Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Didn't Come to Play (I Came to Ref)

I hate fun. It's true. Don't try to have it around me, and do not try and get me to have any.

Not when I'm reffing that is. Well, even that's not true. I actually enjoy reffing, it is fun for me. But I want to make a very important point: You can have fun without making fun. You can have fun, without being funny.

Here's my point: This isn't high school and we're not in the drama club (despite all evidence to the contrary). We're referees of a sport trying to drag itself into legitimacy, and a huge part of that hinges on referees being referees. There's so much history of this sport being illegitimate, of being a joke. I know, it's still Roller Derby, and that means you get to do whatever you want, freedom and power and blah blah blah. But so do fans, they can think whatever they want about the legitimacy of our sport, and they'll base it on what we do.

There's a lot of leeway we can exert on what makes a sport a sport and what makes it legitimate. A surprising amount. But one thing isn't arguable, it needs to be a competition. It needs to be a fair competition, judged on the merits laid out in the rules. Judged consistently and constantly and fairly. We'll shorthand that to "professionally".

And you are right, you can do all that and still act like a jack-ass, but who's going to know? There is an element to being professional that is outside how consistent, constant and fair you are, and it's how consistent, constant and fair you appear. If you are constantly adjusting your monocle, how can I reasonably believe you're watching the action all the time? How can I believe you've poured over the rules time and again when it looks like you spent more time on how you look than on how your hand signals look?

Now, that's not to say "Eliminate All Flair". Truth is there's some very bedazzled people out there that show up to do a job and clearly do it. People who, despite being very fancy, still exude the traits one wants to see in a referee in charge of a bout their team is participating in. I have to think though that this is because of the priorities they've placed, and the attention they focus on the game once it's at hand. That reffing came before the show. That reffing will always come before the show. That the sport, if it demanded they be less noticeable, would get it's way. These people are referees.

I mean yes, you are hilarious, of this there is ample evidence, but you could use that in so many, more appropriate, ways. Join an improv troupe, make some internet videos, make a robot out of soda cans, whatever.

Or maybe I'm just an old man.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Recommended Reading: Successful Sports Officiating

Start this next year of refereeing off right, read this book as soon as possible. It's been possibly the most important book I've read as a referee. From the approach you bring to reffing, to your attitude, to your style, to how you call things in different situations this book covers it all. I imagine it would also be valuable as a skater.

It's surprising, at first, how a book written about refereeing so many sports that are so different from derby relate so directly to our experiences. But the fact is, this stuff has all been figured out before, by so many others before us, and it's folly to think we need to do it all ourselves, or to eschew this advice because it's how other sports do something. When every sport, ever, has come to the same conclusions about how to handle something, signs point to that, possibly, just maybe, being a reasonably good approach.

Do yourself a real favor, check out this book.