Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Flag on the season

Had a buddy in college that did a lot of the intramural officiating. They pay wasn't great, but the job was easy. At least that's what Jim told me as he convinced me to help out with flag football one day when they were short some officials. We had played for a couple seasons, so I knew the rule differences and felt like it'd be an easy paycheck towards that weekend's beer fund.

Wrong. The game was tight and the team that was ahead had the ball with very little time, but promptly threw a long pass that was intercepted. It wasn't an easy interception. In fact, it appeared to have fallen incomplete as I ran downfield to cover the play. That judgment, coupled with me running with the whistle in my mouth, prompted me to blow the thing inadvertently.

The result was one team being able to retain possession and run out the clock. And the other team wishing some second hand, no good referee were dead. Like immediately dead. Right there hanging from the nearest tree. Ever since then I've related too uncomfortably to scenes at sporting events where the officials are whisked away amid boos, insults and foreign objects being hurled at them. But for me on this late afternoon, it was just me and my good friend Jim. Thanks dude!

Anyway, all that to say that I write this with some level of beleaguered understanding for what SEC officials must deal with on Saturdays around the southeastern United States. Only they have much more detailed training than I had and get paid better too. Add to that the fact that they've been given somewhat of a raw deal with this targeting rule in that it is flawed - it's a rule to protect the NCAA from future litigation and, although it will likely be altered from its current state this coming offseason, it is here to stay in some form or another. The end result is a group of guys that really can't win for losing.

Hey 5Deuce, can the ground cause a
fumble? Hell no! (via)
There's always a difference watching live in person as opposed to live on television. We can watch at home and anticipate a flag, sure. But when you're there you can see when one comes from somewhere away from the play. Perhaps it's a long pass that you follow with your eyes to the end, but then trail back to the original line of scrimmage because you thought you might have seen an offensive lineman holding or a defensive player closing in for a potential late hit. Or maybe you thought you saw something yellow fly out from your peripheral vision. You want to see if there's a flag because there's a reasonable possibility for one laying near the quarterback.

However, I noticed this past weekend that I had started to scan the field even when I didn't expect a flag. I've never given too much credence to the idea that all refs, and I mean any and all of them in the entire wide world of sports, have it out for the Georgia Bulldogs. I mean sure, we've gotten screwed plenty of times where the idea would hold up in court. But overall I think the referees are just guys that are out there trying to earn a paycheck.

But there I am, expecting a flag after each and every play as if these guys are going to look for any and every wrongdoing, be it a penalty or some other form of false judgment. And if they don't find what they're looking for they will create one from their feeble imagination (hint: Herrera's "fumble" Saturday). And I realize that this is not the way it should be. Not at all.

No, I'm not naive. Really. I recognize that officiating has been a problem for years on end (JASPER'S KNEE WAS DOWN DAMNIT!!). Again, we're talking about guys doing their part time jobs, and who are human beings after all. They're going to make mistakes and logic dictates that, at times, those mistakes will be particularly untimely.

I just hate that the game we love has come to this - worrying too much (at least more than should be normal) about officiating affecting the game's outcome. Those guys are supposed to have a goal of making it in and out of a stadium without being recognized. And although we can all pull Marc Curles, Al Ford, Penn Wagers and company out of a lineup, that doesn't mean it's okay to expect to have to play against an SEC team AND Steve Shaw's merry band of refs each weekend.

What's the solution? When will the SEC offices care enough to make some kind of change? Why can't these guys be held to a greater accountability? Years ago I recognized that I was not good at wearing the stripes and got my happy ass back to the sidelines. Some of these guys need to be shoved in the same direction.

Or should I say "targeted"?

/end rant