Sunday, December 09, 2007

"It happened the way I called it"

I just returned from my annual soccer (football) referee recertification clinic. I have been reffing since 1994 and many years ago upgraded from the entry Grade 8 to Grade 7. As best I can tell, the main difference between the two grades is that I now have to take an annual physical exam and also pass an annual written test. The passing grade for the latter is 85%, which I think means that it is acceptable to be wrong 15% of the time. (Hey, that's not bad. There was a period of time where the passing grade for nuclear power plant operators on the NRC's test was 65%. Let's not think about what that meant! That preceded Three Mile Island.)

One of the things I love about fĂștbol is that the rules we use are the same throughout the world. Theoretically, that means I could officiate a game in Brasil or Italia or Cameroon or Korea as well as a game here in Massachusetts. I say theoretically because there is no way I could keep up with the players there.

There is a joke among experienced referees that you go through three stages of self-confidence as you get more and more experience officiating matches. The first is when you are starting out and are insecure. A coach complains about a call, and you reply, "I'm doing the best I can."

After a couple of years, you gain self-esteem, and you reply, "I called it the way I saw it."

Finally, when you have the full degree of self-assurance, you reply, "It happened the way I called it."

Actually, though, what was clear among my teachers and colleagues today is that the more experienced referees reach a level of comfort at which they no longer respond so defensively to complaints about their officiating. There is more of an understanding that your job as referee is to make yourself as invisible as possible and let the game flow. In what other sport, for example, is there the equivalent of the "advantage" rule, where you intentionally do not stop play to call a penalty if the aggrieved team's possession of the ball is not harmed by the foul? Soccer is a passionate game for players, coaches, and fans, and it is the referee's job to let many of those passions roll of your back and enjoy the overall experience while ensuring an appropriate level of fair play on the pitch.

11 comments:

Bryan said...

My father in law has much the same experience as you do in this area. This is an excellent post.
Do you have any suggestions for places to eat in the Boston area? I will be visiting from Monday till Thursday. Our hospital has purchased MediTech and I go out for training starting Monday evening.

Paul Levy said...

Hundreds of options! Others can offer their favorites. For starts, check my post below -- Hook, line, and sinker -- for the name of a great Middle Eastern place.

Anonymous said...

Chiara's in Westwood
Bonfires at Boston Park Plaza
Blu Ginger Wellesley

eat well...work hard!!!

Bryan said...

Thanks for all of the recommendations. Mr. Levy would it be possible for my Assistant Director of Pharmacy and I to tour your facility Tuesday or Wednesday Evening? I am an avid reader of your blog and truly admire your openess and candor regarding the operation of your facility. I am not quite sure when our MediTech training will finish in Canton at this time yet.

Paul Levy said...

Frank Mitrano, our head of pharmacy, is waiting to hear from you.

Jennifer said...

In what other sport, for example, is there the equivalent of the "advantage" rule, where you intentionally do not stop play to call a penalty if the aggrieved team's possession of the ball is not harmed by the foul?
Rugby has an advantage law as well. I'm not sure if that means it existed in football prior to the birth of rugby, and was kept in that sport, or was adopted separately by each.

Anonymous said...

This is very common in Hockey too.

Paul Levy said...

Thanks.

Anonymous said...

And American Football too now that I think of it. If the defense is caught off-side the offense usually gets a "free play" since the penalty can always be declined.

Paul Levy said...

Ah, but that's different because they throw the flag first and then the penalty is declined. It would parallel to soccer if the flag were never thrown in the first place.

Paul Levy said...

Of course, in American football, the game is stopped every 8 seconds anyway!