FEB 17


Anyone who has officiated any sport at any level has had games in which things didn’t go as planned. What if the unexpected trip‑up comes early? Whether the problem is a strange or unexpected situation or a mistake, a tough start often makes the rest of the game seem like an uphill climb.

My nightmare start went like this, during a high school football game. The opening kickoff went out of bounds. The team opts for a re‑kick. The ensuing kick skids past the deep man, who retreats toward his goal line. As he picks up the ball he steps over the line. As the referee, it was an easy call: touchback. The ball goes to the 20 and team A begins its offense first and 10, right? Wrong! The receiver actually stepped back over the five‑yard line. I’d lost track of where I was on the field. We should have had an inadvertent whistle signal accompanied by a re‑kick. And of course, the embarrassment of explaining why the ref didn’t know the five‑yard line from the goal line. That would have been a bad start, but in my case, it was worse. I didn’t find out I’d made a mistake until after team A had run its second play from scrimmage. The linesman told me why the home bench was complaining.

At that point the rules were no help since a play had been run. Two plays in and one bench already thinks, no, it knows the ref’s incompetent! I can think of a thousand ways I’d rather see a game begin. The backs of my ears were burning from irritation and embarrassment.

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