Upon further review….there’s more to say

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 hurtIt 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 explodedLiterally 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.  ICAN’THAVE 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,

R

 

 

 

 

My secrets out…and Mrs. Ripley isn’t happy about it!!

I know.  I know.  Its been a month since my last blog so just calm down, grab a refreshing drink of your choice and hunker down for these five tidbits. Odds and ends from this end of Iowa.

  • It’s springtime here at the Palatial Estates and Worldwide Headquarters of Ripley Industries and I have a couplea days off.  I’m cooking this evening which means that Ol’ Sparky (our grill) is going to be fired up, thick juicy hamburgers will be charbroiled, topped with cheddar cheese and strips of bacon.  That alone is reason to celebrate but I’ve kicked it up a notch with potato salad and baked beans as quality side dishes.  A funny story about my baked beans goes something like this:  I’d volunteer to make some baked beans for reunions, parties etc. and literally everyone would tell me how great they were (this is a true story).  I was known in my family as “the guy who makes the BEST baked beans.”  My wife, the honorable and trustworthy Mrs. Richard Ripley, would make baked beans for us following the same recipe in the cook book but they weren’t as good.  She’d ask me if I did anything differently from the recipe and, in response,  I’d cock my eyebrows,  turn my head at an angle and reply “…like what?”  This went on for several years until one night she got all sexy-upped (more than usual is all I’m sayin’) lipstick, perfume…plying me with alcohol and her womanly ways and purred into my ear…”…are you sure that there’s nothing else that you put into your baked beans honey-bunny?”  Now normally I’m like a mountain…devoid of any emotions and cannot be swayed to betray secrets to even the prettiest girl but as Mrs. Ripley ran her fingers through my hair and told me how much she liked all of my jokes (even the knock-knock ones) and said that she was thinking pretty strongly of baking a cake later in the night (chocolate with lots of chocolate frosting) I casually replied “well….you know, about that baked bean recipe…I’ll usually use twice the amount of brown sugar in it than the recipe says to use…but I don’t really add anything to it and about that cake…when do you think it’ll be? “ “YOU USE THREE CUPS OF BROWN SUGAR IN ONE CASSEROLE DISH OF BAKED BEANS?!?!” Mrs. Ripley belted out at the top of her lungs. “Yep…been doin’ it for years…so about the cake…”  Mrs. Ripley suddenly remembered that her favorite TV show was about to start, shot me the stink-eye and left the room.  I’m still waiting for that cake to show up and coincidently….her baked beans are now the equal to mine.  Just wait until she finds out what I’ve been adding to her wine!
  • I used to work a part time job at a home for adult men who were mentally handicapped.  As part of my job I’d cook for them, help them with their laundry and for the guys who needed more help…give them baths.  At first…it was extremely awkward to do some of the things that I did as part of that job (imagine giving a person your own age a shower…washing them)  The guys, eight of them, had different levels of independence and communication skills.  A couplea of the guys couldn’t talk at all but they could do basic things.  I came to love those guys for who they were, not for who they weren’t,  their love for people and excitement for life was uninhibited.  If they liked you, they loved you.  This past weekend I worked the Special Olympics as a basketball referee and had a blast.  Two particular moments pretty much sums up the whole day for me.  I was working one game of adult men.  It was a pretty up tempo game when I called a foul on one of the players.  He jogged over to me and I thought that he was going to argue the call but instead said “Yep…it was me!!  As soon as I heard your whistle I thought to myself ‘I’ll bet that’s on me!”  My number is 58.  Sorry about that!!” and then jogged away.  I’ve worked in the neighborhood of 400+ games in the past three years and can honestly say that no player has ever said that to me!!  Priceless.  Earlier on, two different teams, one from a hearing impaired school and another from a community of kids who would commonly be referred to as “special-ed”, without physical handicaps, played each other.  It was hard, if only because the deaf team didn’t understand the game nor its rules.  We didn’t call any violations on them…they were simply that bad at the game.  We didn’t call anything on the other team either since it wouldn’t have been fair.  The deaf team was being beaten soundly, at the end of the first quarter it was 16-0.  The winning teams coach then had her team do something that I’ve never seen before….when her team got the ball they walked it up the floor and then waited for the deaf team’s players to catch up, take their defensive positions and then they would start their offense.  The better team let the deaf team shoot the ball unguarded, over and over again, getting rebound after rebound.  With just a few seconds left the deaf teams point guard, who for the previous three-quarters had just dribbled and dribbled and dribbled without ever making any attempt to dribble it towards the basket took her dribble from the half court line, to the far sideline to the baseline into the lane and tossed up a shot as time expired.  The ball kissed the backboard and swished through the net as the horn ended the game.  I hammered down the “count the basket” signal and both benches erupted, jumping up and down, high-fiving each other and congratulating one another.  It. Was. BEAUTIFUL.  The final score was something like 34-6, though my officiating partner for the day summed it up best.  “I always finish my year working this tournament.  I’m worn out.  The season is long.  The coaches, fans and players and all of their complaining and stupid stuff makes me want to quit….but then I come here and see these kids and adults having so much fun, playing, sharing and laughing….it rejuvenates me.”  Well said brotherWell said.  I hope that they ask me back next year.
  • If you’re old enough you remember the days that if you liked a particular song your choices were: buy the album, buy the 45 OR hope that you could record it off of the radio onto a cassette (which I had the rare and unique ability to do though the stupid DJ would still be giving you the weather report right up to and sometimes over the first few words of the song).  It kinda sucked.  You might only like a song or two off of a particular album but you’d have to buy the WHOLE album to get the two or three songs that you liked.  That’s why I liked K-Tel records so much, you’d get five or six really good songs mixed in with a few less crappy songs.  I owned several K-Tel albums as a kid and that’s probably the reason I’m a HUGE fan of ITunes.  This afternoon I downloaded around a dozen songs from the likes of Donna Summer, Neil Young, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Cosby Stills and Nash for about the same amount of money that an album would’ve cost me.
  • As avid readers of Rich Ripley already know….I’ve helped out at a Christian Men’s retreat entitled “A Walk to Emmaus” on several occasions.  The good folks who oversee this area of our state either lost their minds or lost a bet and decided to ask me if I’d be the Lay Director on this fall’s retreat.  I’ve accepted and am excited to see how this all works out.  I’m in charge of lining up a team of around thirty guys to help other guys over the course of a three day retreat.  Its a huge responsibility (God’s involved…you know…so I’ll have to behave as much as I can…which isn’t long) so my spiritual juices are flowing.  I’ve never made any secret about the fact that I’m probably the least holy person in the room, though I’ve been blessed with the ability to speak in front of groups…usually with a fair amount of humor involved….about my faith walk.  (keep us all in your prayers is all I’m sayin’)
  • Baseball season is just around the corner.  I’ve been reading the rule book and reviewing what I think that I’ll need to know.  Meetings and clinics are planned.  I’ve got varsity games already booked and my equipment bag opened up and gone through.  Probably the neatest thing going right now is that my umpire mask is being used by an eight year old for a play that he’s in at school.  I should’ve warned the little whipper-snapper that us umpires are regular “babe-magnets” and those third grader girls will be chasing him endlessly during recess.  Poor little fella….I hope that he gets caught just as soon as he wants to be…which may be ten or fifteen years too early for his mother.  (Melanie…tell Gabe to wipe all of that lipstick off of my mask before returning it….Mrs. Ripley insists.)

Have a great week and God Bless!! Your humble and capable leader…. R