Ridiculous and sublime: Aaron Williams and the fist-bump conspiracy

This.

I find the comments even more bizarre than the story is.  Be warned, however: The stupid.  It burns.

Denver has a goal-line play. The player runs into a pile. The line judge, John Hussey, can’t see if the Denver running back breaks the plane before he’s down.  The umpire, Carl Paganelli, communicates with him beautifully, giving him an indication (a thumbs-up) that the runner has scored.  Hussey signals touchdown and runs in. He talks to Paganelli.  Their conversation probably went something like this:

HUSSEY: “Hey, thanks for that, man. Nice communication.”
PAGANELLI:  “No problem, dude.” [fist bump]

Pretty benign stuff.  But…

Oh my.  Bills fans, led by their team’s safety Aaron Williams, believe that the fist bump is a sign that the officials were rooting for the Broncos.

Really?  Seriously?

For starters, let’s start with what Aaron Williams knows about officiating.  It’s less than you do.  Yes, less than even you do.  Seriously, his complaining tweet said that his team can’t win when it’s “16 vs. 11.”

Of course, there are 7 officials in an NFL game, Aaron.  Seven.  You have not had five officials on a field since high school (depending on where you went to school, of course).  Are you unaware of your basic surroundings or just notoriously bad at math?  Did you take any basic addition courses at the University of Texas?

But beyond that, Aaron Williams and his supporters live in a world where officials are both incredibly biased AND amazingly stupid. For starters, they believe that they (and probably me, if they came to watch me work) give a crap who wins the game. These guys did not get to where they are by caring about the result of the game, and they will not risk a really good paycheck (and no small amount of pride) by starting now.  Yeah, I know. The word “Donaghy” comes up about every fifth words in comments by the mouth-breathing contingent of Bills fans. But I’ll need a lot more than a fist-bump and a crooked ref from a decade ago to believe there was a rooting interest here.

But just for kicks and giggles, let’s assume that an official DID decide to risk everything he had earned in his life by somehow cheering for a Bronco victory. Do you believe that official would actually put it all at risk by publicly showing he was happy when the Broncos scored?  Seriously?  That’s in a whole other galaxy of stupid thinking, but that’s where Williams lives, I guess.

To be fair, I am not sure the officials should have bumped fists.  I was taught long ago not to shake hands with my partners after a game until we are out of sight of the court. We don’t want it to look like we conspired, and in a close, emotional game, people whose brains are impacted from emotional involvement will see that handshake or fist-bump like a Rorschach test on which they project their own sad, angry view of the world. It’s not worth it, and I suspect Hussey and Paganelli will not fist bump again, even though it seems they really should be able to. But even if they should have saved it for the locker room, the response from Williams and his supporters is comically out of whack here, and it should be obvious to anyone with firing synapses.

A shout out to Mike Pereira (as usual) for his passionate rejoinder against the stupid, and Eric Allen for reminding us all in the ESPN clip above that the officials are humans who take pride in their performance as well.

Mike Carey avoided Washington games for nearly a decade.

I can’t quite wrap my head around this. But I will try.

Mike Carey, universally regarded as one of the strongest officials (in any sport) over the past two decades, retired from NFL officiating a few months ago to become the Mike Pereira of CBS Sports. It’s wonderful (and overdue) that CBS is joining Fox and ESPN (Gerald Austin) in hiring an officiating expert for their NFL broadcasts, and Carey, with his articulate gentleness, is a great choice for the job.

At any rate, as the link describes, when journalists met with the CBS crew, they asked them whether they would use the nickname of Washington’s team on the air. Carey said he had only called them “Washington” throughout his whole life, and wouldn’t stop now. But then, a reporter presented him with the fact that he had not worked a Washington regular season or playoff game since 2006, and Carey revealed something he had kept secret since then: he had asked–and received–permission not to officiate Washington’s games since then.

“It just became clear to me that to be in the middle of the field, where something disrespectful is happening, was probably not the best thing for me,” Carey said.

First, full disclosure: I really think that the Washington NFL nickname is a sad joke that should have ended decades ago. One of my rival high schools in the ’80s went by the same name, and they found the name offensive and changed it to “Reds”…in 1993. I also believe the nickname “Indians” should be nixed, that Chief Wahoo is as offensive as some of the worst racist images in our history, and that pseudo-Native fan behavior like the Tomahawk Chop is horrific. I can live with the names Chiefs and Braves, or local native tribe names if approved by the leaders of that tribe.

But my own opinions on the naming issue, while deeply-held, are beside the point here. I am wrestling with the question of Carey’s stance and how I feel about officials taking a stance on their deeply-held beliefs (regardless of the belief).

I do think that it’s tremendous that Carey said he couldn’t be a part of something offensive. I started wondering if I could do the same if there were a local high school with the same name, or something equally offensive (Pekin Ch–ks, anyone?) Would I be willing to take a similar stand?

I guess I wouldn’t have thought about taking a stand as an official. I’d certainly fight it via the school board and maybe a few letters to the editor. Once those were printed, would the school want me to officiate their games? Maybe not. I know I would officiate them fairly: I”m not going to penalize a kid because they go to a school with a lousy nickname. But I’d feel bad for making my assignor’s life difficult by telling him I don’t want to do any West High Epithets games anymore. I take a lot of pride in not dinging any schools (other than the one where I teach), regardless of inconvenience or jerk coaches, and I take pride in giving the kids my all and my fairness.

And yet, if I’m on the court with the West High Epithets, am I a part of the problem? Am I perpetuating the offensive nickname by taking a paycheck to officiate their games?

Mike Carey thinks I would be, and I respect that opinion. So I’ll take a look at his own boycott, which I find interesting for two reasons.

First–and I can’t get over this–the only reason he could do this is because of his incredible reputation as an official. For the most part, so many people want to officiate at the college and pro levels that anyone short of the very best (like Carey) would have been dropped like a greased John Elway pass for making a similar scheduling demand. Much like my high school assignor, Carey made his NFL assignor’s job more difficult by refusing to work with one team. One reason the NFL went along with it is because it couldn’t afford to lose him: he worked the Super Bowl after the 2007 season, so they’d have let go a premier official at the very peak of his abilities. I also wonder if they’d have feared Carey would have given his reasons for departing, or if other officials would have followed.

That said, I wonder whether Carey’s boycott of Washington games really counts as a form of civil disobedience or even as a boycott because he kept it secret. Only now are we learning that Washington didn’t get a tip-top official to do their games because of their nickname. What would have happened if he had publicly made his request? Would he have more effectively added to the pressure to change the name?

I can’t speak for Carey, and I will be interested in seeing him further explain his choices if he decides to do so. But when I put myself in his shoes, I would fear that negative feedback would impact the perception of my partiality.

Suppose, for instance, that Carey were officiating a late-season Cowboys/Giants game with playoff ramifications for Washington. Late in the game, he makes a key, close, or maybe even controversial call that goes against the team Washington needs to win. (I don’t know: maybe this happened.)

There is no way he could do that safely. And there is no way the NFL would allow that to happen if both Carey and the league had gone public with his decision to avoid Washington games. So he did it in secret.

But, secret or not, is the NFL’s choice to allow Carey’s boycott and schedule around it simply a testament to Carey’s ability and reputation? Or is it a tacit admission that Carey’s boycott is legitimate?

It seems to me that both of those must be true. If the NFL head of officiating–or his bosses (surely someone up the ladder was aware of the boycott, although Carey isn’t sure) would never have granted Carey’s request if they felt there was no justification for it. I know the NFL keeps certain officials away from certain teams based on past controversies (Bill Leavy/Seattle, Ed Hochuli/San Diego, some others I’m forgetting), but if they permitted Carey’s boycott, would they have had to honor other officials’ similar requests?

silent protest with multiple officials surely would have made an impact. I lauded officials in Topeka, Kansas for refusing to work at a high school that wouldn’t permit female officials to referee boys’ basketball games. I’d have been even more impressed if the whole association had joined that boycott, even just by declining assignments to work there. This would have left the association saying to St. Mary’s: “Sorry, we have to refund your money. We can’t find anyone who wants to go along with your philosophies.”  This could work at other levels.. For example, what if all NBA officials refused to work Clippers’ games, had Donald Sterling remained the owner there? What if officials in any sport stopped working games in Arizona to protest their immigration laws? What about a pro-life official who is troubled working games of a team owned by a person who gives money to support abortion rights?

I know that the media would not like such a boycott. They’d simply say “shut up, stay invisible and call the game.” But, when faced with legitimate injustice, Carey’s stand seems so much more compelling:

““Human beings take social stances, and if you’re respectful of all human beings, you have to decide what you’re going to do and why you’re going to do it.”

So officials are left with a conflict between the desire to appear impartial and the desire not to appear so impartial that they tolerate injustice. The desire to shout against injustice is difficult in a vocation where visibility is considered a negative trait.

So I admire Carey’s courage, but I am left wondering about the consequences of his understandable silence, and whether an active official is allowed to advocate for anything at all, lest such advocacy be interpreted as favoritism.

What do you all think? I’m interested in your opinions. In fact, I’m interested enough that I’m adding a poll here. Please feel free to civilly elaborate in the comments.

A quick word on Marcus Smart…

By now, you’ve seen the video.

Let’s ignore the principals here–there’s plenty to read about that elsewhere.  Let’s focus on the referee and his decision to give Smart a technical foul.

Seth Davis tweeted that the official made a big mistake on not tossing Smart and instead giving him one technical and allowing him to stay.

“If Smart made a mistake, refs were worse. He should have been ejected and sent to locker room.”

Here’s the thing:  there’s nothing in the rulebook about players contacting fans.  Of course, this is reprehensible, and should not be ignored by the official.  The trail official comes running in from the three point line and gives a technical.  I tend to agree with Davis that going after a fan should get you tossed:  letting a kid stay sends the message that it’s okay to smack a fan.

But when I put myself in the officials’ position, I bet they were just as shocked as everyone else was.  The brain wants to be decisive, but has neither rulebook nor past experience to back him up.  I bet that he regrets not ejecting Smart in the cold light of day.  But I can’t say I’d have been any better/different if a similar shove transpired at one of my high school games.

I do think that, rather than signalling/deciding the T right away, the officials might have done well to send the players to their bench areas and talk it over.  If the official had said “I saw him shove a fan,” well, maybe they would have come to an ejection decision together.

In short, this is a situation where I would like to learn from someone else’s trial by fire.

***UPDATE:  Okay.  The Big 12 coordinator of officials says that officials can’t eject a player who gets into it with a fan, according to the ESPN report on the game:

Big 12 coordinator of officials Curtis Shaw told ESPN that the officials don’t have jurisdiction to eject a player who is involved with a fan.

“There is no precedent for that,” Shaw said. “Our rules are for flagrant 1 or 2. We don’t have grounds for dealing with a fan. We don’t have a rule to get involved when the player is involved with a fan. We don’t know what was said. The official, Doug Sirmons, didn’t know what was said.”

Huh.  I did T up a player once (a 7th-grade girl in a rec game) for cussing at a fan once.  I wonder if this will cause a rule to be added?  And I wonder if that will make fans feel even more entitled to act horrifically toward fans?

In any event, I may have been to quick to agree with Davis–should have gone with my own inclination to look for the rulebook (and come up empty).  But it still seems to me that shoving a fan is “an unsporting act,” and the physicality legitimately calls for an ejection.

I’m torn.

The Summer in Officiating

Pretty quiet, actually.  I went bonkers about Game 3 of the World Series ending on an obstruction call.  I was bothered by Red Sox fans stating that Jim Joyce and Dana DeMuth should have not called obstruction even if it were the correct call because that somehow “takes the game out of the players hands.”  That is, of course, a ridiculous argument.  It was ridiculous when it was made in our state basketball tournament last spring and it was ridiculous during the World Series.  I don’t even have to write about it because Joe Posnanski did, and he covered that ground fabulously.  But it wasn’t open season on the umpires.  Joe Buck and Tim McCarver got the rule right (even if they mistakenly called in “interference” at first) and didn’t attack.  On the radio, Dan Shulman and Orel Hershiser were even better.

So there wasn’t much to write about–my radio silence wasn’t solely based on my laziness.

But now I’ve got a big reffing year ahead, and I’m back.  I hope you’ll join me.

Some disjointed thoughts on the infield fly rule

1.  The infield fly rule is responsible for my marriage.  No, really.
2.  An unpopular suggestion:  Sam Holbrook made the right call, since the shortstop was standing there for a time waiting for the ball and had put forth no extraordinary effort to get there.
3.  It may be that this play shows a shortcoming of my infield fly rule as written. Should there be a geographic component…an actual line out there that is “too far” for an infield fly rule to be called? Or should that be left to judgement as well?
4.  As either Chris Singleton or his play-by-play partner Jon Sciambi suggested as I listened on the radio…if a major, Jim Thome-style shift is on, and the second baseman takes up residence in shallow-to-mid right field, should that be an IFR situation?  Under the letter of the law, it would, but under the spirit of the law, it would not.
5.  Umpires are required to call the letter of the law, not its spirit.
6.  This is why I love Hank O’Day’s call on the 1908 Merkle Boner play more than any call in baseball history.
7.  But the fact that he followed the law won’t stop people from vilifying Sam Holbrook, and for that, he has my sympathy, since the rule isn’t his fault.
8.  I missed most of the media firestorm that followed the game.  Looks like it was bad.  But Sciambi and Singleton were measured on the radio, which I appreciated, even though they disagreed with the call and I agree with it.
9.  If the.re’s an MLB version of Mike Pereira available for the commentators to call, this doesn’t develop into quite the torch-and-pitchfork situation it has become.
10.  If you’re scoring at home, the era of unprecedented ref-love that began with the standing ovation for NFL ref Gene Steratore’s crew in Baltimore last Thursday lasted exactly 8 days.
11.  I still need to blog about last Sunday’s ref camp.  That won’t happen tonight

Better late…

Life (fatherhood, husbandhood, job…) has kept me from this blog.  So I’ve been silent on the NFL officials’ lockout.  But, after my Pacific Northwest neighbors totally blew up on Facebook tonight, I can’t ignore it anymore.  Here’s my take:

This lockout may be among the greatest things ever to happen to officials.

The nadir for officials’ public image was 2005/6.  The ridiculous responses to Super Bowl XL, Doug Eddings’ call in the 2005 ALCS, Fox going bonkers in the 2005 World Series, and trouble in the 2006 World Cup were bad. Then came Tim Donaghy. Officials have never had it worse than about six years ago.

Two important occurrences since then have caused a significant improvement in respect shown to officials.  The wonderful response to Jim Joyce’s blown call in the Armando Galarraga game was one.  Far more impactful, however, was the hiring of Mike Pereira by Fox.  I’d been begging for a network to hire someone (or a league to make someone available) for years, and then it happened.

Immediately, what transpired was a shift:  an assumption (well, maybe a glimmer in the back of the mind) that fans and sportscasters might not be the ones to go to for information on the rules and on what officials have said and seen.

Turning to an expert is what smart people do.  Declaring one’s self an expert is what stupid people do.  When it came to officiating, Fox Sports made the shift from stupid to smart when it hired Pereira, and it dragged its sensible fans along with them.

(As an aside, I came to this conclusion tonight: there would be little-to-no Super Bowl XL officiating controversy if there had been a Pereira in the booth that day.)

Even with these critical positive changes (and ESPN following suit, hiring Gerald Austin for its NFL coverage and also a college football and baseball official whose name I forget right now), I was fearful for the result of the NFL lockout.

Here’s why.

When there’s any work action that involves replacement workers, the original workers (whether they’re striking or locked out) have one hope and only one hope.  They have to bank on people noticing a change in their quality of life enough to demand the original workers back.  It doesn’t  matter whether it’s garbage collectors, teachers, or anything else.  The only way the original workers win is for the public to miss them.

In 2001, when NFL officials struck, they missed one game.  Not too much happened in that week 1.  Then, 9/11 happened, and officials, perhaps fearing public scorn if they continued to strike in the midst of national tragedy, returned.

In 2006, when minor league umpires went on strike, I feared that nobody would care about the difference in officiating quality.  Even though some major league teams stopped tracking balls and strikes for their prospects (because the plate umpires were that inconsistent…I can’t find a link to show this, however).  However, spectators at a minor league game didn’t notice, and MiLB umpires went back to work with minimal gains to show for their hardship.

The issue is this:  how can you get a public on your side when their wildly misguided default assumption is that you are incompetent?

For this reason, I feared for the NFLRA.

Three weeks in, it’s clear that my fears were unfounded.  The replacement officiating has been so intensely bad that fans, players, coaches, and media actually miss the regular guys.  I can’t believe that the result of this lockout is more ref love.

Additionally, it’s not just angry fans and sports announcers looking to create a story this time.  The fans and the media are now turning to experts to confirm what they’re seeing is bad, and they’re getting that confirmation.

This video of Mike Tirico interviewing Gerry Austin is exactly what was needed.  (In it, I learn that simultaneous possession is not a reviewable call.  I didn’t know that, and neither did you–and for this reason alone, we are all better off with the Pereiras and Austins of the world.)  I love that he discusses the call, discusses the mechanics (what should happen when two officials who disagree on a call come together?  did it happen here?  should the white hat get involved?), and provides expertise.  Light rather than heat.  Of course, in this case, the light went through some eyeglasses to start a fire, but Austin’s words matter here.  They make us miss the real guys, and give us evidence as to why.

As for the replacement officials who made the call in Seattle:  as always, my first reaction to an official after an actual or a perceived  miss is one of empathy.  There but for the grace of God go any of us.  These guys are clearly in over their head.  It reminds me of the drowning feeling I had in my first varsity game back in 1998.  I was not ready, my partner was not ready, but we were shorthanded, and so there I was, muddling along.

And yet…yet…

They were CHOOSING to be there.  If I were offered a Division I college game tomorrow, men’s or women’s, and offered the pretty fat paycheck that came with it, I would decline.  I do not want to be in a position I’m not ready for.  I do not want to screw over the participants and the coaches who have so much on the line.  I do not want to have to rely on a babysitter on the sideline to teach me rules that exist in college that do not exist in high school.  I do not want to watch players do things I’ve never seen players do at a pace I’ve never seen players reach and be expected to correctly call a game while those headlights meet my fawn-eyes.

So,  unlike many, I do hold the scab officials at least partially responsible.  I get that times are hard–but none of these guys is exclusively a ref for a living (nobody does that in football), so I highly doubt they needed the work to feed their families.  They made a choice to attempt something they should have fully known they weren’t up to doing, and they face the consequences.  I do feel empathy for the missed call, but as for the stakes and the stage of that missed call–that was very much their own doing.

What’s next for the NFLRA?  I find it just about impossible to imagine Roger Goodell won’t give the refs everything he possibly can to end what is a public relations fiasco–this week, even.  And then the NFL refs will return.  There will be standing ovations at all stadiums when they are introduced.  They will be shown love because they are–much to my surprise and delight–missed.

At some point, there will be the first terrible, game-shifting mistake.  Pereira, Austin, or whoever replaces them will say “This was a regrettable error.”  The NFL will apologize.

There will be the predictable shitstorm, the typical anger.

But in the midst of that–way, way at the back of the mind of every fan who has endured the officiating of the last few weeks–there will be the indisputable knowledge that, mistake or no, the officials on the field are the best in the world at what they do, just like the players.

I don’t think fans knew that before this week, and possibly even before Golden Tate scored his touchdown with one forearm tonight.  But they do now, and I think this experience has burned that fact into their psyches for at least another decade.

If I’m right about that–and I think I am–this lockout will be another wonderful advance in the public’s perception of officials and officiating.  That’s unqualified good news.

The latest officiating controversies…

involve high school.

Usually, people get all up in arms about the pros or major college.  But it was a pretty quiet year (knock wood) in NFL officiating (I firmly believe Mike Pereira is the #1 reason why), and I don’t recall any severe issues in college football, which I’ll admit I don’t follow too closely.  And the NBA and NCAA hoops season have gotten off to a big start.

But one can still hear breathless incredulity and even anger at officials on the national sports shows.  It’s just that they’re going after high school officials lately.

There have been two major high school issues in the past month or two.  The first took place in one of the Massachusetts state football finals.  A player for Cathedral High School stuck his fist in the air en route to what would have been the go-ahead touchdown with four minutes left.  The referee called him for celebrating before he got to the end zone. Since Massachusetts, to my understanding, plays by NCAA rules rather than NFHS rules, that meant they went with a new NCAA penalty…rather than enforcing the penalty on the ensuing kickoff, the touchdown was nullified and the penalty enforced from the spot of the foul.  Cathedral got the ball at the 35-ish yard line with four minutes left, but they didn’t manage to get the TD and wound up losing.

When I watched the video, I’ll admit I wondered if the play could be considered a taunt.  If I understand the rule correctly (and I don’t know how the rule is written), it necessitates an unsportsmanlike act.  In my gut, I don’t know that this play qualifies.  HOWEVER, I would imagine that the Massachusetts rules interpreters and coaches have been over that rule repeatedly, and have even discussed how the penalty would be enforced.  If there were meetings with coaches where they said “Tell your players not to do a damned thing until they cross the goal line,” then the official who threw the flag was doing the absolute right thing.

Fact is, I’m not a football official, nor familiar with the situation in Massachusetts, so I’d need a whole lot more context before making a decision.

Now, I never watch yelling-head sports shows on ESPN.  I find I prefer periodontic work.  But I will admit that I’m uncomfortable in any situation where I am agreeing with Skip Bayless in the above link, since I honestly believe he picks out his opinions based on incorrectness and unpopularity.  But they don’t have the background knowledge of either the rule or the way Massachusetts officials decided to enforce it.  And the story that it was the kid’s 18th birthday?  Yeah, I feel for the kid, sure–but did they really expect the official to (a) know that fact and (b) factor it into his decisions that day?  That’s crazy.

Also, notice how Julie Foudy is trying so hard to do the only thing that matters in this situation:  to read the rule.  It seemed (from what little I could hear of her over the junior-high shouting of the men on set) like she disagreed with the call, but at least she was disagreeing with it through examination of the rule rather than some inflamed sense of empathy that we as officials just can’t have. And in the face of the self-evidently inaccurate headline of “Celebration Penalty Costs Massachusetts Team Title” (really?  they couldn’t have scored from near the red zone in four minutes?  there were no other moments or mistakes in that game that could have turned it Cathedral’s way?), that’s appreciated.

The biggest jerk in all of this was Boston mayor Thomas Menino, who apparently has so few other pressing issues in his job that he took the time to stereotype and bash officials/rulesmakers:

“I think sometimes these rules are written by frustrated athletes,” Menino said from Cathedral, according to Wednesday’s Boston Herald. “They never participated in a sport, and they don’t know what it is to be excited. You play in a football game, you run for a touchdown, and you do something special.”

I know that Menino, as a politician, isn’t accustomed to letting facts interfere with a soundbite.  But NCAA rules, like rules at pretty much all levels, are written by administrators, coaches, and officials.  Almost all coaches and officials have played the sport they coach/officiate, and I’d bet that a good chunk of administrators who want to be on a rules committee have as well.  I can almost forgive guys like Stephen A. Smith for yelling crap about a high school official: that’s where his bread is buttered.  But the mayor of Boston?  He needs to stuff a sock in it.  On top of being factually untrue, his quote sets a horrible example for the kids of his city and state.

Anyway, that lasted a couple of days of the news cycle.  And then, the next time officiating was in the news, it was in my home state.

Seems an uncle of a player from Highland High School (a rural school outside of Yakima) didn’t care for the basketball officiating in his area, especially in the Tri-Cities association (about a half hour east of Yakima).  He therefore filmed his nephew’s game at Connell High School (a rural school outside of the Tri-Cities) on December 22nd.  And since you’ve all likely seen the video, I don’t have to tell you what he filmed.

I certainly don’t believe he filmed 6 flagrant fouls.  (Sure, I’ll play the game that everyone else is playing:  Foul #1 is a common foul with a stern talking-to, #2 the same–although a rebounding foul on 34 preceding that maybe was a better idea, #3 intentional at the least, borderline flagrant–I’d probably toss him if he’d gotten the stern talking-to on #1, #4 intentional not  flagrant, #5 flagrant–didja notice the not-very-stern talking-to that the bald Caucasian official gives #34, which includes a smile and a pat on the butt?  This was not the time for that–and #6 probably a common foul).  But I do believe that the film shows, at the very least, a crew having a really bad day.  I’m not going to get on the bandwagon of  “they should never officiate again.”  But if I were in a game where all of that was going on, I’d be eager to get an intentional or a flagrant foul just to get out the game out of the crapper.

In any event, I find it interesting that the Tri-Cities Herald article about the controversy contained the following quote from the blogger:

[Michael] Christenson, 32, said that his intention was not for the video to go much further than the small community outside Yakima that surrounds the basketball program. His nephew, Tanner Christenson, plays guard for the Scots.

His choice to show the video to his friends locally, and then send it to the WIAA to express his concerns about officiating?  Totally appropriate.  However, his actions don’t match with his words, as this article shows:

Christenson emailed a copy of the video and demands for action to nine Tri-City Herald employees. He also used a Twitter account to send the video to the NCAA, ESPN, the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Tony Kornheiser, Mike Wilbon, TNT’s Kenny Smith, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith and Jim Rome. The Twitter account has since been deleted.

So it feels to me like the poster didn’t just have the intention to express his concern about local officiating, but to nationally humiliate those involved.  There’s no other reason to send the video anywhere outside of state lines.  (What in the world is the NCAA doing on that list, for instance?)  The net result has been death threats against #34 and harassment of his family and the school.  Thankfully, I have not seen the officials’ names in any article, or they would surely have suffered similar invasions of their homes and privacy, which would be just as wrong as the threats against the players (whom I wish could have had their names kept private, but of course, it’s too easy to look up the roster of any high school team on-line).

Much of the conversation about the video is about who is to blame for the rough play.  Christenson says it’s the officials: there would have been “no hard fouls” if the officials hadn’t called it tight to begin with.  Not sure I buy that–a player like #34 was set on creating havoc that night–but I will agree with him that the officials could certainly have minimized the damage he and his teammate did.  Others blame the players, who were, after all, the ones committing the acts of violence.  Others blame the Connell coach, who didn’t pull the kids from the game, and who, it could be argued, has obviously created a culture where such actions are acceptable.

Everyone is overlooking the obvious point that everyone involved is at fault.  There’s no reason to stop at blaming just one of those groups.

We showed this video at our officials’ meeting this past Sunday, and I’m sure my association wasn’t the only one.  There are two lessons to learn here:  #1.  Don’t be afraid to upgrade fouls to intentional and flagrant whenever merited.  Some officials don’t want to “impose on the game,” but that’s just a cowardly justification for taking the easy way out (and that’s not an attack on the Tri-Cities officials: it’s something we’re all guilty of).  #2:  EVERY MOMENT is filmed now.  In fact, in many ways, HS officials are in greater danger than others, since someone with an agenda can create a pretty damning document that doesn’t have context.  While I cannot see a context in which a player is not booted for foul #5, that’s not the point.  The point is that every second of every game, from pulling into the parking lot, through the game, through kibitzing at the restaurant after the game, all the way until we pull into our driveways, we must assume we are on camera.  We therefore cannot ever be lazy about our calls, our words, or our demeanors, no matter the score or the situation.  We’ve got to go by the book all the time, or we’ll wind up on MSNBC and CNN, where non-officials with no knowledge of the difficulty of the job will call for our heads.  And for that, even though I haven’t been friendly here to my colleagues who officiated the Highland/Connell game, I feel for them in the aftermath.  I can say that I’d have done a better job, and I do believe that…but maybe, in a different situation, I’d have an equally bad night–just like maybe a bad night you’d have or Michael Christenson would have if he ever put on a whistle.  In the end, we’re all one bad night and one YouTube posting away from the dark place they are right now.

Or, to put it another way…the film doesn’t lie.  It might present a specific version of the truth, but it doesn’t lie, and we as officials can’t forget that we’re always on tape now.