Defending a covered TE releasing
Way back in 1997, we were playing in a State semi-final. Our opponent lined up in a "Wing-T" and tried to conceal a TE by having a Split End lined up in the backfield, and the TE lined up where a tackle would normally be, who snuck out for a pass. They had five in the backfield.
Now, granted, the game was played in a cold, torrential downpour, and the first time they ran it the refs missed it. It resulted in an incomplete pass.
I mentioned this to one of the officials at half time, while he was peeing at the adjacent urinal in the locker room. Nothing like having a captive audience.
They tried to run this again in the second half and had a long touchdown called back. This resulted in a sideline eruption, and a total of 45 yards in assessed penalties!
We won the game 3-0.
You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles!
Reading these stories, I was reminded of something on refs I’ve kept since the ‘90’s, I think it is older than that, I forgot who wrote this, and I paraphrased a bit when I copied it down. You may or may not agree with the observations, but will likely recognize some of these types…
My observation is that the 1st 1-3 seasons Refs are usually lovers of the game with a great deal of enthusiasm but no experience, so they're often out of position as the play develops. They also tend to rely on the other guys on the officiating crew to let them know what to look for and which penalties are most likely to occur in their area of responsibility. The guys who do not progress out of this level generally return to fandom and do not continue officiating.
Officials then seem to spend about 3-5 seasons in the next stage, though some never progress beyond this level. I call them "rulebook" refs. These guys now have the book memorized inside out. Their mechanics are good, they are usually in position as long as nothing unusual happens (like a trick play, a flea flicker or double pass kills 'em, so you've got to let them know ahead of time that it is coming.), but they tend to be outside the game. Not really a part of the ebb and flow, not really able to anticipate what is going to happen as the play develops. They react as the play develops rather than flow with and through the play.
The kinds of errors common here are losing sight of the game in administering the rules. By reacting and being outside the game they tend to get tripped up by the unusual or unexpected and either interfere with the play, blow an inadvertent whistle, or throw a flag that needs not be thrown. We're looking at the kinds of errors that come from being competent within the scope of their responsibilities but still tending to lose sight of the big picture. Some never progress beyond this stage.
Those who do progress beyond the rule book stage may spend a brief period in the "enlightened" stage. These guys do not stay in this stage long because coaches quickly stop having them hired. They are the guys that coaches say things about like:
"You know he used to be OK until he decided he was bigger than the game."
These guys recognize that simply administering the rules as an outsider is not their role. They try to move within the context of the game and recognize that the rules are to assist the game, not constrain it. Problem is that they think they know what it is that the coaches are trying to do, or ought to do, and begin to impose their vision of the game upon the way the game is played. The game no longer belongs to the kids and the coaches, but to the official.
From the coach’s perspective these guys are arbitrary in their calls, and consider themselves above the rules. The Ref begins to interpret the game rather than the rules. It becomes the Refs' interpretation of the game and not that of the State Association that created the rules for the game that is the final judge. These guys end up unemployed because the coaches have to try to figure out how to play the game around the ref. Basically, folks wonder what game he is watching, and why he keeps interfering with the game. And woe be the coach that questions his wisdom. The rules and the game become secondary to the Ref. Now people are buying tickets to watch him officiate.
Then there are the rare ones, the Refs everyone wants. These guy's always seem to be in the right place making the right calls. When the coach questions the call they get a sensible answer that fits both the rules and the context of the game. These guys are a part of the game yet you really don't notice them. The game belongs to the kids. The kids get to play, the coaches get to coach, the fans get to...fan … and every goes home talking about the game and not the calls. The game is enhanced by their presence.
Umm.... why does that 6 ft tall 9 yr old have a goatee...?