Guest Post – The Referee’s Perspective: Sometimes We Know What We Are Doing

Editor’s Note: Garrett Galbreath is a high school basketball official in Washington State and a Board Member for the Snohomish County Basketball Officials. Since I am someone who has ALWAYS treated sports officials with the greatest of respect, and NEVER engaged in any kinds of disagreement with one rearding the idiocy of their calls, laziness on the field, or out and out incompetence, I wanted to get an opinion from his side of the whistle. Why do some parents, coaches, and players insist on arguing with these highly trained and well-meaning people, simply for screwing up a call on the field? This is the 1st post in the series of, “The Referee’s Perspective.”

As high school basketball official, I have heard just about every criticism a coach, player or parent can offer. Sometimes I register the good advice, “Watch the hook on the post!” …and consider it the next time I am in a position to observe post play.

garrettgalbreath_officialBut most of the time, we are bombarded with simple and contradictory instructions for how the game should be officiated. One minute its, “Call the foul!” The next, “Let them play!” What’s an official to do?

The answer is more nuanced than most people think. My general philosophy on officiating is broken into three mandates:
1) Keep the players safe
2) Enforce the rules
3) Consider the game

These (personal) rules are listed in order of importance, but numbers two and three blur a bit in many situations.

Some Examples

Parents Yelling 1Consider a typical 5th grade game. If we were to enforce all the rules in the NFHS rule book, the ball would never cross half-court because we would call travel violations on every possession. Nobody wants to sit through that. Instead, we have to balance where the rules must be enforced and when to let them slide for the sake of the kids trying to learn the game.

As officials, we try to balance the rules vs the game by looking at advantage/dis-advantage. Did a player gain an advantage by violating a rule? No? Maybe it’s best to let it go so the game continues.

Coaches Yelling 2We need to apply the same logic in a high school game. Although our tolerance for violations narrows a bit, we still have to consider the skill level of the players. Our 3A state champion team is probably going to have a different skill level than a rural 2B team with 6 varsity players. We have to figure out how to manage that gap in skill sets every single game.

So to you parents pleading for a foul at one end of the court while imploring that we let them play at the other end… Most of us saw the same thing you saw. By the rule book, you might be correct. We could make you sit through an hour of inbound passes.

Parents Yelling 2But remember, youth and high school sports are for the kids. In addition to being competitive events, they are teaching opportunities and a way for your kids to gain confidence. Our decisions might be different than yours, because we are working hard on blending a need to enforce the rules of the game while considering the quality of the experience.

Please include any questions in the comments below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Imagining Presidential Candidates as League Commissioners

I don’t know what made me think about this, but indulge me if you will. If you took the remaining Presidential candidates and put them in charge of the sports leagues, which ones would they run? Here’s my proposal.

1) MLS
Let’s start with the easiest one first. Major League Soccer is by definition a socialist endeavor. The league revenues are split, the labor force has few rights for negotiating wages, and all transactions must go through the league office. This is Bernie Sanders’ league, plain and simple.

2) NFL
The country’s most powerful league is going to need a member of the establishment to carry out its charter. Someone who knows everyone on Wall Street as well as the rest of the Billionaire owners. They must have political clout to wield or they’ll be a lame duck. But also, the NFL needs someone who can deflect controversy, pretend things that are happening aren’t actually happening, and show a strong willingness to tiptoe on the wrong side of the rules. I think the NFL goes to Hillary Clinton.

3) MLB
This league is much harder to determine a proper commissioner for. Its leader must have the clout to appease 30 billionaire owners, manage municipalities to get stadiums built, and negotiate billion dollar TV deals, all while presiding over a sport that is losing its appeal to much of America. In some ways, to some people, MLB has become somewhat a relic of days gone by. A memory of what once was, rather than what will be. And with that in mind, I hand the keys to Jeb Bush.

4) NBA
Another tough decision. We’re looking for someone who can see the international picture while not overlooking the inner cities. Someone who can manage across different cultures. But also someone who can simply step into the shoes of his mentor and merely continue to operate the machine rather than create a new one from scratch. I think this role is given to Marco Rubio.

5) NHL
Here we have a league that not enough people get excited about. It rarely registers on your sports mind, even though the few times you pay attention to it, you find it quite enjoyable. It is the epitome of being John Kasich.

With this organization, we’re looking for a few key qualities. This leader must be fairly tone deaf to the cries from its labor force who want to be paid. The leader must embrace the idea of the 1% receiving all of the money, and have strong convictions about who should be let into the system. Plus this leader must be stubborn, resistant to the opinion of others, and able to hold true to their beliefs. I believe Ted Cruz is our answer here.

7) WWE
Come on, is this one really that hard? There’s only one Presidential candidate capable of running the circus that is Worldwide Wrestling. The one and only, Donald Trump.

Have I missed a league that needs a Presidential candidate as a commissioner? Let me know.