Officials Appreciation Week: This is not an oxymoron
Seriously, be nice to the refs
According to our benevolent overlord, the Colorado High School Activities Association, this week is Officials Appreciation Week.
To anyone who’s watched a soccer game in Glenwood Springs — good luck to Battle Mountain soccer on May 2 — or sat through a 32-minute, 9-second basketball game in Paonia — go to your happy place, Vail Christian — this is a laughable concept.
Officials or refs are idiots, right? In some fans’ minds, they screw with your team intentionally. If I had a nickel for every time that a fan/parent told me, “You should do a story on the officiating,” I would have long been retired in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, riding around in my personalized San Francisco Giants golf cart.
Let’s be honest. Officials don’t care, by which I mean they don’t like one school or another. Talking to them, they appreciate good play in their sport and generally would like to escape any contest unnoticed. That’s the perfect game for any referee of any sport: The fan goes to the game, cheers for Devils, Gore Rangers, Huskies or Saints; their team hopefully wins and no one even notices the men or women in stripes.
Just on Wednesday night, the San Jose Sharks likely got the benefit of an incorrectly called 5-minute major penalty, in which they scored four goals, erasing a 3-0 Vegas Golden Knights’ lead during Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The internets have debated non-stop whether Vegas’ Cody Eakin should have gotten a major penalty for cross-checking San Jose’s Joe Pavelski. The initial cross-check merits a “meh” and maybe 2 minutes. The bigger issue is whether the Golden Knights should have been penalized for the incidental ensuing Pavelski collision with Paul Stastny, which resulted in the Sharks player slamming his head bloodily to the ice.
Every sport is fast and requires quick decisions, and even the best officials at the “Big Four” — MLB, NFL, NBA, and NHL — level miss calls. So then, why do you expect the people doing high school games to be perfect?
The fun thing about being a local high school sports writer is that I’ve seen just about everything there is to see in sports. A goalie scoring a goal in the final 3 seconds of overtime? Yep? State championships? Yep. A juggernaut of a Battle Mountain football team? Yep, even that in 2011.
The not-so fun part has been ever so occasionally I’ve been pressed into some officiating duty because I’m a theoretical neutral adult. (The theoretical is for the adult part.)
It is terrifying. It was either the 2001 or 2002 volleyball season that I did lines at Vail Mountain School volleyball game. At the time, the Gore Rangers featured Lara Golos (nee Bossow), who would go on to play middle blocker at CU. Also known as Tree, Golos got the perfect set in slow motion and I saw her wind up.
The ball came straight at me and I never saw it. I called it in because having watched Bossow/Golos hit the ball often, her shots were in more often than not. I remember thinking, “If you don’t like my call, you come out here and do this.” (There might have been some more adjectives involved.)
Since I called the shot in, well, then-Vail Mountain coach Mike Garvey didn’t argue.
Then there’s lacrosse. I have never seen, or better, perhaps, heard a more litigious bunch of coaches and players. These guys will argue whether the sky is blue on a clear day and with some colorful language.
Last month, I ended up working the clock during and Eagle Valley-Vail Mountain game. Mind you, I wasn’t making the calls. I was just starting and stopping the clock and telling coaches how much time was left in a penalty. From having done the latter, I now know how my parents felt when I constantly asked, “Are we there yet?”
I was terrified that I would affect the outcome of the game by releasing or not releasing a penalized player properly. Envisioning the Vail Daily headline of “Dumbo official lets Eagle Valley/VMS lax win,” that was a long two hours.
So for once, we’ll agree with CHSAA in this space. Happy Officials Appreciation Week. We really mean it.