20 Years Experience
For twenty years I officiated high school, AAU and park district basketball games, retiring recently. For a few officiating is the focus of their occupation, while for most working as an umpire or basketball referee is an avocation. I started ref'ing to earn beer money during college, but it became a great way to stay connected to the best sports game in the universe. As a spinoff, I wrote a sports-thriller novel loosely based on my referee experiences titled, Advantage Disadvantage
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I once passed on a block/charge situation because I thought it was one of my partner's call. I was wrong and it was mine to make. So, nothing was called even when the players went sprawling. Both coaches were pissed, and were right. There was a foul in there, and a no call was horrible. By the way, some of my best calls were no calls, even when the crowd howls for something. I am so conscious of not coming back with a make-up call that I think I overcompensate and dig in to the detriment of the team whose call I booted.
There are some sports where it is difficult to officiate if you have not played (wrestling, diving, gymnastics). In my view basketball is not one of them, although people with playing experience often excel. Every state is different, but here's how it goes in Illinois: you apply to the state to get certified. In the application you attest to your non-criminal background, and you list 3 references, one of whom should be associated with high school basketball. You send in your application and $40 and they will send reference cards (probably emails by now) to your three people. Once they respond in a satisfactory way, then you are sent the rule, case study and mechanics books and the questions for an open book exam. In Illinois you also have to attend an annual rules meeting (now online). ...More If you want to work the state tournament you must attend a certified camp at least every three years. I wish I would have attended camps early in my career - they are humbling and usually stress judgement and proper mechanics but you learn so much. Having done all of this you will be "patched", that is you've passed the state requirements and they send you the state's patch to sew on your uniform. This is half the battle. Now you must get booked for assignments, usually starting out doing freshman games. In most states, it is worth it to join a local official's association. Not only will you get valuable training at the meetings from the veterans, usually each association also has assignment chairpersons who come to the meetings and are members. They often give favorable treatment to members of their associations in terms of game assignments. Some of these associations offer mentoring programs where experienced officials will watch you work games and offer critical feedback. In the summer camps you will also get great feedback from the refs running the camp. Sometimes they will shadow you on the floor, helping you with positioning, angles, and mechanics. It all sounds like a lot, but if you love the game like I do, officiating is a wonderful way of staying connected long after your playing days are over - and they will even pay you for it!
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No, I never officiated a game where there was any legal betting.There were anecdotal stories and rumors about betting on high school games, but I don't have first hand knowledge. Here is a story told to me which I have every reason to believe is true, and it also served as the inspiration for my novel's storyline: A ref was called the night before to fill in for a park district game in Chicago. He was going to be paid $100 to be the only official (high game fee should have raised a red flag). He showed up and there were a couple hundred people surrounding the outdoor court in a park. Two huge guys from opposing gangs met the ref at his car and explained that they were there to protect him ("no quips") no matter what his calls were. The pressure level was raised and the ref was worried. As he approached the court, he saw guys as old as 35 in the layup lines, in pro-style uniforms - this was no park district kids league, this was the gang banger's league. He called the coaches and captains together for a quick pre game conference (hoping to preempt problems). While holding the conference one of the "managers" answers his phone an accepts a bet for 10 biscuits. The ref asks him about the bet and learns that a biscuit is $1,000 . The manager brags that he has accepted a lot more than $10,000 on this game. By now the ref was sweating bullets. The ref took off running to the parking lot and jumped in his car while the 2 assigned gangbangers chased after him. He was able to escape.
Yes, a coach once said, "you wouldn't let it get so rough if the player wasn't black". I immediately blew my whistle and told the coach he was out of bounds. If he wants to say that it is getting rough in there, then say so. But to suggest that it is rough because the post player was black was an attack on my integrity. I gave him a chance to rescind his comment (remember, I rarely use technical fouls), and he immediately agreed that it was inappropriate and inaccurate - he apologized. More often in my experience there has been racial trash talk between players which must be immediately penalized. A few years ago a school's student body was taunting a black player with a racial chant. The referees failed to stop the game, warn the crowd, and if necessary start having them removed. The refs were sanctioned for lack of action.
I am a big fan of college basketball. I was really disgusted when D Wade and Bosh and LeBron conspired to rig Miami's team, which circumvented the whole basis for creating competition in the NBA - each team owner acting in their own interest in the market for players. There is a real danger for this precedent - what if in the future a group of free agent all stars decide to play for a team a rack up a record of say, 75 - 7. Who would watch the games? When Jordan had his 2nd run on the Bulls, the stadium often emptied out in the third quarter - just before the fat lady sang. In general I find the NBA, especially in the eastern conference too physical. Although I must admit it is fun to watch the D Rose and the Bulls (I probably like them because they don't have a center-oriented offense. So, I am a bigger fan of the college game because I find it more competitive and more capable of upsets. Having said all of that, the increasing number of players leaving college early hurts the fans ability to follow team progress. In the end, I would rather be associated with the college game.
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