Dislocated elbow

June 29, 2006
By TheRef
Four weeks after a six month hiatus forced on her by a torn ACL, my wife got hurt again playing soccer. This time it was a dislocated elbow. I didn't see the game, but apparently it was not terribly friendly.

She plays on a Women's division four team, the lowest available. The few times I've reffed it, and the times I've seen it, it's pretty darn close to no-contact. But apparently this was getting nasty; the referee issued two yellow cards, and the rest of her team walked off the pitch rather than resume play, when she was carted off in an ambulance (she said the pain was much much worse than her ACL). Hrm. Read More »

My opinion on Portugal vs Netherlands

June 28, 2006
By TheRef
I want to point you to an excellent article by Paul Gardner in today's New York Sun called "How Soccer Devours Its Referees", because it's a great start to my feeling about the recent comments from Sepp Blatter and other referee-bashers out there. Valentin Ivanov had the shit kicker of all shit kickers, and I don't think anyone could have done better (and a lot of people could have done worse). I had the opportunity to download the game (because I couldn't watch it live - I had to ref my own game), which was blissfully minus the blather I've come to expect from ESPN (it was a BBC feed) - I watched it over two days, the first half on one day, the second on the other.

The first half I had no problems with, nor did it appear so for the commentator or coaches. Ivanov did what FIFA has instructed its referees to do this World Cup, which was lead with the yellow card, which explains the first yellow a scant two minutes into the match. But let's look at the others bits:

Figo's head butt: You know what people aren't talking about? Ivanov was issuing a card to another player, and Figo did the head butt directly behind him, therefor it was the AR that gave him the heads-up on this one. Bravo! Yes, it could have, maybe even should have, been a red card - but it didn't seem too hard to me. But then again, I was raised on The A-Team and professional wrestling. ;-)

If there was a crucial mistake, it was the drop ball that the Netherlands, in a colossal show of disrespect, did not send back to Portugal. On Socref there are plenty of people who say in a similar situation they would invent some reason to stop and retake the restart; anything from a foul-throw, to my shoe is untied, whatever. To do so is to blatantly disregard the Laws of the Game for the sake of fairness, and had Ivanov done so, I'm sure Blatter et al. would be spitting venom as well - but we might have saved some, but not all of the battle from happening. In this case, we've seen what will happen if it's not done (in other words, score one for disregarding the Law). Portugal took great offense from this move and took matters into their own hands, with brutal results, and in my humble opinion, was the biggest mistake, and caused the biggest hole for the referee.

Blatter just bugs the shit out of me. I don't know if he's reffed the game or not, but he strikes me as someone who never has, or never has for any length of time. FIFA has emphasized for its referees to call the World Cup a certain way, and when the system he desires turns out not to work well aesthetically, he shifts the blame off to someone else. The reality is that both teams in the game played thugball, not football. And while you could say that one or two of the yellow cards were harsh, you could not say they were undeserved. NONE of those cards came from the referee being deceived. NONE. But because FIFA is more concerned about the product they're pushing to the sponsors rather than the sport (one only has to look at how FIFA has treated Cameroon for the last eight years for that), they have decided that it's better PR to blame the referees than at two of the world's premiere teams that played a farse of a game.

Only one team came out of this game not smelling like shit, and that's Valentin Ivanov and his crew. The sad part is that the organization that should be supporting them has decided to dump an additional load, instead of clean up the mess the players made. Read More »

Up down up down up down

June 27, 2006
By TheRef
Good news: the comments are there, they're just not showing up on the Latest Comments section of the home page. This has happened before, and probably happened because of one of the blog software's new tools that helped be get rid of old comment-spam. There was one legitimate comment deleted, but it was one of mine. ;-)

In my last game, I was feeling rather down on myself for my running, but the next day, in another center, I felt like I could keep running forever (good thing, since it was a double-header, and I had a line to run in the second). The game itself was no problem, a 17 boys in the third (of four) division, but it was also played on artificial turf, meaning I had to be where I wanted to go faster... and I did. I was happy with my positioning, getting wide-and-deep on both ends of the field.

I'm not sure why I had this bounce in ability, on a game that was faster than the one I had yesterday; maybe when the season slows down I'll ask whatever trainer I end up working with how that works.

Two things I noticed while running the line in the second game: even the new turf (it wasn't the old fashioned rug) hurt my knees after a while, and while the pointy-ball lines make determining offside easier, it also has a tendency to humble you, because you think you're in a good position based on your viewing the second-to-last-defender straight ahead, until you notice the gridball lines, and see you're a yard off. Read More »

More bizarre stuff

June 27, 2006
By TheRef
Some of the comments got deleted - not sure why they did, and not entries (and what's stranger is that restoring from last night's backup didn't fix it).

Apologies, especially to Marc, who's done the most lately. Read More »

"I feel insulted that you're arguing this!"

June 25, 2006
By TheRef
I keep feeling like I'm running a step slower this year - despite feeling like I tried harder in the off-season. I had a third division men's center, and although the game wasn't terribly fast-paced, I felt like I wasn't at the level I needed to be to do it. I think I did an adequate job physically, just not at where I want to be.

Call-wise, I think I did well. By the end of the first half, things had gotten a bit chippy over stupid things. A player who was called for being offside shot the ball and the other team wanted a card for delay; except that he was already cocked-back to shoot when I blew the whistle, and shot it less than a quarter-second after I blew it - furthermore, they would take the free-kick deep in their own end, and were not going to get any advantage out of a quick restart (it was a one-man counter attack) - just not going to happen.

Then, at the other end, a player ran into a keeper on a lose ball. In some levels, it's not even a foul, and the keeper kept the ball, then dropped it (probably because he was more interested in complaining). It was clear that the attacker had no malicious intent, it was right as the keeper took the ball, frankly the keeper was a bit clumsy in his own movements which also made it difficult to infer any maliciousness on the striker's part, and it was only a little clip. If the keeper kept the ball, it would have been better for his team if he just kept playing - I would have addressed that I saw what happened before he released the ball (be it kick, punt, or throw - that's two more options than if I just blew the whistle). Then one of his own teammates ran into the OTHER goalkeeper, but this time he was five yards away when the keeper caught the ball.

My god, these are supposed to be grown men.

I was tempted to red card the guy (one team sure wanted one), except he didn't go in hard, it was more to make a point (a stupid point, IMHO, but a point). Difference was, one player was making a legitimate, if late, play on the ball, the other was being an ass - so I did yellow card him. It was just before half, which was probably a good thing, because it gave everyone ten minutes to calm down. The further good news was ten minutes into the second half, an equally stupid thing happened from the other team, that not only earned himself a card, but also showed that I wouldn't take crap from either team: it was your standard run-of-the-mill shirt pull - a player beat him, and he grabbed the shirt well enough to send him to the ground. I blew the whistle, whipped out the yellow card, and he yelled, "What?"

"You gotta be kidding me! You pulled his shirt back two feet! I feel insulted that you're arguing this!" Now, just so you realize, I wasn't generally pissed at him, I think the appropriate tone was... mocking. It was something so obvious, and his arguing it was so stupid - I wasn't going to inflame the situation by actually yelling at him, but I did want to project my voice loud enough that everyone know that I saw what happened, it was blindingly obvious, and that while I may be in a good mood (I said it with a smile), it would just not be a good tactic to take. My AR said she nearly burst out laughing.

Rightly or wrongly, the one team (the one that bounced themselves off the keeper from five yards away, I'll just called them "Blue"), thought they were being wronged in the first half. In my opinion, they were playing more physically to compensate for being beaten off the ball, and earned the calls they had - which aside from the yellow, I think were pretty even in number. But the card in the second allowed them to see that I would call it both ways, as long as I saw it coming from both teams - it made the second half much more pleasant, without a drop of trouble from either side (even when I booked a second player from Blue for an unnecessary push that sent a player to the ground).

If I could just get my physical stride back, I'd be a happy camper. Read More »

Differing styles

June 24, 2006
By TheRef
I was AR2 on a first division game, which was a lot of fun, pretty clean, and had two contrasting styles. One team was African (not sure what country, if one was represented - at least in this state, the members of those teams tend to either be from, or descended from one particular country or region), and one Caucasian.

The African team played very pretty soccer, possessing the ball well on offense, but was also very weak on defense. So after going up 2-0, they quickly lost the lead on a pair of break-aways, both three-on-ones. They took the lead on a PK in my end - I saw it clearly, and looked to the center to get a read on if he was going to call it or wanted my input - he saved me having to make the decision myself by calling it himself (it was a clear, but not overly hard foul, and in my mind at the time, I was quickly debating if he wanted me to make that type of call from the line or not). The PK was converted, but the Caucasian team got a third goal (again, break away counter-attack), and the game ended tied.

No cards, just good soccer. Read More »

Nice to have a trap

June 22, 2006
By TheRef
Much nicer game this time around - no coaches, and a better game. I was running a line, and one of the teams was running a trap (pretty well, too), which kept me busy in the first half. There were a couple of offside calls in the second, but pretty much the game was as it should be: competitive and fair. Of course, if every game was like that, I wouldn't be writing, because I wouldn't need a stress reliever, but there you go. I write because the world sucks. ;-)

I've been thinking about something lately, prompted by some of the local professional and semi-professional games in the area. I love supporters groups, and my local one in particular. They do some great stuff add atmosphere to the games, promote the teams, and some things I can't say without giving away who I am or where I live (several times a year I get an email asking if I'm such-and-such, or live in one area or another - one person had it right, but I can only conclude that the wide variations geography proposed for my homestead mean my experiences are pretty common in the, uh, field). But damn, I wish they'd get a better feeling for the Laws of the game.

Tonight I heard screams from multiple people (and we're down to about half our size because of people in Germany) in our section for hand-balls. They wanted them five times, and to be honest, none of them were even close to being calls. The complaints about choking the live out of the game? Sure, I can agree with that (he was way too tight in the first half, but loosened to a more acceptable level in the second). But I wish I didn't have to take the role of Referee Apologist in the supporters section, and simultaneously worry about my standing with people who bash referees out of total ignorance, and by that promote that ignorance further. It would be nice to be able to do both. Read More »

Reality angers him

June 19, 2006
By TheRef
I've thought of a possible title for my book (which, aside from this, I've done absolutely no work on - maybe if I get hurt and have to sit out a while, or the winter): "Coaches are Ruining Youth Sports" with a subtitle of "and other observations from a neighborhood soccer referee." I definitely had one of those tonight, and the stupid thing was, the thing that set him off was me trying to help him.

I'm sorry, but you know both the quality of coach and referee if they go over the niggling stuff (and that's giving him a break, because in reality it was nonexistent stuff). He wanted two things: a keeper holding the ball for six seconds (which she didn't), and a keeper carrying the ball over the goal-line (which again, she didn't). On the former, he was screaming at the center referee, and I told him point-blank, "Coach, you will not get that call, not for that." Apparently telling the coach that if a six-second call is life-or-death, than reality will suck, is a no-no, because off he went. Because as soon as I said that, he launched into a tirade about how I'm not staying with the keeper when she's holding the ball, and I'm out of position for that and whatnot (untrue: the team frequently left multiple defenders behind the keeper before she punted, which meant my position was with the second-to-last defender, not the goalkeeper). Then he started going about he was going to complain to the SRA and how we shouldn't be doing the game. Ummmm.... Yeah. Right.

God forbid I try to turn this into a teachable moment. All he had to say was "Why" and all would become clear: not only do they teach us that, the six-second rule replaced the four (three? it was before my time with the whistle) steps rule, that had no time-limit. I remember watching some soccer on TV; you could be constipated and still have a complete dump while waiting for the keeper to stop bouncing the ball and just punt it. The point being is that the rule is to keep the game moving, not to be vindictive against the keeper; if the keeper is taking to long, the referee is to tell the keeper to put the ball into play, and only if the keeper ignores it, are we to call a foul.

But apparently the simple single-syllable word is too much, because instead it, "They why bother having referees?" and the aforementioned tirade that quickly became tiresome. After the game, he continued, with the addition of making things up about my performance. You wonder why I have trouble respecting coaches? It's not just that they're not required to learn a single Law of the Game that they're supposed to be part of, but they prove over-and-over again that to them it is all about winning and losing, and that fair play means absolutely nothing to them. The saddest thing is to me, is that a coach that's a good sport is the exception rather than the rule.

My center, which was after the game, was fine, after we got started. That useless piece of crap of a coach wouldn't leave - apparently he also decided that it was the referee's fault that his games we moved from the field he wanted in another city to whatever ones he was actually playing on. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a deranged man. Read More »

Is it the US Culture?

June 19, 2006
By TheRef
Before the weekend, after a particularly nasty time with a coach (more on that later in the week, I thought this might be better to display up-front), my wife made a comment: why don't coaches emulate the coaches you see in the World Cup? They're the best in the business, and while they may not like the calls they get either, they seem to realize that arguing with the referee is a pointless endeavor, only prone to get themselves in trouble. Then there was Bruce Arena in the US / Italy game on Saturday, and I have to wonder if the spazzing coach is part of U.S. culture.

Maybe other coaches know that, even if they're not being assessed every game (like in the World Cup), they know that there are better ways to get their two cents in than pissing off the referee. Maybe I'm full of crap, and it's just in the World Cup, the coaches are better behaved than ours. But let's look at what happened.

In my totally biased opinion, I thought to two straight reds, to Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Mastroeni, were good. Pablo's was particularly stupid, coming with both feet out, cleats up, into the guy's ankle. Eddie Pope's first yellow I felt was unfortunate, because the center likely didn't see the handful of jersey that pulled him down, making things look bad; making the second yellow a particularly tough blow. It also looked like the center didn't know he already had a card; most of the time I've seen centers look at their book first, before issuing the yellow (then red) if they think there's a previous card involved - but it looked like he was about to write in his book, when he saw the previous infraction.

At the first red, Bruce started yelling at the fourth official (this is a best guess, because he wasn't yelling at the bench, and the fourth wasn't in camera-shot); the second, he started acting like a buffoon, throwing things up in the air. At the offside call that, had it not been made, would have given the US the lead (and been the first team with nine men to score in the World Cup), he jumped up, took a couple of running steps toward the AR, yelling "Fuck you!" at the official (full disclosure: no audio, I was lip reading, but it seemed pretty darn clear what he said). Even among other US fans (who didn't like either of the US sendoffs), they all agreed on the offside call; Brian McBride, who was in an obvious offside position, had to lift his leg to allow the shot to pass by him. Even those who weren't sure, just had to be reminded about an early MLS game this season, where a team had two players in obvious offside positions on a free kick - not directly obstructing the keeper, but on either side of the goal; the referee crew said no offside on the goal, and the MLS, USSF, and the keeper that was scored upon originally agreed, but sent it to FIFA for review and they said that the goal should have been turned back - this was far more obvious (if not as intentional).

I have two hopes for this World Cup, as things tend to trickle down to those of us in the rank-and-file: first, that the vast majority of the team's fair play (this has been a far cleaner World Cup than four years ago) trickle down like the shirt pulling did last time; and second, that the behavior of coaches other than Bruce Area are emulated by others in his position. But judging by how the best coach in our country behaves (and how he's close to being venerated), I have little hope. Read More »

Fourthed a kinda-sorta-proish game

June 15, 2006
By TheRef
Something is funky with the comments - for some reason the ability to start new comment threads isn't available (although existing ones are). There's an updated version of the blog software that I may have time for this weekend; emphasize "may." My email still works though (please tell me what you think of the Club Linesman cheat-sheet).

I was watching the world cup, when one of my assignors called asking if I could work a game. I just opened my schedule for that day, because a weekend project (moving equipment at a salvage yard) only took one day instead of two; but because of an evening commitment, I was only available during the day. The offer was for an evening game, which I had to turn down. I went back to cooking my lunch, and then received another phone call - it was my assignor again, and she asked if maybe I could do a fourth for a pro game. She said that there would be some league rules I'd need to go over, and that I'd need to be there an hour-and-a-half to two-hours early.

"Oh, so I'd have to leave..." I peer over to my kitchen clock to reconcile the the action time with game time, "right now."


As it turned out - it's more like a semi-top national amateur league. In this country, there seems to be ego problems: after the sad demise of the WUSA, there are multiple leagues vying to be seen as the top women's league in the country, as well as top men's amateur leagues. It seems the professional leagues are well set, at MLS, followed by the USL's two pro divisions; the competition seems to be with the USL's third division, the Premiere Development League, and a host of others. This was one of the "host of others", and did have several things going for it: They wanted referees that had gone through the USSF's pro-clinics, which I haven't, and want to use Nationals or Grade 5's in the middle. The downside is that the National referees are in short-supply, and two of the crew had to pull out because of other commitments (I have a feeling they took the game on a contingency basis - something I don't have the clout to do); so she found a new center, and moved the original fourth to the junior assistant position.

For me, the game was mostly about paperwork. In addition to the usual fourth official duties (no substitution paddle - poop), I was also supposed to be the stat-guy. It was probably a good thing that neither coach required a lot of coddling, because I felt I was knee-deep in paperwork throughout most of the game. After the game, it rose to waste deep, as there were three forms that all had to be filled out differently but otherwise asked for the same information. I rather wish they just used the standard fourth official's log (which I used, because it was easier than trying to hunt on the other forms), with another sheet for the additional information. But oh well... it's hard to complain when you have an honest-to-goodness locker room again (game number three in six years). Read More »

Please Review: Club Line Instructions

June 14, 2006
By TheRef
Whenever I've had a game with a club line, and I'm the center, I've want to draw a picture for the AR for him to understand how I'll need him to do his job. Most of the time (thankfully), they've never had a club line before, and hopefully it'll be just as rare in the future. But it does happen - so this is a rough draft of something I'm thinking of keeping in my bad to explain what I'd like to have done. Please download this pdf and let me know what you think. It's not formatted, spell-checked (I have to get to another game in a few minutes), or nice-looking. But I'd like to know if this might be useful to cover a game that (understandably), the USSF doesn't want to fill in its documentation for referees. Read More »

Breaking down in the first ten minutes

June 13, 2006
By TheRef
I felt like I had a good game - a really good game. I was able to go wide-and-deep for almost the entire 90 minutes (about 75 in I started getting a bit winded, but was able to take advantage of some slow play to get back into form), and called what I thought was a good game. The only thing that could ruin it was coaches. As it turned out, they didn't ruin it, but they did keep it from being perfect.

The issue wasn't with me, but rather with my team-side AR. I've found, that with the exception of game-making/breaking calls, coaches ignore the junior assistant, but, especially if they're stationed directly behind the line the official is running, will comment, berate, and generally make life miserable for the senior assistant. Not all coaches, not even most of them, but the ones that do continue to give the profession a really bad name. Or would do if anyone except refs gave a damn about it.

Speaking of damn, I very nearly tossed one of them, too. Apparently the issue was the clarification by FIFA regarding offside. BTW, I was going to link to the USSF memo about it - but they've reorganized the Referee portion of ussoccer.org, and you can't find them anymore! Anyway, in my humble opinion, it's not a whole lot different than what we've been taught in this country for years - it's involvement in play, not just the player being in an offside position; I think the problem is, that while maybe it's a major change for other countries (if you believe the media), it's not here, but some referees think it is. In this case, the AR took the active involvement clause a bit too seriously, and was waiting for the offside player to touch the ball. I think the memo is telling us to call it a bit tighter (as well as any part of the body, sans arms/hands, will result in the playing being positioned offside, as opposed to the torso rule of years past), but just because a player doesn't touch it, doesn't mean they weren't involved.

Actually, the AR got that part, too. But it wasn't to the coach's liking; I couldn't say, when I center I don't watch for offside - possession, yes, but not if the player is in an offside position. This is what got the coach's undies in a twist, and when I went to confront them, because the decibel level between the AR and the coaches was rather loud, they decided to have a fit because I uttered the word, "Shit" when a mis-read where a play was going to go, and got in front of an oncoming ball. It wasn't loud, it wasn't at anyone (except me), and it's not NFHS or NCAA. It wouldn't be a big dead if a player said it, and the only person who made a big deal of it was the coach (I would also add that it was the same type of epithet that players may make when they flub a kick, and it's the only time I've let a four-letter word slip out at a game in six years - not too bad if I had to say so).

It was, in a word, a crock. Fortunately for me, I kept my head, and came out with, "I don't care, I'm still in charge, and I can still toss you." If he thinks I'm a power-hungry twit, fine; I really couldn't care less. It ended the conversation, got the game moving again, and shut him up for the rest of the game. I have to wonder if it had to do with the final score of the game, which was 3-1 against; they had a break-down in the first ten minutes, giving up three goals (including an own goal), but otherwise dominated the match. Read More »

A terrible way to end a game

June 12, 2006
By TheRef
I always thought that the worst way to end a game was by penalty kicks - I know now that I was wrong. I'm centering the 16-boys State Cup Final - a game that because of numerous cancelled dates due to poor weather, was being played at the last possible date - a result was needed, and the tournament director was willing to wait most of the night to get it.

The first game for me was a line on the 16-Girls final; a game that sent one of the coaches in a rabid froth - the center nearly ejected him at halftime - what was amazing was that he actually kept his word that he'd behave in the second half - we didn't get a word from him.

In this state, there are two traditional power-clubs (they don't quite hit the definition of Super Club, which had been bandied about by some of the national powers), one for the girls and one for the boys. I had the boys team, and another more standard, city-based team. I felt good in the first half, I wanted to get deeper (so did one of my ARs, who was a State Referee), but they were transitioning quickly, and I didn't want to get caught too far behind; both teams seemed responsive to any verbal items I brought up (one player used way too much, and I fouled him repeatedly for it, as well as a few minor things). The second half proved more interesting.

It started with a pass mix-up: in the State Cup (and in the tournaments that follow it, for the winners), substitutions are very similar to college: if a player subs out in the first half, they can return in the second; basically we take the passes of the starting eleven at the beginning of the game, then the passes as players sub-in, and finally return them at half-time where the process starts anew. Apparently there was a mix-up, and a player who was on the field didn't get his pass in the starting eleven, and another player's got in the pile instead; the good news (as opposed a couple years ago) was that the fourth official knew who the two players who were mixed up. The coach then wanted to put the player who he thought was supposed to start into play - which was fine if he wanted to sub the original player out - when he realized the condition, he kept the original player on the field, and the fourth obtained the correct passes (and gave the other pass back to the bench player).

The city (or rather, suburb) team put in a rather ugly goal - the keeper made a stop, the rebound bounced off the crossbar, and another player was able to head it in - there were a couple of injuries in the melé, but nothing foul-worthy (nobody complained, either); just an example of why you crash the goal after a shot.

Then the rains started - hard. If you turned in one direction, it went straight into your eyes, making it very difficult to see; you had to blink several times after getting a face-full, leaving time where I couldn't do my job properly - I was also afraid of one of my contacts falling out. Now you may wonder why I didn't just suspend the game there - and that's because of a common tournament rule where it's the tournament staff that decides when to suspend play - usually they have more equipment than refs: laptops with internet connections, lightning detectors, and so forth. So we soldiered on, and the power club earned a free kick about 25-yards from goal.

The kicker asked for the wall to be set.

I told him to wait for the whistle, both verbally, and by raising the whistle over by head and pointing at it.

I received an acknowledgment from the kicker.

Two players inside the penalty box started getting into a pushing contest - I abandoned the wall and dealt with the players. No cards - just warning for each (one player was wasting his own time, the other needed to keep a clear head with a one goal lead).

I go back to the wall, set it, point to my whistle again.

The kicker takes the kick, which is bobbled by the keeper in the sheeting rain, and it goes into the net. Fans cheer, his teammates embrace him, and they start working their way back to their half.

There was one problem: I hadn't blown my whistle. Some team was not going to be happy about this. I elected for the correct response: I ordered the kick retaken; since I made the kick was ceremonial (and my trail AR saw my pointing to the whistle, the universal symbol for, "Wait for it."), the ball would not be in-play until I announced it so; that announcement being the whistle.

To the coaches credit, when the game was suspended because of the weather, he asked me why I disallowed the goal, and his reply to my answer was a simple, "Fair enough." His players we all over the map in pissed-off (one player earned a caution for a forearm jerk - I could have went red, but decided it was toward the call, and not me. Do I really want to send someone off for something that stupid in such an important game? No, although in High School I would be required to. He got his temper out, he was warned, the rest was up to him.

The re-taken free kick went wide, and shortly after the game was suspended. We already had one suspension on the first game, so our scheduled 8pm start-time was set back to twenty after the hour; and because the tournament staff were against the wall as to get a result, and because 52 minutes out of an 80-minute game really isn't a good thing for a final, the tournament staff waited until 10:45pm to call the game - with the score and result standing.

It sucks - it would have been a good game, but what else could they do? Read More »

I think it's the right off-field decision

June 9, 2006
By TheRef
I got an email today from the SYRA asking me to call him - he said I could go to Regionals if I desired. I said no, for two reasons. The first I could probably get around: I pulled my vacation request when I first heard that I didn't make it - I could probably get around this; my bosses have both been deep into sports (one was a tennis pro, another coworker and long-time friend of theirs was ranked #10 in the US in tennis at one point). But I think the other reason is more important: I didn't earn it.

And I want to earn the right, not slide in on the back-end. Yes, had the back-to-back U18 semis been reversed, and I centered the first game, it might have been a different story, but that doesn't negate the fact that I didn't have the endurance to pull both games adequately. I've actually been quite sanguine about the whole thing, the only thing I've really been angry about was myself: I thought I had been doing more this winter, and when I went to the track and the field, came up short.

So my plan is this, after the busy portion of the season ends, which may be sometime in July, bust my budget and get a personal trainer and try to lift myself up to the next level. I'd still like to make a decent attempt at State, if I'm physically up for it. I do plan on working high school games this year, but since my last assignor quit, I don't yet have the contact information to the only other high school assignor, let alone know how many games I'll get (I've seen her give out tons to some refs, and three to some others), so it may turn out to be later. At some point when I can get myself into a regular schedule, rather than a regular excuse.

I plan to earn my way back next year; I don't want to slide in because of what I did in the past. Read More »

Another field killing the game

June 8, 2006
By TheRef
I'm amazed that my ankles survived the game. After taking some time to find out where the field was (the adult assignor keeps a list of fields that the teams use, this was labeled "inactive" - it should stay that way), I immediately started hoping that the goal posts were as rickety as they looked, so I could call the game off on the grounds of safety. Unfortunately, they were solid, and like the rest of the field, just looked like shit.

There's something about fields run by big cities; they put gobs and gobs of money into baseball and softball fields, so every one is pristine, and yet I would be willing to bet that 70-80% of the people who use those fields live in suburbs. Yet soccer fields, where there is a huge demand, are in short supply and usually not kept up at all. At this complex, there were, according to the numbers, 16 baseball and softball fields - all in great shape, with bleachers, well manicured lawns, and a biff at every field. The soccer fields were absolute crap: touchlines going right next to trees (where you could see the lines), goals that were shored up with metal braces (otherwise I would have called the game), not even enough scrub to make you think there was grass. I've had fields that had manhole covers come into the field of play (high school, where the referee cannot make the determination of an unsafe pitch), others with a 20-degree incline on one half - but none were this bad. The field was so hard, even when it looked like rain, I decided to keep my flats on, because I knew it wouldn't soften up - the clack clack clack of everyone who did wear cleats pretty much confirmed that one for me.

I had a third-division women's league game (I don't think the upper two start for a week or two, because some colleges, where many of the players spend their springs, are not yet out), but it played like a fourth-division. Not that this was the player's fault - I've reffed several, and even played with a couple over the years, and knew that they could play hard and aggressive when the time came. But on this field, the game started with players being tentative because the condition, and ended with them being tentative because of the stress it put their joints under. Ground balls went any-which-way - it didn't matter where you kicked them; and the field slowed you down too much to play balls to the air. It was a poor place to play what should have been a decent game.

Meanwhile, the softball players, now down with their game, finished their cans of beer and left it on the ground. After all, the city's groundskeepers will get it for them. Read More »


June 6, 2006
By TheRef
This one hadn't happened to me before: I was scheduled for a 7:15 game, but then another (probably a make-up from bad weather) was put in front of it. I had already made a dentist appointment, and couldn't reliably make a 5:45 start-time, so had to decline the earlier game. I offered to remove myself from the second game to make scheduling easier, but apparently it wasn't a problem, because I wasn't removed from that game.

The first game started late, because one team had trouble finding the field. I can't blame them, Mapquest pulled something out of its butt and I found the field by pure accident; I have no sense of direction (dangerous thing for a man who works out of his car), and I'm absolutely amazed I could find it by dead reckoning. So, despite my getting there 30 minutes before my scheduled game time, the first game was still at half; I dropped my bags, put on my turf shoes, and began checking in teams for the next game. Mid-way though check-in of the first team, someone runs up to me, and says a ref is hurt and could I step in. What kind of person would it make me if I couldn't? So I finished the check-in, trotted back to my bag, fished out the rest of my kit, and ran over to the far touchline to pick up a flag.

The good news is that, unlike a high school game I did years back when I stepped into the middle of a game, I was an AR instead of a center; it's not as big of a transition doing a U15 girls (with players who don't move) versus a high school varsity boys game. It turns out it was a good thing I wasn't removed from that second game after all. Read More »

The field killed the game

June 6, 2006
By TheRef
It was rather hard to judge the teams - two 2nd division U15 girls teams, playing on an extremely narrow field (it actually had the optional marks for corner kicks, and the eleven yard hash was several yards inside the penalty area), and on an artificial surface. Throughout the game, the girls had problems with balls on the ground playing harder than expected, and balls in the air bouncing higher - all the very narrow field (and teams that prefer to play wide), and it was pinball. I didn't expect dynamite things out of the game, but it was clear that the field conditions were just throwing both teams off their game - so the ended up playing boom-ball. And in their defense, what else was there? The midfield was far too crowded to get anything through, they couldn't play wide, and well... I think the home team was thankful that this field wasn't their normal home field (they used it because of a reschedule). Read More »

No regionals for me this year

June 3, 2006
By TheRef
I just heard that I won't be going to Regionals this year. Apparently it was based on my performance at the State Cup - probably on the two 18 semi-finals I did in a row, because those were the only ones I was hurting in - and knew I would be when I saw the assignment (the day of, unfortunately). The others games I had, I felt good, went to good positions - but if one set of games were to be watched, and one in the center (which was the second of the two games), that was going to be it.

I went two years ago, which I never expected myself to do, or even considered, and learned quite a bit. Maybe next year. Read More »

What am I supposed to say?

June 1, 2006
By TheRef
I had a small post-game conundrum: what am I supposed to say when a parent, in all earnestness, says, "That was a pretty exciting game, wasn't it?" when in fact the game was one-sided from start-to-finish, and pretty dull. I realize that it probably wasn't dull to the parent, but exciting? A 3-0 thrashing against a team without any of their normal back-line; maybe it was exciting because it should have been 10-0. With the losing coach talking about relegation at halftime, maybe it should have been.

Part of it may have been for me the much more exciting game I had yesterday; but in that case it was probably the National referee that was bored. I guess you all just get used to the level you do as good, and have issues sliding back down. Maybe that's why FIFA referees in this country just up-and-retire, rather than turn in the triangular badge and work games lower-down the totem. Read More »