Why would anyone--anyone--want to be a professional referee? I served as linesman for my boys' U-10 match this past Saturday--my first time serving in that capacity. Fortunately, as a parent volunteer, many of the parents (which were on my side of the field) were sympathetic to my plight--why? Because the other alternative could have been them. I had a coach take umbrage with me (yes, umbrage!) due to me missing an offsides call (which I didn't, thank you very much). Don't get me wrong--I loved it! But I'm telling you that, even with U-10 rec leagues, you'd better be on top of things or it could get testy quickly.
So I came to Dick's Sporting Goods Park with this experience in mind. I found myself watching the refs more than I had at any other point. They each have their responsibility and, if they do their job well, we hardly ever know they are there.
The issue in question during the second half that led to Pablo Mastroeni's ejection (oh, for a highlight of that fiasco) came down to communication. Mastroeni's beef stemmed from the fact that the referee called the penalty first (which happened first), followed by the linesman calling offside. According to our coach, the ejection came when he began to question this decision and why they did not communicate more. (Unfortunately, the Colorado Rapids website does not include this choice bit on their post-game notes from our coach. I'd be grateful if any of you can dig this up.)
The refs made a very questionable call on Watts in his phantom foul on the Revs' Charlie Davies in the box. Now, if I were a ref seeing that in real time, I'd have called the same thing. But I'm not a professional referee. We have replay, and I believe we would see that this was a weak call.
So, when the day ended, here's my thoughts on the refs during the Colorado Rapids' match:
- They did not cost the Rapids the match. Missing all 17 shots (five on goal) cost the Rapids the match. Having four of those shots hit the woodwork cost the Rapids the match. Two bad calls (yes, one that gave them a PK) in a 95 minute match did not cost the Rapids the match.
- If the Rapids had won, no one would be talking about the match. Pablo is frustrated, the team is frustrated, the fans are frustrated. Let's not start feeling sorry for ourselves when we start thinking that even the refs are against us. (Fortunately, I haven't heard this one yet, but in case that's playing in the pipes, stop it! Just stop it!)
- To the refs: do us all a favor--communicate! Communicate with each other, communicate with the players, communicate with the coaches. That's one frustrating aspect of soccer is that refs are not obligated to explain their calls. Now, the good ones do! And when they do, they earn the respect of those around them, even if they don't agree. And even when referees make a mistake and own it, that goes a long way as well.
- To the fans: show some class. What good does it do for a fan to shout obscenities and talk about a ref's mom from the stands. Sure, it may make us feel better, but I believe that we have more class than that.