This made me happy. Maybe to excess.

At the end of tonight’s ref meeting, I wanted to be sure to head up to my assignor and thank him for believing in me this year with the big girls’ assignments and (more notably) the monster playoff assignments.  I didn’t have to do that, however…he came to me first.

“Mister Hamann!!!”  he said.  “They let you out of Seattle!  They didn’t hold you for ransom after those games?”

Nope.  The games actually went well.

A conversation followed about the teams I reffed and which among them were really good.  And I then got to say what I wanted to say:

Thanks for showing faith in me with those assignments.  I had good games for you.

“No problem!  We’ll see you next year!”

I went to shake his hand.  He grabbed it, but took the other hand into a tap-the-back-with-the-left-hand-while-shaking-the-right man-hug.

A man-hug!  An unsolicited man-hug from the assignor!  I interpret that to mean that he was as happy for my assignments and successes as I was.  And that, my friends, means something.  I don’t do this to please others–not coaches, friends, assignors…it’d simply drive me crazy.  But when I do get an accolade from a guy who’s been watching me for four years–an accolade in the form of a few big regular-season games, surprisingly big playoff games, and even a surprise man-hug–well, that’s a fairly big deal.  I was smiling like a doofus the whole drive home.

Protected: Game Logs 2/19/11: Two solid playoff games

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Game logs later…

but two good playoff games tonight.  Fun to do.  Only getting home now, just short of 2AM.  But I’ve shown that I can handle games at this level.  Good night.

Protected: Game Log 2/17/11: Imperfection

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Protected: Game Log 2/16/11: My first playoff assignment

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How to rank

I”m never a fan of ranking my colleagues, but now I have to do it twice.  In addition to 1-10 scores for every official I have worked with or watched work this year, I have been instructed to pick the top 25 in our association (as the other top 25 officials have been instructed).  How to do this?  There are some difficult issues to contend with.

–First, and most importantly, I developed this rule of thumb:   If I were working a tough game tonight, and my life depended on my crew having a good night, who would I want to work with?  This gave my list a far more holistic approach, and led me to worry less about how-much-does-mechanics-matter, how-much-does-positioning, what-about-communication…blah blah blah.  No.  I just reduced it to that one question, and that (mostly) simplified things.

–But with this in mind, how the heck to I rank officials I’ve never worked with?  I’ve see pretty much everybody work at least a little bit…but watching someone does nothing to help me determine whether I’d stake my life on having a good game with them.  Working with them does.  How much do I go on reputation?  How much on what I’ve seen from the stands?  That was probably the most difficult task in this endeavor.

–Likeability off the court doesn’t matter.  My dad was an anesthesiologist.  He hated surgeons, and he’d get  into heated arguments when asshole surgeons would mistreat nurses or generally think that they were holier-than-God because they cut people open.  When those surgeons’ children needed an anesthetic, though, they’d always ask my dad to give it, and when I needed surgery, Dad didn’t base his decisions for my doctors on who he liked hanging out with.  So even if I think a guy acts like a jerk at meetings, if they are somebody I know I can count on when we’re on the court together, that trumps likeability.

–Any official I have ever seen egregiously lollygag simply because they were in a low-level (usually girls’) game was severely, severely punished.  Nothing makes me angrier than someone’s belief that they are too good for whatever game they’ve been assigned that day.  I’ll quit officiating 5 minutes after I get that feeling for the first time.  But if you can’t make it to halfcourt or fake interest just because the teams aren’t as talented, then you are, quite simply, not a good official, and I don’t want you working the big games.

It reminds me of the exchange from The Breakfast Club, which I change slightly for this context:

“What, you think I”m a terrible official because I can’t hustle in a girls’ JV game?”
“No, I think you’re a GENIUS official because you can’t hustle in a girls’ JV game.”

So, if I’ve seen egregious lolligagging, you will be pushed well down or even off the list, regardless of your reputation.

Net result:  my list is probably different from others’  lists or the final product.  There are people high on the association’s list (which, by the way, is not published) that probably make my top 25, and there are people in my top ten who might not be near a sniff of playoff games.  So be it.  They asked me, and I answered–and now I’ve said how.

Playoff-O-Rama

Since last Wednesday, when I learned I’d be doing playoff games this upcoming week, I’ve thought about little else.  Yeah, I’ve got a wife and a son and a baby on the way, and work takes a significant portion of my attention, but I’ve had to promise my wife that I would not spend literally every spare minute talking about  my upcoming assignments, which are unprecedented in my career.  To allow me to keep this promise to my wife, I will instead publish my playoff-related thoughts, in no particular order, here:

–It took me 12 reffing years to get to this milestone.  I think that’s probably a little higher than average, but you know the bit about Abe Lincoln and how long a man’s legs should be.  I won’t kvetch about the time it took.  Besides, a good chunk never get to this level at all.

–Okay, I’ll kvetch just a little.  One friend said that I needed this time to negotiate my way through “the old boy network.”  To be honest, I disagree.  There’s a level at which familiarity and trust are necessary to put someone on a big game, and much of that is built up through time.  So that might look like an “old boy network,” but I don’t really see it that way.  It’s just gaining trust.

–I am quite surprised at the level of playoffs I’m working right out of the gate.  This week, I’ll do an early-round tiny-school boys’ elimination game, a mid-round mid-sized-school girls’ elimination game, and what I think will be two different big-school girls’ games that are the last round before State.  I sort of thought that newbies to playoff games would start with early-round games, probably even non-elimination games (we do most of the tournament double-elimination out here), and since I’ve worked almost exclusively all girls’ games (and no really big boys’ games), that I’d be put exclusively on the girls’ side.  Wrong and wrong.  My assignor says his philosophy is to spread the playoff assignments around among the top couple-dozen officials. It sure as heck looks like he did.

–I’m edified by my colleagues’ reaction to these assignments.  One guy said “You deserve it.  You’ve worked hard.”  And I have, especially with last summer’s Finally Getting My Ass In Shape saga.  I’m convinced I look better on the floor now than I did last season, but I think that the simple fact that I worked so hard to change my body was more instrumental in these playoff assignments than the way I actually looked.  In other words, I think my colleagues were honest-to-goodness impressed at my commitment to get better more than whether I actually did get better.

–Along those lines, I’m learning a little more about how we rank officials in this association.  Part is attendance at meetings, part assignors’ perspectives, part the board, part fellow officials’ rankings, and part the rankings of the top 25 officials.  I learned this because I got a sheet at our meeting yesterday, which is how I learned that I am now a top 25 official.  Cool.  But I also was in a coach’s office once a couple of years back when a coach asked us which officials he should request be named to playoff assignments–he showed us the email.  So, unless my memory is really playing tricks on me, coaches play a role in things too.  And, after four years, most of the coaches on the girls’ side are either glad to see me or comfortable seeing me because at least I am the devil they know rather than my former role as the devil they didn’t know.  So maybe that factored in.

I have no way or proving this, but I suspect my assignor’s view of me plays more of a role in bumping me up to playoff level than my colleagues’ view of me.  Of course, the two are related:  my assignor has only seen me work a couple of times, mostly at camp, so much of what he knows of me must be from partners’ game reports and asking around.  But as I received some big games this year, I felt like there was major trust being shown, and I think I validated it all.  Plus, he really likes my game reports.  He makes fun of me because they’re so thorough, but I do think he appreciates that I try to do them (and everything else connected with officiating) professionally.

–Three of my four games are out of town:  one is an hour and a half drive, and two (two in one night!) are closer to two-and-a-half hours away.  This means my first-ever-long-distance-travel to do a game…and also, my first significant officiating carpool.  I’ll see what we can do to NOT talk about officiating, since all in all, I think I’ll be so wound up that I’ll appreciate the chance to discuss whatever the hell comes up.

–All of this is kid-in-the-candy-store stuff to me right now.

–There’s only one more milestone after this:  a state tournament appointment.  It’s not time yet.  But the older I get, and the more that people in front of me retire or move on, the better shot I have at one of those.

–I can’t help but think back to the moments in my officiating career when I was most frustrated.  For starters, I thought my career was over with my vocal cord injury back in 2001.  I sat out for 3 years and became an evaluator.  But I missed being on the court too much and decided to come back (quietly).  And my cords got better (although they bug me lately).  And I think back to the million times I was told that I “run wrong.”  The assignor who didn’t know the difference between criticism and ridicule:  he told me I “looked like a turtle.”  The way that I couldn’t seem to work my way up in the old association where I used to live.  I wonder if I’d be a playoff official there now?  I’d like to think I would, but on the other hand, the first impressions I had made on the higher-ups there were obviously not good, and first impressions are tough to get past.  Here, my first impressions were obviously more positive, which may have expedited my rise.  In any event, suffice to say that there were many moments since my first game–the day after Thanksgiving 1996–that I seriously questioned whether this day would come.  Two summers ago, I told my wife I was thinking of hanging them up because I hated the thought of leaving for work before my son awoke and returning from a game after he went to sleep.  She said I liked officiating too much to quit, and besides, officiating is the only damned exercise I ever get–so she and my son have met me for dinner on nearly every officiating day since to ensure that officiating doesn’t mean days where I don’t see my boy.  And as recently as after camp this last summer, I had decided that if I didn’t solve this damned running and appearance issue, I might just throw in the towel.  Who wants to go every year hearing “You’re good at this, but you’re goofy-looking, so you’ll never rise to the next level”?  But I stuck to it, and the personal training seems to have pushed me over the edge.  Or maybe I’d have gotten here anyway.  It’s nearly impossible to tell.  But I’m as proud of this as any non-family thing that’s happened to me in years–because after all of those challenges, I feel a rare sense of hard-earned accomplishment.

–My mindset:  still more excited than nervous.  I take that as a good thing.  But if I’m hyperventilating before the first big one on Wednesday, well, I’ll put my hands on top of my head and try to count to ten…visualizing the good games that got me here.

–And if you’ve been reading this silly little endeavor I’ve been at for six seasons and several hundred games, you helped me get there.  I appreciate you.  Thanks.