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Officiating, two calls & the rules
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There is a lot of discussion about officiating these days. If I have heard it once I have heard it a thousand times how the referees blew a call, got it wrong, cost their team the game, need glasses, or my personal favorite — have to call it both ways. 

I am not perfect. The difference between an official blowing a call and me getting it wrong is I am wrong forever – in print. And I have made mistakes, the most glaring one is getting a name wrong. I can count on one hand the number of times I have done so, but I do not say that to minimize it. 

I can remember as a football player forcing myself out of bed on Saturday mornings, stiff and sore from the night before, getting the paper and seeing if my name was in it, or maybe even a picture.  (That happened once.)

I had a fumble recovery in my last high school game, and it was a key play. Huge. When I got the paper the next day the writer had credited one of my teammates with the recovery. The smaller paper that covered us got it right, but the clipping in my scrapbook from the bigger paper has my teammate’s name crossed out and written in ink above is, “Me dammit.” 

So I know when I get it wrong it hurts. I had a couple of doozies this year, and I still feel bad about them. And even though I said my mistakes are forever, they do not sting as much as when an official does not know the rules and that ignorance proves to be costly. Recently, I saw two cases of that ignorance in 18 hours and while one may or not have been costly, the other prematurely ended a kid’s season.

On Friday night, Manteca was leading Rio Americano of Sacramento by three points with 1.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter and a Buffalo was at the free throw line shooting one-and-one. 

All the other Manteca players were back on defense so when the free throw was missed, the Rio Americano kid let it hit the floor so his teammates could get in position for a quick shot after an outlet pass since the clock was not supposed to start until after the ball was touched by a player following the miss.

But the clock started after the miss and before the player could outlet the ball the buzzer sounded. The officials ran off the court and the Rio Americano contingent was not happy – at all. The game had been physical without repercussions on many occasions, so there was some pushing and shoving after the final whistle, too.

I happened to run into the officials in the parking lot as I was leaving and discussed the final call with them and they were both adamant that the clock was to have started on the miss. The only problem is the rule book says otherwise. 

As I write this, there are rumors of an appeal to the Sac Joaquin Section as an incorrect interpretation of the rules, the only grounds on which a game can be appealed. While I do not think the outcome of the game would have been different had the clock started when it should have, much stranger things have happened. In my opinion, the proper outcome is to have Rio Americano jump on a bus, drive back down here and take the ball inbounds with 1.3 seconds left. 

But I am not the commissioner, so we will see how that pans out.

The other incident was just plain wrong. East Union heavyweight Jaysen Reindel needed a win to make it to the California State Wrestling Championships in Bakersfield, and he was well on his way when his opponent turned the tide.

But time appeared to be on Reindel’s side. Leading 7-5 with time running out, with around four seconds left Reindel started to get turned toward his back. With two seconds left, Reindel had not been turned – his shoulders were not on the mat. I looked at the clock, saw two seconds, looked down and saw one shoulder still off the mat and the official had not started to count near-fall points.

That meant a couple of things. First, with no count began for near-fall points (which would have been two points with two seconds remaining), the match could not go into overtime. But more importantly, according to the NFHS rulebook (Rule 5-11-1), in order to be pinned the wrestler’s shoulders must be on the mat for two complete seconds – period. 

It is not the main official’s job to look at the clock – that is up to the secondary official. When the East Union coach questioned him, the official just summarily dismissed the question.

Now Reindel did have a commanding lead and let that slip away – but not enough to lose – and that is something he will have to deal with. But to have a ticket to Bakersfield snatched from his hands due to incompetence and ignorance, that is going to make for a long off season.

While speaking with one of my referee friends about the shenanigans of those 18 hours, he told me, “We may (mess up) from time to time with a bad call – we all do that – but there is no excuse for not knowing the rules, whether it is in Pop Warner or the pros.”

As much as I live to argue, I cannot argue with that.