Ignorance is bliss, and innocence is my inclination when I stepped into a gym I never have. It was Queens High School of Teaching, which is the alma mater to some of my favorite, most respected officials in the circuit. I’ve never been here before, and prematurely I was thrusted into the venue, before the school season even started. The vaunted RFK High School has been unavailable for quite some time, and I have yet to do a PSAL game during the school season. All of these acronyms, and situations; that’s all semantics, let’s discuss tonight.
“Well if you told me you were drowning,
I would not lend a hand
I’ve seen your face before my friend,
but I don’t know if you know who I am.”
– Phil Collins
I’m on my third game, and I’ll admit I’m not my freshest. That’s neither here nor there, because I’m still the guardian of the game, I’m still the guardian of my rectangled galaxy. And within that galaxy, I manage the game, and I manage, or just so happen, to admire a player:
We’ll call him: Muhammad Amaad
Normally I don’t mention names so quickly, but I’ll mention his, with alacrity, because of any misunderstandings he may have of me as an official, let alone as a person: I want to make sure he understands I won’t be misunderstood no more.
You google the name: Muhammad Amaad
You don’t find any information about the player, but sans an a that isn’t the first of the last name, comes up as a Nubian religious leader that once combined an orthodox religious study with a mystical interpretation of Islam in Sudan. I found many connections with this seemingly interesting figure in history.
For one, I see a lot in myself in many things he is. My wife is from Morocco, which is a few countries west of where Sudan is.
Combining orthodox religious study with a mystical interpretation of Islam? That sounds like RefereeRant to me – taking the life of the stripes and making mythical writing and interpreting it further with my favorite Jay-Z and Pusha T lines I could conjure.
“This ain’t really for you,
This is for the Goya MontoyaWho said I couldn’t stop,
Then afforded me all the lawyers.”
– Pusha T
By the way, the Muhammad that I know, or should I say, officiate, is nice with it. He’s fully in control with his moves, has a good command of the basketball with his handle, and he can score at will. There was nothing for me to ref. He would call an occasional “And 1” when getting hit, but I’m not calling that. The clock only wanes when I put air in the whistle and I make a fist with my arm up.
First half was ho-hum, barely calling any fouls. Muhammad’s team was up, convincingly, and I was just a mere spectator to the 20 points he dropped with ease.
2nd half was a different tale. Muhammad has a black teammate, which wouldn’t be a big deal under normal circumstances, but will become an ominous one in a few minutes. The center was a big man, and you could tell he didn’t have a lot of experience playing games with officials. But he was in good shape, considering he had only one foul and it was already 6 minutes into the 2nd half. But Muhammad didn’t approve the foul call I made.
“You calling all the calls for them, and none for us,” Muhammad said.
I replied, “That was the first foul I called all game,” which was FACTS.
“Does your whistle work?” Muhammad continued.
I wasn’t even incensed. I was, disappointed, however, because the game was flowing until he uttered the words. But he brought it there, and those words are akin to Marty McFly being called chicken in any of the Back to the Future movies.
I called everything I saw. I mentioned previously how much I admired his handle, but now he forced my hand. He used a palming violation to get separation and an advantage, a few times. I called even more fouls on their big guy, who was perplexed. He kept moving forward, not maintaining a legal guarding position.
He felt the affects early; within 4 mere minutes, your man’s fouled out.
That’s when Muhammad called me:
I’m not even go into reasons as to why I’m not, or scenarios in which I have been everything but. I was just disappointed that being called racist is the result of his teammate not knowing how to maintain legal guarding position. We are relegated to that formula:
Illegal Guarding Position + 5 Fouls = The Official is Racist.
I asked him, point blank, “Did you just call me racist?”
Quasi-apologetic, he said, “I wasn’t talking to you, I was talking to my teammates.”
No. He was talking to me. Boom – Technical Foul
This is Muhammad, who may or may not have been named after a religious hero in Sudan, who may or may not have lineage that’s similar to my son, my wife, or half my family. But since Muhammad doesn’t agree with a referee calls, then I have to be.
I asked him calmly after the game, why he thought I was one. I mentioned to him that my wife was from Africa, His reply was to the effect was:
“That doesn’t mean you are racist. That’s just one person.”
And it’s us, the stripes, who are the brunt of many individuals lack of introspection, their unwillingness to look inward as to many of the errors that happen internally within any sporting event. Sure, I make mistakes as an official. I just a make them a lot less, and unlike the players, we are heavily scrutinized when we make those mistakes.
I told him that I lost respect for him tonight. He told me he lost respect for me too. That further confused me, because it never seemed he respected me. Maybe if he reads this, he will have no choice.
“When the streets is watching, blocks keep clocking
Waiting for you to break, make your first mistake
Can’t ignore it, that’s the fastest way to get extorted.”