Not the stress breaker I hoped for

September 22, 2005
By TheRef
Right now, I'm reffing maybe a night a week. I'd be doing more if I was working high school (and despite my repulsion for the NFHS, I have to admit, I've looked at some of the lighted fields with games going on longingly), but I'm just too busy... which is another reason I'm only working maybe a day a week.

So yesterday was my day; an adult women's double-header. Although it's the competitive bracket, I'm not expecting anything terrible, or much more than "slightly relaxed"; their fall league (this is my first year working it), is much more low-key than their summer leagues. I was looking forward to it, three hours of running, followed by my going "thud" as soon as I got home. Not worrying about planning the wedding, trying to fix the garage (which keeps falling off the bloody track - whoever installed it did a piss-poor job), just soccer.

Well, I got a fourth of the way though, but it wasn't a stress reliever. It wasn't the game - it was relaxed - but I was only starting to forget the crap that came before the game that really necessitated my running about.

The biggest change in my reffing life came last fall, when I changed on an on-site IT admin for a single company, to doing consulting. I like the work, I make $10,000 more a year, and for the most part, I even do less work. But the hours are chaotic; most of the time I finish between 3 and 4pm, but sometimes... not. Usually I can work things around to not interfere, but that doesn't mean there's some tight squeezes, especially when the game time is set at 6pm. I thought I had things planned out: a non-emergency, planned-in-advance call where I would be out by four pm (because their on-site IT person wants to leave, too); but something went "boink" right before then, and I didn't get out until 4:35.

My house is on the way to the field, so I left my bag at home; and I was headed that way, anyway, because something got lodged in my left contact, and I couldn't flush it out without taking out the contact. So, when I finally get home (5:15pm), I scramble to find my equipment, get it on, rinse out my contact, and get out the door (5:30). Keep in mind, I like getting to the field an hour early, just to put myself in the right mood, 45 minutes early at shortest. I get to the field at at 5:45, and I guess fortunately for me, only one team is there.

The game gets off only ten minutes late, as I got special dispensation to not use passes for one team, because they forgot them (the league commissioner was playing on the field next to ours). But even though the game got started, and I was able to move for a change, things did not look well. A storm (none for forecast) was rolling in rapidly, and it was pretty clear that we weren't going to get through the game; a half-maybe, but not the game.

We did just get through the half. Less than a minute into half, I saw cloud-lightning directly overhead; neither team wanted to wait it out, and there was no point in my being a dick about it (even if I wanted to, which I didn't), so we abandoned the game. It would have been a good thing, too, because it was a doozy of a storm - except someone tweaked the traffic light to get out of the park, and it was only letting out one car per cycle - so I'm seeing this massive massive storm roll in, and I'm stuck in traffic. It normally takes me ten minutes to get home from this park, but I was stuck in the left-turn lane for fifteen; the storm literally hits once I finally get my turn to get out of there.

Needless to say, having a broken garage door, after dodging three chunks of tree that were roughly the size of baseball bats (one went under my car), I came back more stressed than I left. Read More »

Playing the God card

September 17, 2005
By TheRef
We got a late start - a kids league had moved off their assigned field (this was a complex of five fields) onto one of ours - and since it was the one I was supposed to work on, and now the only one free, I found our why: the lines were wrong. What was worse was that it was easily correctable - but it seemed like the guy who did it said "Fuck it" and left it as it was: 17 yards of missing touchline - not only that, but the goal-line on one side the side that was missing extended too far. What was worse was that you saw the dribble of paint, where whoever lined it, stopped the paint flow. I have a cynical suspicion that it was easier to feign lack of paint than to correct the job. Fortunately, for the two games I had today, it didn't matter (if it was a league game, it wouldn't happen, but since it was unaffiliated, we soldered on.

What did happen was my dealing with yet another really whiny team. Last week, I can understand, if disagree with, the team where the keeper took a shot - but these guys were doing everything. They played cynical, and they argued everything - especially the stupid stuff. Early in the second half, I had enough, carded the keeper (who was even more stupid that usual - you can NOT be called for offside when you were in your own half when the ball was kicked), and when the whinging continued, announced rather loudly, "Something you need to know about soccer: on the field, I am God! You do not want to risk my wroth! If you don't like the call, I don't want to hear about it!"

I should have done that 20 minutes earlier, because I didn't hear anything after that. Read More »

Getting in touch with their spoiled inner brats

September 13, 2005
By TheRef
I mentioned to my fiancé and a friend that I was doing playoff games
for the unaffiliated league over the weekend. One said I'd issue two
red cards, one said three. I'm happy to say I issued no cards at all -
although I did get another round of really stupid whining.

Both games were pretty uneventful (and didn't offer much in the running
department, mores the pity), except for three events. The one in the
first had to do with a break-away where the keeper jumped in front of
the striker, and caught his shoulder on a foot. Apparently last week a
goalkeeper was seriously hurt, and the coordinator asked everyone to
take it easy on keeps - so when the keeper got hurt (very very minor),
the whining and protesting began - and it went over, naturally, to the
coordinator after the game. Seriously, I wonder how these people can
consider themselves adults! Here's the thing - it wasn't the striker
being aggressive, it was the keeper: the striker didn't shoot, and
attempted to jump out of the way when the keeper dove straight at him
(head-first, I might add).

Let's make this very clear: if the goalkeeper gets hurt here, this is only one person at fault, and that's the keeper himself.

Now the coordinator wants to find some ways of making things safer for
keepers in her league. Unless you're going to take away breakaways, or
make an exclusion area (like hockey or lacrosse), it just isn't going
to happen. First, playing keeper is inherently dangerous, and if make
it so that injury is impossible, your game is no longer soccer, merely human foosball.

Oh, I was wrong, there was one player who didn't whine - it was the goalkeeper himself.

The other game's incidents were even more minor (not that injuries are
minor, but that the thought of a keeper injuring himself is the problem
of the other team, or the referee, is simply ludicrous), and both
involved women. The first was early in the game, where a women used an
opposing team's attached external genitalia to help herself up on her
feet... without asking for permission, let alone a date beforehand.

OK, maybe it's a guy thing, but um.... foul? I'd say that counts as
"holding", don't you? Nope. Whine whine whine whine whine! I couldn't
believe she was complaining, again, maybe it's a guy thing, but most of
the time, the penis is to be held gently, and if not, there's usually a
safety word that's discussed ahead of time. Just the thought of it
brings back the same exasperated expression on my face when I shouted
back, "You grabbed his winky!"

"I was getting up."

Oh, well that excuses it then. She must have some special permission
where she can attempt to rip your manhood out of it's socket whenever
she wants - I need to make sure she never talks to my fiancé.

The third wasn't as painful, but just as ridiculous. Women makes a
challenge for a man running very hard down the touchline, comes in
late, sending the guy ass over tit, and probably a good three yards
air-born... and whines. What IS it with these whiners today? "Why don't
you let us play?"

I'm just curt: "Don't foul him, and you can play all you want."

Ten minutes later, she's still whining to other people about it.

Good god, people. Don't make me start bringing baby bottles to these games. Read More »

Yes, women's memories are longer

September 12, 2005
By TheRef
I finally get to take in a game, a women's rec league game (my choices are limited to this, and the unaffiliated league, since I'm skipping high school, and college games, if any, will be few and far between). The game was fine, ended in a scoreless tie - one team (one that was shorthanded, but pretty much controlled the game anyway) was getting a little more aggressive than the other by the time the game wound down, but it was what I needed. Ninety minutes of running to take my mind off of everything else. The first twenty were hard - it was painfully obvious that I hadn't done a lot of running lately, but after that I seemed to get more into the swing of things - not sure what I would do if it were a harder game, but I think I would have managed.

What they say about women's memories, at least when it comes to the game, being longer is true. A player I talked about a few weeks ago make a comment about "my call deciding the game." I wanted to tell her that it wasn't my call, but her ignorance of the rules - but why start off the game that way. I did mention, however, that this league does allow slide tackles - since that seems to be her problem (that the rules of one league should change because she's there). Whatever. Read More »

Is there anything more tense than a 1-0 playoff game?

September 7, 2005
By TheRef
Playoff games for the men's "rec" league are organized differently, at least for the referees. Unlike regular season games where you're assigned days to weeks (if you're lucky) in advance, you're told where the games are (all the playoff games are played at the same location, in four adjacent fields), and you're told of your assignment about 20-30 minutes before the game. I'm not sure why - I'm sure there's a reason, I just don't know what it is (I do have a couple cynical ideas, however).

Work had been going crazy, and I was very very happy that I'd get a chance to run around for a bit and unwind (yes, you can unwind as a referee - the prerequisite is that you're insane). I saw it was division 2 teams, so I put on my line-running shoes... except I got a center. Yow! Last year I centered one 3rd division playoff game; this year a 2nd division quarter-final (good thing I didn't take the bus-trip I was considering; the one that would have come home about 5am that day). OK - I'd been doing 2nd division centers this year - I'll take it.

And I loved the game, too. When you talk about a referee juggling 22 players like spinning plates, this was it. Two teams of different styles in a tight 1-0 game where the other team is done for the year. One team I reffed at the beginning of the season: they has two fast strikers, a good touch on the ball, and very much a finesse team; one of my ARs reffed the other team, and he described them as physical, pushy, and loud.

The first card came in the 22nd minute, with a player in the second team coming in on a challenge late - very. This was a problem throughout the game, but this one was very late, and I knew a card was forthcoming right away. After the card, I got the impression that this team had issues with certain players either getting too emotional, and probably getting ejected - because they had teammates that came right away at these altercations to make sure their teammates didn't do anything stupid. And the reason I say that is because they would have, had they not been restrained. One player, in particular seemed to play the role of team conscience. Late in the first half, I tried to use that, because he came in late on a challenge, from behind - but attempted to pull back once he realized he was going to be late; there was an obvious advantage (a great long-ball that a teammate picked up near their opponents 18), and since it was near the half, I elected to have a talk to him about that stuff rather than card him as well. I know the other team didn't like it (they complained at half), but I thought it was in that grey-area of carding, because the contact wasn't terribly hard, because he tried to correct his mistake (albeit too late), and because I thought the talk might be of more use.

The good news is that the talk worked - I didn't have late stuff from behind, or any card-worthy fouls. The bad news (only because there has to be bad news - from my perspective, this made the game fun because I actually had to use my man management skills) is that it continued to be a physical game right down until the end.

The black team (the fast ones), started getting limited at the end of the first half, and all of the second, from making any dangerous runs deep in the offensive third, and started shooting from long range. The other team's defense was content to let them do that, and I had to admit that I thought it was a good strategy, until the black team scored from 30 yards out on a shot the keeper had no chance on.

I had three other critical incidents during the game:

The first was a PK call against black: a striker made a great run into the penalty area, and the keeper made a dive, making contact with the player first. He didn't knock him down, but did keep him from getting a good shot off - he did get a shot, but from a much worse angle. I called the advantage lost and the PK. Not a popular call for black, but the keeper did foul the player, in the process of that foul did mean the shot he had was much poorer than it should have been. I could have called it right there, but decided to use the advice given by Evan and Bellion (if you don't have For the Good of the Game, just read the reviews and get it) and call back for the PK. However, the PK was taken poorly, and went straight to the keeper, so the scored stayed at 1-0.

The second was another call against black, an offside call. I know why the AR flagged it, and I support it too, because we're told to flag those 50-50 balls before contact occurs. I saw the flag go up, I look again at what was going to happen, and I blew the whistle. Only the keeper didn't hold on to the ball, and it didn't come into contact with the striker. Still, the league is tagged as rec, and when the striker is boring straight on to the keeper, it's a hard argument to say he's not involved in play.

The third was pure man management. Less than ten minutes in the game, and the losing team is frustrated. Black had bunkered in, and they were hard pressed to get any good offense. A black player fouls, and to me it didn't seem especially flagrant, but the fouled player came out roaring, and after the fouler. Good thing I felt good running, because I was close, and his teammates were restraining him almost before he went off (again, I think this is something they've identified within themselves, because they were working on themselves from getting reds from early-on). The black player, wisely, skedaddled, leaving me and the rest of the team to calm down the other player. Truth be told, I didn't think it was card worthy, but I used the player's desire for one to get my point across:

"Why didn't you card him?!"

"You never gave me the chance to card him. You were up and at him before I could reach for anything; you didn't look for me to deal with it - you just took off. How am I supposed to card the other guy when you're the one screaming and being held back by your own team?"

That was, obviously, when he was let go by his teammates. I don't know if it worked or not - but I made it a point to try to be open and honest with my calls that game, so even if he took it that I'm a well-meaning idiot, I'll take it. Heck, the fact that he didn't do anything retaliatory right away (or for that matter, the rest of the game) is some I will, and did, take.

I think the thing I'm most proud of is that I didn't break in the game - there was a lot of fouling in that game, a lot of very high emotions, and I didn't feel out-of-control, and I don't think I looked out-of-control. I think if I did, on either of them, the game would have gone out-of-control. But I did my job, which was more than enforce the laws, but to keep the players juggling around enough to keep them focused on the game than on the other team.

[Note: this was written some time ago, but I forgot to publish it, amid everything else that was going on.] Read More »

No, it's been quiet here...

September 2, 2005
By TheRef
... but real life has intruded far too much lately. I reffed a game on Sunday which was quite interesting, and something I would have written about, plus the follow-up game, a division-one "rec" final (one which the assignor called a "shit-kicker"). But I got a call from my fiancé - she hurt her knee. It turns out that it's a complete tear of the ACL, and we get married in 35 days.

Can we say, "stress"? I knew we could.

Can we say, "getting quietly blitzed to deal with an amazing amount of stress that comes with a wedding only thirty days away, let alone with a loved one getting seriously hurt and possible being unable to walk down the isle?"

I knew we could.

So things will probably be quiet here for a while. Real live is beating down the door with a mallet, and it ain't a hangover. Read More »