Saturday, December 27, 2003

FOOTBALL AND FORGIVENESS

If any of you watched the UVA vs Pitt game today, you were treated to some pretty good football and some extremely inane and uninformed commentary. For those who haven't discerned the name of this blog, I officiated high school football for 13 seasons before attending SWTS, where I'm scheduled to graduate in six months and hopefully be ordained a week later. Hence, Reverend Ref.

Anyway, I'm watching this game and it's UVA's ball, 4th and something that needs a punt. The ball is kicked, UVA has great coverage, and the Pitt receiver calls for a fair catch. As the ball drops into the receivers hands, the covering official blows the ball dead. The only problem is that the ball went right through the receiver's hands and UVA recovered the muff. In technical terms, this is called an inadvertant whistle and because it happened on a loose ball play, their is a replay. A do-over in playground terms. The color commentator went nuts. Screaming about how there's no excuse for that; that they should change the rule "IMMEDIATELY" so that UVA can keep the ball; and on and on about a bunch of other nonsense for something like three or four more plays. He wouldn't let it go. If you think that I'm not a fan of color commentators, you'd be right. Most of them don't know the rules of the game, none of them understand officiating mechanics, and they generally appeal to the lowest common denominator - the ignorant fan.

I've been in almost the exact same situation. It's a sickening feeling that this is the one time when you may have had an impact on the game and you pray to God that there will be a fumble or interception on the very next play. But here's the deal. As the covering official, it's your job to protect the receiver. He needs an opportunity to catch the ball, and he can't be touched if he signals for a fair catch. The receiver's hand goes up, there's something like six defenders bearing down on him, and you don't want that guy to get killed. To prevent that from happening, you blow the whistle just a little sooner than normal. Ooops. The problem for the official in this play is that he MUST BE WILLING TO LET THE RECEIVER GET ILLEGALLY HAMMERED INTO THE GROUND. It's hard to let that happen.

Second, you can't change the rule and give the ball to the kickers because the whistle is blown during a loose ball. That means that NOBODY has possession. That means that the announcer would arbitrarily give a ball that belongs to no one to someone.

Third, I despise announcers because they sit up there in the booth and act like they've never made a mistake. As an official, all you can do is tell the coach, "Hey, I screwed up. I'm sorry." But you can't dwell on it because the game goes on. The next play is less than 15 seconds away. You must forgive yourself, because if you dwell on it it will not only haunt you for the rest of the game but it will prevent you from giving your best effort on the next play, and the next and the next and the next.

People make mistakes. We need to forgive ourselves and try not to make the same mistake again. We need to forgive those who negatively impact us; otherwise we will find ourselves dwelling on the bad of the past. Everyone, at one time or another, will need to ask for forgiveness. And everyone, at one time or another, will need to bestow forgiveness.

Even on announcers.

Peace

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