close attention) I’m starting to pay special attention to my weight. In the past my weight has gradually increased, with no notable affects as I was skinny to begin with. With middle-age and officiating so much during the year I could continue to eat like a teenager without consequence. Before this past year losing weight was as easy as pie (I love pie…that’s a poor choice of words…but it’ll stay). Last off-season I gained fifteen pounds, and it doesn’t become me. After 70+ games I still have ten of those fifteen pounds. I’m now counting calories. I’m now using portion control. I made it to the gym this morning and begrudgingly rode an exercise bike and burned off only enough calories to cover the tablespoons worth of raspberry preserve that I had on my English muffin for breakfast this morning. For lunch…an egg and hash browns, and not much of those. No more candy, or the dish of peanut M&M’s on the coffee table. I have fresh and dried fruit. I have whole grain English muffins….and I’ll have to exercise more than ever since I still love to eat. I’m hungry. It’ll be okay. I’ll be fine. I’m not looking to lose weight so much as to maintain, and to firm up what’s there. We were recently at a really nice hotel for my 50th birthday…in case you missed it, it was February 6th….I was reaching for something by the sink when I saw something jiggle in the reflection of the hotel mirror. My man-boobs…they now jiggle. I. CAN’T. HAVE THAT!! So yeah…I’m hitting the weights again. A sad but true story.
In two weeks I’ll get to officiate again, this time at the Special Olympics Tourney. Its a blast. I get more fun and pleasure from the games that day than a weeks worth of working good teams. The atmosphere is electric for them and restoring for me. Blessed in different ways we’ll have fun…you can be sure of that.
Until next time…thank you for reading, God bless and take care,