Monday, May 19, 2014

Confessions of a whistle-blower


That was the sound I created at 2:20 pm on Saturday (May 17th, 2014) to mark the conclusion not only of an activity that began at 1:00 pm that day, but also a series of activities that had begun on March 25th.

Saturday's activities actually began at 8:00 am - but more on that in a moment.

With the exception of one 'encore' at 6:30 this evening, Saturday afternoon's significant event was this:

I hung up my boots * - you see, I am (have been for many years) a licensed soccer (football for those outside the US) referee.

* see 'Footnote'

Back to Saturday:

At 8:00 am:  I officiated as 'Center Referee' in a United States Soccer Federation (USSF) U-14 girls tournament match. At 9:20 am, I switched roles to be one of the 'Assistant Referees' in a U-13 girls match on the same field. About 10:40, after collecting my 'earnings', having a brief chat with a few fellow referees, I headed off to gas-up the car, grab a hamburger (McDouble / no pickle, please!) and drive 15 miles or so to undertake the shared role in a 'Dual System' of refereeing at a Championship match in a High School Girls Soccer Tournament beginning at 1:00 pm.    

A rather uneventful day - as some 'soccer days' go. No significant parade of obnoxious coaches, parents or players today. [Not the case on the previous weekend when all three categories were out to display their ignorance - not just of the 'Laws of the Game', but of public behavioral expectations.]

Anyway, with my boots off, I can now give my feet the rest they deserve! Since that initial match of the 'Spring Season' on March 25th, I have been involved as a referee in 31 soccer matches. For a few years back in my younger days (as recently as 5 years ago!), in that 7-week period (and again in the 'Fall Season') I would typically be engaged in as many as 90 matches. I started this 'whistle-blowing thing' back in 1991 and since then have been a referee in more than 7,000 matches - officiating youth games with players between the ages of 9 and 19, as well as scores of matches involving 'seniors' - men over the age of 19. I also officiated scores of 'indoor-soccer' matches, but gave that up 10 years ago; the lack of physical activity required and the 'politics' of 'house-managers' was not to my liking - not to mention that it I never saw 'indoor' as a bona fide part of 'The Beautiful Game'.

Once, during a youth league match in March 2001, I suffered a heart attack - not from the activity of the match, but likely from a combination of years of smoking, dietary indiscretions and a genetic-does of high cholesterol levels. However, I was back, 'outstanding in my field' (as the joke goes), that Fall. Ten years later, when I was 68, I said to myself that I would 'hang up my boots when I turned 70 - if I made it that far!  

* Now, that 'Foot-note':

In late 2012 I had vowed to 'hang all that stuff up' - when I attained the ripe old age of 70. However, I lied!  I passed that (70) landmark in April 2013 and, with God's grace, I continued - until now, April 29th 2016. Yesterday, I DID blow the final (and last) whistle - in a Freshman Girls' match - on my 20-year stint of National Federation of High School officiating; I officiated in West Virginia and in Missouri.

I am also in my 25th year of USSF officiating, having seen surprisingly few changes to the 'Laws of the Game' in that period, but a noticeable change (in 2008) to the design in their badge. I preferred the earlier design.




Last Saturday, I blew my final (and last) whistle in that Federation too - with a pair of U-16 Boy's matches. My whistles shall be retired and placed in my safe-deposit box.



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