Fair But Not Equal

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Fair But Not Equal

A few times during the season I will inevitably get a coach that yells to me, “How is it that my team has seven penalties and the other team only has two?” The off-the-cuff answer of, “well coach, your team is fouling more,” rarely goes over well. I will usually respond with one of two phrases:

  1. “Coach I’m just calling what I see”
  2. “Coach I’m calling the game fair but not equal”

The idea of fair but not equal is a tough concept to get for many people. If the officials are calling all the penalties on the Red team then clearly the officials are against the Red team. The idea that the Red team may actually be fouling more than the Blue team is not often brought into the discussion.

For example I had a youth game late in the season and my partner and I threw about fifteen flags on one team to the other team’s three. You look at the box score of the game and the disparity between the two teams on penalty time is vast. The team that we threw all of the flags on were fouling big time. Huge wind-up checks that never found the stick or glove. Hits with a twenty yard running start, and hits that were well away from the ball. Never forget that an official’s primary job is safety. So in the interest of safety my partner and I kept throwing our flags hoping that this team would get the message.

The coach of the penalized team complained to me that I was not calling things equally. I told him he was absolutely right. There is nothing in the job description of an official to balance out the scorebook on penalty minutes. I’m not looking for fouls on the other team just because I threw five flags in a row on their opponent. If the other team is not fouling then trying to manufacture fouls on them would be considerably unfair. The second job of every official is fairness, and if we try to call things equally we inevitably find ourselves not being fair.

I told the coach I was only going to call what I saw and judged to be a penalty. His team continued to rack up time in the penalty box while their opponent played under control. His team lost the game. Not because of the calls my partner and I made, but because his team could not check with discipline. Believe it or not, most officials do not like throwing flags and penalizing players. However, it is our job to make the necessary calls when players go beyond the rules of the game. I do not hesitate in making calls when I have to, but I am never going to try and even out the flags I throw between two teams so everyone has the same net amount of penalty minutes. That would be equal but not fair.

Cheers,
Gordon

Pipe City

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Pipe City

I hear this every time the ball hits two pipes: “If it hits two pipes it’s a goal!” I used to believe that was true until I became a lacrosse official.

It seems so logical. One pipe is clearly not a goal, but if the ball hits two pipes it must count as a score. If the ball somehow hits three pipes the game automatically ends, the person who shot the ball is crowned team MVP and his team wins the game regardless of the score at the time. If the ball has enough momentum to hit four pipes, tradition requires that the net be cut down and fashioned into a cape that the shooter wears for the remainder of the season.

As I wrote about in my No Goal post a while back, a goal in lacrosse is scored when a “loose ball passes from the front, completely through the imaginary plane formed by the rear edges of the goal line, the goal posts and the crossbar of the goal, regardless of who supplied the impetus” (NFHS Boys Lacrosse Rulebook 2013).”

There is no rule anywhere in the rulebook which states that hitting multiple pipes on a shot counts as a goal.

I have called a two pipe shot a goal on one occasion. The ball hit one of the upright goal posts and ricocheted into the goal, past the rear edge of the goal line, hit the rounded pipe at the bottom of the goal and then came out of the goal into the field of play. I whistled the play dead and signaled goal. Not because the ball hit two pipes, but because it fully crossed the goal plane.

So the next time you hear someone yell out, “if it hits two pipes it’s a goal!” Please educate them about the correct rule.

Featured Image Credit – www.elixirind.com

Cheers,
Gordon

Are You Kidding Me?

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are-you-kidding-me

The phrase I hate the most when I officiate is when a coach, player or fan yells, “are you kidding me?” No, I am not kidding you. In fact, I am completely serious. I called a penalty and that is the end of the discussion. A coach or person affiliated with a team is likely to say “are you kidding me” at least one time during the regular season. I can almost guarantee it because there is going to come a point when that person just cannot accept a particular call or no call. So they yell out in frustration. I understand their frustration, but I still don’t like the phrase.

That phrase irks me because it implies that I am not taking my job seriously. The person making that comment probably thinks that I just show up, throw on a striped shirt, and make calls whenever I feel like it. That person does not know that I:

  • Read the rulebook multiple times before the season and almost every day during the season
  • Run in the offseason so I can keep up with the players who get faster every year
  • Spend hours in the classroom teaching and being taught the intricacies of officiating lacrosse
  • Buy two new hats and two new flags every season so I look the part of a professional official
  • Take meticulous notes after my games detailing how I felt I did and what I need to work on for my next game
  • Call up my officiating friends and discuss weird rule situations so we all know what to do when something strange happens in our next game
  • Show up an hour early to every one of my games
  • Make calls based on safety and advantage/disadvantage. Nothing more.
  • Do not care who wins or loses
  • Want the game safe and fair

These are some of the things that I do and believe in, which I believe makes me a competent official. Many of my officiating colleagues in this state and across the country do similar things to prepare and be at their very best come game time. We put in hours of work behind the scenes so we can provide a quality product. To everyone who says, “are you kidding me?” I suggest taking an officiating class and stepping onto the field. Every new official that I have ever worked with says the exact same thing – “This is much harder than it looks.” It is hard to do, but the rewards are great if you put in the effort to become as good as you can be.

Cheers,
Gordon