Holy Crap, a new entry! Or, first game of the season 2013.

June 12, 2013
By TheRef
No, I'm not completely retired yet from this blog, but as I wind down the games (and types of games) I do for soccer, there's not really the internal need for me to write like I did in years past. With derby I have other avenues to vent; and there seems to be a better understanding of what referees do with players in derby than soccer.

But soccer - yes, I did it again: I registered and signed up for some games. In years by I'd be getting division 1 and 2 men's games; but today it's a division 3 women's game, which is fine. The season is already well underway, but since I had to do a lot of traveling out of state, I just wasn't in a place to do any of them. I've actually said in the past that I really felt like I should not do those higher games any more - I may have years of experience in them, but it's a long time gone, and it wouldn't do the players justice.

But what I have decided, and this applies to last few years, too, but it worth repeating (to myself at least), is that I'll try to run the games I have at the most professional, best way I can. Crab run all over the place, run to the goal line, good signals, etc.

More good news is that I've been running on a fairly regular basis (irony; it wasn't for soccer, but mostly because I needed to keep active while living in hotel rooms), so aside from, and I hate saying this but I feel I should come clean, getting a bit bored with the game, all went well. I do try to fight the boredom, but sometimes, when there's little to do (even when my "job" is watching the back-side of play when on the line), it's something I need to work at.

The game almost didn't go off - both fields in the complex were in use (one by our game), but there was a youth team that also thought they were supposed to play there. Fortunately, their opponent never showed up (our assignor said they spoke to them earlier and said they didn't have that field); maybe not telling them.

One really big gripe, though. Since it was my job to figure out what the heck was going on with the fields, I didn't participate in the check-ins; after the game started, I just dealt with the late-comers. And sure enough, one of them came with earrings in and I simply said that she could check in once she took them out; oldest rule in the league, even older than "No Pass, no play". She never said anything, just didn't go in for the first half, and then the center referee let her in. Sigh... oldest rule ever and he just made it harder for everyone else. Read More »

It needs to come from the top down

February 10, 2013
By TheRef
First, apologies for the site weirdness over the last few days: the site got moved to a new server (among other things) - there might be some hiccups in the site itself, but the DNS and sever appears to be more normal now.

So, just a little mini-rant. I'm in the process of going through my soccer re-certification, and there's an online section of referee abuse. So far, everything on how to deal with it is good - except that the USSF still fails to realize that the issue is a top down one; while yelling and abuse is allowed at the highest levels of the game, it will not stop at the lowest. I know the USSF can't do anything about international games, but saying that professional games are "entertainment" and thus allows them to yell at referees just kills me. I saw very little shirt pulling until the 2002 World Cup, where it was allowed without repercussion; even before the cup was over, leagues that had none went to stretched fabric all over the place.

Parents are the example to their children. Professional soccer is the example to the lower levels. If the players and coaches are being paid, then they should have that added responsibility to behave properly. But no, the presentation is a "zero tolerance approach to abuse of soccer officials" in the "youth game."

Sigh. Read More »

What happened to the NFL replacement refs?

January 3, 2013
By admin
Way back in 2007, I wrote about a dream where I was unexpectedly put into a professional game, and what would happen. No big glory story, just a dream where I could say, "I did that". Then I compared it to a game one level below professional that I actually did work, and how reality rather clashes with dreams.

I was having a conversation with a friend's mother in the hospital (thankfully everyone seems to be doing better now - I won't go into details other than the condition was mentioned on House, and then dismissed because it didn't happen to people of xyz ancestry - so much for TV doctors), who is from Wisconsin, and asked me my opinion about the replacement referees, and the call last September (if you're unfamiliar with the situation, just Google Green Bay Packers and Replacement Refs). I actually hadn't thought about it much, because I'm not a fan of American Football (or pointyball, or handegg, or 8.5 minutes of real action over three-and-a-half hours of broadcast time - but that's mostly aimed at people who try to shove the sport down my throat when it's just not a game that interests me). But I had a couple thoughts that popped into my head, that didn't seem to be answered or talked about anywhere:

First, what is the state of referee development for the NFL? I remember lots being said about the replacement refs being from high school, or the Lingerie Football League (don't get me started on that), and so-forth. There is no minor league, or secondary division structure like in proper football (soccer in this country), or even in baseball, hockey, or basketball. The NFL uses college sports for their player development, and those refs wouldn't risk losing their plumb assignments to be scabs for the NFL. Yes, there are minor league football leagues, I've seen some videos of them, and they're nowhere near the level of play.

Second, nobody compared the replacement refs to the replacement players in 1987. I seem to recall that the replacement players were widely ridiculed. From Wikipedia:

The replacement player teams were given mock names like "Chicago Spare Bears", "San Francisco Phoney Niners", "New Orleans Saint Elsewheres", "Washington ScabSkins", and "Seattle Sea-scabs".[1] Final television revenues were down by about 20%, a smaller drop than the networks had expected.[2] The defending Super Bowl Champion New York Giants went 0–3 in replacement games, ultimately costing them a chance to make the playoffs and repeat their championship.

And this kind of goes back to my original thought: if you were a dedicated referee, who knew this was your only change to officiate at the highest level possible, would you not take that opportunity? Take out all the political bullshit of scabs, lockouts, and greedy owners/players/refs/Uncle Grover. Would you blame them? If you have one shot for the brass ring? I don't blame them, and I can't say I wouldn't do the same thing. I only have one advantage over these guys: because soccer actually has a division system, I have an idea of just how over my head I would be - I don't think any of these guys could have.

So, less than a month after a conversation on opposite sides of a hospital bed, I see this article come out, about one of those fateful referees from the Packers-Seahawks game, and what's happening to him now. It's about as sad of an article about a referee as I've ever read, and I recommend you read it. Lance Easley is list most of us in the referee avocation: for some sick reason, he loves the heck out of it; it's his passion and he filled up most of his spare time. His wife said he was happiest when officiating; "He was healthier, more vibrant."

So he reached for the ring, worked the NFL's program for the replacement officials, and made it past the pre-season cut. Then the Seahawks-Packers game. Death threats against him and his family; suspicious packages mailed to him; a security guard stationed for just him at his work for a month; the freaking President of the United States puts you down

Now he's been blackballed from college reffing, and quit officiating entirely. Maybe he'll come back. Maybe not.

He reached for a dream. The football referee equivalent of Rudy. Sadly, there's no happy ending, or even the ability to say without regret that he was there. Read More »

Some follow-ups, and some depressing thoughts

July 21, 2012
By TheRef
It's been rather interesting checking in on stuff I've written eight or nine years ago (it's also a pretty slow process, so bear with me). But I found a couple things I decided I wanted to follow-up on; one was a Bedfordshire football club that beat a referee so badly that that he needed two metal plates and nine screws to fix his jaw; and the assistant referees needed to buy new kits, as theirs was burnt. Unfortunately, other than a weekend strike that had little effect (games apparently went on without referees - thank you for the support FA), I hadn't been able to find anything else.

One that made me stop in my tracks was a small saga I wrote several pieces on a Mr. John Runk, who, after being ejected from a U-little game (as in U-8) and failing to leave, assaulted the referee. I'd love to believe that there's more than one John Runk who coaches in Maryland, but I'm seeing his name pop up as a coach and manager of Maryland Sports United, a soccer club.

One reference is here, another here, and a third here.

On one hand, I still feel the anger from when I first wrote those articles, and when I see that the club has (among other things) this to offer: "Most clubs today focus on a 'win at all costs' mentality, at the expense of individual player development, creativity and performance....we do not" I get a little pissed too. But on the other hand, I'm not as angry about it as I was. Read More »

Three great online resources bite the dust

May 2, 2012
By TheRef
Thanks again for SocRef on letting me know.

The USSF saw fit to close two resources for the American referee recently:

The Week In Review was focused on MLS games, on what went right and what went wrong. Obviously there were things that were more likely to happen at a professional level, but since the Laws of the Game are the same from the international game to the sandlot-equivalent that most of us work in, it's a sad thing to see go. I remember when it was a big deal to wear the same jersey that MLS officials wore - now we don't even get the same training.

Likewise, Ask a Soccer Referee was a great place to get official USSF answers to questions from all levels, from U-little on up. Fortuantely, Jim Allen, National Instructor and retired National Assessor, still has the website up and is still taking questions. Previous answers, if you ask me, are still official, as they had the USSF approval when posted, but they no longer do no.

No idea why these two great resources have been killed off - nothing has been brought forward to replace them.

Sadly, a third resource has gone offline, the Corsham Ref, which had a mydriad of articles and unique perspectives. I can't see why is's gone offline. Read More »

USSF Recert, part one

April 19, 2012
By TheRef
This wasn't really meant to be divvied up into sections, but since the website that I need to connect to in order to continue my re-cert process is down (there's a requirement of three hours of online seminars and quizzes), I'm rather screwed. I've actually been trying to get this done for the last month-and-a-half. The next set of weekends for the next two months don't look good; and I'm not usually in a good mental spot late at night after work.

I got some of it down yesterday, though. Did two online classes (really powerpoint presentations, albeit good ones, with voiceovers and quizzes). The first was on being an assistant - which I good before I saw the intermediate topics after. As expected, I already knew 99% of everything in it - but it was nice that it covered a lot of stuff that I ended up having to pick up from working with higher-level referees, so in that respect, it was a good class, if just below my level of working.

By the way, I really don't like the AR signal for indicating a penalty kick (holding the flag waist-high, but otherwise in the same position as if signaling a substitution request). Using it to communicate if a penalty called by the referee was inside the penalty area is all good - but, at least in my opinion, not so much when the AR is calling the foul and the restart is a penalty kick. I don't like it for two reasons: it lack's urgency and it's different philosophically than what we use for the AR's other most important job (signaling a good goal).

This is the what the instructor indicated: AR sees a penal foul in the penalty area by a defender. The AR stops, raises his flag and waggles it. So far, no changes, but now we're instructed to make that signal, and "walk briskly" (their words) toward the corner flag.

It's the "walk briskly" bit I don't like Read More »

Why little kids should be carded

March 21, 2012
By TheRef
A tip of the hat to Referee Magazine for bringing up this clip. It got me thinking of one of those things I hear a lot regarding kids games: you don't card them, ever.

I understand where it's coming from: most of the time when we deal with U-littles they don't understand much more than kick the ball into the net and don't use your hands. But the game is getting steadily more sophisticated, even at the U-little level. Some people have said that instead of issuing a caution, you should have a brief word with the coach instead. It's hard to argue with that approach, but it only goes so far. With as many issues as I've had with coaches in my career (more philosophically, but there's plenty that went beyond that, too), most of them have a pretty good idea of what they're doing, and have a good chunk of experience behind them. U-little coaches tend to not have quite so much; the reason I bring it up is because I can totally see a coach not using that quiet word, and then the next time it happens - what then? All you're left with is a card; and if it happens to be the same player, a kid that should be removed from the game, but can't (unless it's a send-off offense).

I guess where I'm going at is that, be it by card or by private word, kids can be shits (god knows I was) and should be disciplined. Coaches may have a better idea of how to effectively do that, but we can't just assume that because it's kids (and I know some people who have the same idea for adult rec games), that they're angels and shouldn't be cautions or sent off.

I wish I knew how far into the game this was, and see if there was something that precipitated that, beyond them getting crushed the game before. Below is the clip Read More »

It can't be a 50/50 split

March 14, 2012
By TheRef
I started reading a book from the NASO called Image in Officiating - I'll probably post a review of it at some point, but I'm going to riff on something I've touched on a few times here, so I can get it out of my system, and then take the rest of the book sans that one spot. Oh, did I say "touched on a few times here"; I probably should have said "ranted".

Here's the thing, in the book, someone from the state high school league, from my current state of residence, brought out a mantra I've heard many many times: about how high school sports is an extension of the classroom, and it's up to the referee and coach to work together to make it so. Most of my rants have gone on about the hypocrisy of the league (just look at the High School section of this blog), at least to how it appears when it comes to soccer in this state.

But since I'm not writing this in response to a personal situation (be it a game, a raving lunatic, or rules meeting where the presenter's favorite pastime is to insult referees), I actually came at it a little differently: if I was to actually outline what the referee's role is in high school sports, in order to facilitate it as an extension of the classroom, what would it be, and how it would it differ from club soccer?

And the answer is, on-paper at least, the NFHS has it down pretty well! While signals have been on-again, off-again for the last twenty or so years, I understand the rationale for it: in FIFA games, the object is flow; so if there's a foul, you call it and move on. With NFHS, like if the kids took a test in class, they want to know just what they did wrong, and it takes presidence over game flow. Read More »

Probably no indoor this year

February 19, 2012
By TheRef
So, I decided to do a follow-up phone call with the unaffiliated league. I hadn't gotten an email back, and my email had changed since I last worked for them. I figured it couldn't hurt - either they'd remember me or they didn't, and I'd just go from there.

I got one of the owners, who did remember me. I recall back when I worked for them, a conversation I had where he said that soccer was his most requested sport (they run about half-a-dozen other sports from touch pointy-ball to bowling to broom ball), but also the hardest to administrate, because of the amount of misconduct they had - and that even though it brought in the most money Read More »

Here's something I didn't think I'd do...

February 9, 2012
By TheRef
... I just sent an email to the guys who own the unaffiliated soccer league to see if they need an additional ref for the winter. I'm not interested in a ton of games, but kind of miss doing as much soccer as I used to do... From time-to-time anyway.

My availability is a bit limited; I'm tied up three days a week with roller derby - but I figure it can't hurt to email and see if they remember me. I wouldn't hold out much hope that they have a spot available - there's always more refs than games during the winter. Read More »

I'm getting old and gray, so how have things changed?

February 6, 2012
By TheRef
So, as I mentioned earlier, I've been going through all of my old entries and cleaning them up a bit, and adding them to a bunch of categories I created to make finding things easier - in case people do that sort of thing. But early on (as in, the 30th entry I put on this blog, compared to today's 967th entry), called "When I am old and gray, will I still referee?". I figure, since my beard now grains of salt in it to go with the pepper, and my temples have a few grey hairs as well, it might be time to revisit it.

I wrote it after deciding to quit working at the Renaissance Festival - something I very much enjoyed, but the negatives had moved from slightly outweighing the positives to very much outweighing them. And so I put the Renaissance Festival behind me. I miss it, I really do (I did quite a bit of stage and street combat), but I haven't regretted that decision. I even put on my old costume for my wife (who agrees with my reasons), who still works there, just to see if I would feel "the magic", and didn't. It was done. Maybe later, but not now, not for a long Read More »