On Officiating and Relations…

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Here are a few little tidbits about officials, officiating, communication and common sense:

  • As an official, when a team is getting the breaks beat off of them, it’s good judgement to let the coach whine a bit.  There are even times when he/she should be able to get away with a little more than usual.  It ain’t personal.  We should get that!
  • I expect that a coach will lobby for his players.  There is a way to keep an open dialogue and lobby for an official to see things the coaches way in certain situations.  On the other hand, when a coach is constantly debating every play, (Foul!  Traveling!  Moving Screen) that coach will be tuned out.   At some point the coach may have a legitimate point, but by the time that happens their credibility is spent.
  • Good officials respect dialogue, but we don’t respect intellectual dishonesty.  This too will get a coach tuned out.  Don’t argue against what you know to be obviously true.
  • Officials who are too prideful to admit a mistake suck!  Other officials hate working with them as much as coaches hate seeing them on the floor of their games.
  • Officials who don’t listen to other officials who try to help them suck!  And their performance will will never improve.
  • Like players and coaches, no matter how hard we try,  there are nights when we just don’t have it. We are going to suck, and we know when we sucked!

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  • Not that we are there for the compliments, but a coach that can compliment a good call or acknowledge a diligent official working hard at his craft is wise.
  • The less a coach complains, the more credibility he/she has when they do express displeasure.
  • Officials who love the craft of officiating and doing a great job on behalf of the players rock!
  • Coaches and administrators whose motivation are educating their players through team building sports and competition rock!
  • Sometimes conflict is good, healthy and necessary.
  • Some officials hold grudges.
  • Some coaches hold grudges.
  • Respect should be a given.  Only earned respect is maintained.
  • There are coaches and officials who are doing what they do for all the wrong reasons.
  • Officials, coaches and players are human.
  • There is way more to being an excellent official than some officials and most fans would ever understand.
  • I learn something new and see things I’ve never seen before often while officiating.
  • Officiating and coaching are both fun and honorable jobs to have.

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Evaluating Officiating in Black & White

I’ll get to the point:

Sports officiating is one of the most fulfilling activities I’ve ever participated in.  It’s fun, exciting and challenging.  The fun and exciting part is because of my love for sports and the even deeper love I have for the mostly young people who play in the contest.  Outside of men’s league basketball, 99% of the 4 sports I officiate are middle or high school age.  Young people are special in my eyes.  I respect those who participate as well as the coaches who spend time molding them into better people through organized sports.  Facilitating a contest so that the rules and spirit of fair play are enforced is vital to the games.  While there are rules, there is also game administration.  In other words it’s not just about calling violations, it’s also understanding what not to call.  There is a certain feel to the game officials have to understand.  Show me an official who administers 100% by the book, and I’ll show you an official that no coach, player or fan wants.  And this is  the focus of this blog… coaches and fans.  Namely my coaches and fans of African descent.

In officiating, conflict among players and coaches is something that goes with the job.  We expect it.  Where there is competition, there is often intensity as a group of individuals collectively fight for pieces of real estate on the floor or field of play.  Resolving conflict and fostering an environment where communication is open and respectful is one of the responsibilities officials have which have nothing to do with the rules.  It’s a give and take.  When lines are crossed, its up to officials to be the arbiter of what is no longer acceptable.

I’ve noticed over the years that there is a general difference in the kind of flack I get from White folks vs. Black when it comes to youth sports.   Again generally, if a white person doesn’t like my calls, he/she criticizes my performance, my aptitude, my judgement.  They may say something like, “That was a horrible call!  What are you looking at?”  Or one of my favorites, “Hey! There’s a game going on out there.  You may want to try watching it!”  These are par for the course.  Any official worth his whistle won’t take these things to heart unless things go overboard.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some white coaches that I know going into a game are going to be jerks for the sake of being a jerk.  For me, the tone is much more important than the words.

But then there are my brothers and sisters.  African-Americans; Black folk.  When things aren’t going their way, the phrase that far too many of us go to without nuance or consideration is, “YA”LL CHEATING!”

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Listen, to a certain degree, I get it.  Black folk are marginalized in society.  The history and legacy of White supremacy is a prevailing reality that affects most every area of our lives.  When it comes sports, its one of the few areas modern day where we have been able to successfully and compete with the masses consistently.  Many African-American parents see sports as one of their child’s avenues to gain success where there is no subtle or flagrant bias; understanding the bias most black people will face as they get older.  Then there is the passion that just goes along with being a fan.  Fan is short for ‘fanatic.”  Therefore, by definition there is a certain expectation of a lack of logic when it comes to observing athletic competition.  I can be as hyped as anybody yelling at my television when the Lakers or Steelers are on.  Sometimes that includes yelling at the referees.  So again, I get it.  Unfortunately there are those among us who take the ‘cheating,’ accusation (a premise that is often flawed) to a disgraceful level.

I officiated a football game a while back.  The teams consisted of a mostly black populated school vs a majority white populated school.  In my position as back judge,  I threw penalty flags on 3 long touchdown scoring plays back against the mostly white team as a result of ‘holding’.  That team’s White coach wasn’t too happy with me.  He yelled a few things at my direction as football coaches do.  The fans were also disappointed and expressed their displeasure in the forms of “Ohhhh” and “Arrrrrrggghhhhs”  Later on, I called the same type of holding penalty against the mostly black team.  Not only did the fans and assistant go ballistic, the fans started accusing me and our crew of cheating.  I don’t mean ‘cheating’ as hyperbole.  They were actually serious!  All of a sudden every move I made was heavily scrutinized.  When I explained my call to the coach, they mocked and scorned my words to the coach if I were addressing them.  As for the rest of the game, every subsequent penalty against their team was in some way an attempt to take something away from them.  As a matter of fact, even as their team won the game, instead of celebrating the victory of the players, they taunted the officials that we were not able to ‘cheat’ them out of victory.

This isn’t the only time.  I’ve been in basketball games, where it was an all white team playing an all black team; the white teams are winning, and the black coaches and fans are screaming at two black officials accusing of of cheating.  How ridiculous is that?  Often the reality is that the other team is shooting, passing, rebounding, and defending better than the other.  Sometimes the black kids are imitating  Lebron James and Kobe Bryant with their moves, but haven’t put in the work and developed the skill-set to succeed like their hoop heros.  Sometimes it’s as simple as the coaching is suspect.  Regardless of the sport, I can normally tell within the first few minutes how good a team is, whether they are well coached, and their level of potential competitive success in a given situation.  I can say for sure, that the officiating generally has so little to do with an outcome of a game, you’d have to be Tim Donaghy to notice discrepancies.

That being said, there are crappy officials.   I know more than a few who do it just for the money.  I hate working with them.  There are also officials who have biases.  There are even situations where black teams from certain communities have a harder time succeeding in other communities when they compete.  Equally true, is that no player or team has calls that they will always agree with. Officials, like players and coaches make mistakes.  We miss the mark.  Still, the vast majority of us really care about doing a great service to the game and the young people who play them.  We attend training camps, study, test, watch film, critique ourselves and one another every day.  When I am with some of my good friends who are officials we openly discuss our blunders.  We use these our mistakes to help one another better.  We seldom ever talk about ‘that great game’ we called the other night.  That’s the truth!

So to my people, you know who you are, please stop!  We aren’t out here trying to take nothing away from your kid.  Accusing us of cheating, especially within ear shot of the youth who are playing, gives them a false sense of victim-hood that is in no way true, nor will it prepare them to differentiate and navigate the real bias they face now or will face later.  Winning games are about talent, strategy and execution.  In most cases, these decide the outcomes of games even if the officiating is suspect.  The cream always rises to the top.  I don’t give a damn about who wins or loses a game; unless you are the Lakers or the Steelers.  And honestly if I officiate those teams, because I care about my craft so much, I wouldn’t give Kobe or Big Ben a damn thing they didn’t earn. So stop thinking its my job to compensate for your child’s lack of athletic achievement?

By all means continue to critique us on performance if you see fit.  Engaged and KNOWLEDGEABLE fans keep officials on our toes.  In my profession, we are expected to be perfect and we strive for perfection. Unfortunately, most of you don’t understand the rules like you think you do and couldn’t referee yourselves out of a paper bag if it came down to it.   Screaming obscenities and accusing us of cheating makes YOU look bad.  And sometimes YA’LL embarrass me!  I’m throwing a proverbial flag for unsportsmanlike conduct and feeding black youth misinformation.  STOP IT!

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Day 3, Are you kidding me?

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Say hello to my little friends!  These are the 4 way adjustable hinged knee braces I wear every night to my basketball games.  Though they look like a bulky mess actually they allow for quite a bit of freedom.  I am not slowed down in the least bit.   And best of all, they take the pounding OFF of my knees so I come away with no pain whatsoever on most nights such as tonight after two games at a JV tournament.

Back to Day 3; Well the good news is that I did walk another 4 miles of power walking today.   The bad news is that while adjusting the volume on my cell phone while listening to a book, I dropped the thing clean on the concrete!  For the first time I had one of those phones with the cracks all over the screen.  Not just any cracks either, but the cracks you can actually feel.  Thank goodness for insurance right?

The second part of the bad news is that while I was closing in on the last mile and a half or so, I got this rubbing irritation on the back of my left heel.  Though I took my shoe off and adjusted my socks, I couldn’t get the rubbing to stop.  The results was the onset of a big blister on the back of my heel.  This is just what i needed considering that I am working multiple games ever day until December 22nd.

Walking was a pain and I had no idea how I was going to ref the games tonight without clean rubbing the skin off the heel.

There are two things officials need to know when entering a gym.  1) Who is the administrator?  2) Do you have a trainer on staff?

I met the administrator at the door who directed me to the trainer.  After explaining my dilemma, she treated and wrapped the heel to perfection.  To my relief, it felt at least 90% better!  Crisis averted!

Game on!

Transformations and Other Necessary Changes

Many a day I have quietly obsessed about my weight.  I have been successful at reaching goals as well as frustrated with what seemed like little or not movement in the direction I’ve wanted to go in.

As I approach 47 years old, I’ve faced many changes in my body.  A life long athlete, it’s often said that as we get older, ‘confidence is the last to go.  And the mirror is the last to know.’   In other words there is a bit of rebellion in us that says we can do what we used to, at the same level without any falloff.  I’ve always prided myself in being able to compete when people of a younger age.  Being an sports official has helped.  And I can honestly say, there are no high school, or college age ballers that can out-run me on the court. As an official I’m going to be in position to give myself the best chance to make the right calls.

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Still, after 7 surgeries, a few grey hairs, and a history of horrific back spasms,  I can’t deny that often it may take me quite a bit  to recover and be ready to officiate night after night during the season.  Frankly, there have been countless days where I’ve awaken and said to myself, “I can hardly move.  How in the hell am I going to officiate tonight?”  Between the aches and pains including a well worn set of rickety knees, it may take an entire day of preparation.  But when its time for tip off I go out there and taken care of business.

One of the surest ways of staying healthy is by keeping unnecessary weight off my frame.  I’ve gone up and down with my weight as I said before.  And again that is challenging.  During the day time, I eat relatively small and healthy without a problem.

However, I work most nights, and when I get home I want to eat big time.  (And I don’t mean veggies and fruit either.)  Eating after a long night of managing high level competition and competitive people is a comforting exercise.   This includes tasty meats and starches along with a cold brew.  Normally the night ends with some type of sweet.  This exercise is far more mental than physical.

The results may mean that I am in essence fighting against my own cause.  So what am I to do?

Though I’ve done many things to fight excessive weight gain, my new mantra is to totally take my focus off of weight.  I took a long walk today.  (6 miles to be exact)  And while thinking about it, I figure that weight is not a problem but a symptom.  A symptom of food choices, age, the amount of exercise, genetics, and perhaps other factors I cannot think of.  Some items are within my control while others are not.  The best thing I can do for myself to alleviate the unnecessary stress (stress being another internal homicidal factor) by focusing on what I really want out of my body.

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What I want is to be in shape; meaning able to do my job and enjoy normal physical activities;  Gain strength and maintain a certain level of flexibility and elasticity.  Being physically in shape can help me complete my earthly task and serve in a fashion that I am capable of.  As much as I enjoy sports and working with youth, being in shape allows me to gain a certain level of respect and credibility from the get go.

So, instead of being weight conscious, I have decided to be health conscious.  Meaning I am going to control the things I can control. I may as well face that I like to eat.  And sometimes the things I like to eat are not that good for me.  That being said, it doesn’t mean that I can’t consciously take steps to make sure that I move a lot more.  Walking that 6 miles today took me a little less than 90 minutes of my time.  My thinking is, if I can keep a daily regime of exercise, stretching and strengthening of my body, (even outside of my officiating activities) I will be more healthy and the weight issue will take care of itself.  Don’t get me wrong, I ref a lot of games.  But my body has become used to that.  I can’t measure that activity the same way I used to.  So I have to do more.  This is what I promised myself I will do starting today.  I am committed to doing some cardio, strength training and or stretching every day in addition to the work out I get every night officiating.

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Therefore I am determined to reject being weight conscious, and affirm health consciousness.  I am going to challenge myself to move and stretch, to work more.  I am going to walk this journey and make each day a day to win.  I am going to live with a liberated sense of self and allow my spirit to direct me.

With that said, excuse me while I attend to a piece of sweet potato pie.  There is still plenty left!  And ain’t nobody in this house helping me to eat it!

NBA Finals, Conspiracies, Legends, and Has Been Bitches

Derek Fisher, Jameer Nelson

Last night’s game was memorable to say the least.  D-Fish gets all the credit in the world for hitting those two big threes.  Trevor Ariza really stepped his game up in the third quarter.  Kobe missed a lot of shots but the ones he hit kept the team from getting blown out when the rest of the guys were struggling.  But there were some other things that really bothered me that I have to say.  I say these things because others in the media won’t.  They are afraid to.  I’m not.  I have no stake in this thing other than being a devoted fan of the Lakers and an even bigger fan of the game of basketball. 

I tell people all the time.  “Yea LA has been my team since 1979.  Whether they were up or down.  If they play great they play great.  If they suck they suck.  I don’t say they are great or got cheated when they sucked.”  I am as hard on them as anybody.  The point being that I am no fair weather guy.  Even in the midst of this series part of my fan apprehension of the team is wondering what team would show up on a given night.  Would it be the inept team that showed up in the first half of last night’s game missing assignments and making mental mistakes?  Or that third quarter team that showed a level of hunger that matches their talent?  Either way I don’t deceive myself about what is before me.

I say all of that to say this.  If I wasn’t sure before, now I know without question that on occasions the NBA officiating is either corrupted by instruction of the league or of the gamblers.  Let me explain. 

While everyone is caught up in Fisher’s heroics and rightfully so, the Lakers were in a situation where the game was almost impossible to win.  Consider this: 

While the Magic went to the free throw line time after time in the fourth quarter, the Magic were not called for a single foul in the fourth quarter until the last two minutes.  This was not a situation where the Lakers were only shooting jump shots.  To the contrary Kobe himself went to the rack several times and got plenty of contact with no whistle. Eventually he just went with the fade away shots.  Meanwhile, Hedo,  and Howard went to the line with regularly and Pietrus got an “And 1”  opportunity (a good call) on a drive against Bryant. 

Let’s add it up on this level.  Of the last 17 minutes of the game, including overtime, the Magic had a total of three fouls called on them, and the only Laker to see the free throw line was Pau Gasol after a flagrant foul at the end of the game.  Meanwhile, during the first two periods, Gasol, Bynum (or Lord Bynum) and Odom quickly got into foul trouble.  The Lakers were sporting a front line of Mbenga and Powell in the second quarter for god-sake.   The first foul on Bynum in the first quarter was a play where Kobe clearly made contact with Howard, but Andrew got the foul.  OK no biggie.  But the foul Bynum got in the second half when he and Howard were tipping a lose ball was flat out ridiculous.  Not only was there no contact between the players, Bynum had the inside position.  The only reason the Lakers were in a position to tie the game was because Orlando turned the ball over 19 times and missed most of their crucial free throws.  The officials did everything they could to hand them the game.  The Magic just couldn’t take it. 

Lamar Odom foul call

Now look, I am an official and I know that we all miss calls.  So maybe Kobe goes to the hole and doesn’t get the call.  There are times when I don’t make a call and say to myself afterwards, “I missed that one. ” But the thing is, as an official you don’t keep missing them.  I also understand that at time teams get calls on their home court.  But for the Magic to be in the penalty five minutes into the final period and the Lakers not to get a call their way until the clock was under 2 minutes was shameful. 

I honstly felt sick to my stomach watching that game.  Because my love for NBA basketball took a hard fall while sitting in front of that TV.  Even as the Lakers climbed back in the game and eventually won it, as much as I have celebrated and cried for my team even as a youngster, I could only think that in spite of the NBA wanting to extend the series, justice was served as the Lakers fought their way to victory.  There was no smile on my face, only contempt. 

I get that there is an entertainment level to the game.  No one wants to see superstar players leave the game in foul trouble.  I get that.  Still for me win or lose, there has to be a purity to the game.  Players should decide the outcome.  Calls will be missed, mistakes made by players, coaches and officials.  The Lakers have benefited from such mistakes too in times past.  Last night it was so blatant it was just ugly.  I thought to myself  that I may not even watch the rest of the series.  I would like to see the Lakers take it home.  But I know this for sure.  I won’t look at the NBA the same anymore after last night. 

The Lakers won’t say anything because miraculously they won the game.  But don’t think they don’t understand what went down. I don’t know that Orlando will get the help they just got though they have another home game on Sunday.  It wouldn’t surprise me either way.  But I’m just saying.

BB&G’s Random Rants

We know that coach Phil Jackson is trying to win his 10th NBA title as a coach.  But for some reason NBA has-been Alonzo Mourning thought it his place to say that Phil doesn’t do anything but show up while Kobe does the coaching.  This from a man who played 15 years in the NBA and didn’t win nothing until he rode the coattail of Dwayne Wade in 2006.  He seems to point to Kobe talking to players and showing them things on the diagram to make points during timeouts.  But as I recall every great team has facilitators and leaders who are coaches on the floor.  I remember Magic and Michael doing it back in the day.  Isaiah did it with the Pistons.  Chauncey Billups is the ultimate example of that.  But just because he was an extension of the coach I didn’t hear anybody saying that Larry Brown just showed up and called timeouts.  Or that George Karl doesn’t have anything to offer.   Phil is surely secure with himself so he makes fun of Zo’s being a bitch.  I guess that little play Phil drew up taking the ball out past half court so the Magic wouldn’t foul right away before Fisher’s three was Kobe’s idea too. Whatever.

Random Rants 2

I love me some Bill Russell.  Greatest NBA winner ever and a true statesman.  But WTF is up with him showing up at the last couple NBA Finals sucking up to the Lakers opponents big men.  Last year it was KG, which is understandable because it was the Celtics.  But this little feature with Dwight Howard was just ridiculous.  I mean what relationship does he have to the Magic?  Just that they are trying to beat the Lakers and if they were to beat the Lakers it would prevent Phil Jackson from surpassing Russell’s coach Red Auerbach in championship trophies?  I mean if the Cavs were in it would he be schmoozing with Anderson Varejao or Big Z?  I thought that was kinda whack.  Red’s place is cemented in history.  But these haters can’t take nothing away from Phil.  Talk about Jordan, Kobe and Shaq all you want.  But take one look at all of the hall of famers that Red coached and then get back at me on that.  A coach has to know how to work what he has.

Speaking of coaches.  What is up with Cleveland jerking Mike Brown around?  If this guy’s job isn’t safe this year, that shows that LeBron really has their management team shook.  I know ya’ll have to sign “The King” and all… but don’t be so fickle.  Have some balls at least and show some freaggin loyalty.  With this talk of Pat Riley Dan Gilbert is starting to remind me of Dan Snyder.