Back in early fall, I volunteered to coach a local recreational league 8th grade basketball team. I love the game of basketball, I played in college, and I miss it a lot. I actually love kids, and I figured that giving up a couple nights during the week and every Saturday would be a good way to relieve stress. Oh, how wrong I was.
First off, I’m an idiot for volunteering to give up over 15 of my Saturdays. There were two days of evaluations, required coaching meetings, and then games. The long season has had quite the toll on me and specifically my patience. Most of my games were around lunchtime on Saturdays, but this past weekend had me playing in the last slot, which means I would be done around 9. My girlfriend was 200 miles away, my buddy was making jambalaya for some girl he met on Tinder, and my roommates were out of town. Looks like I was going into this thing alone with no support system. I was getting ready for the game to start when I heard an all too familiar voice behind me, “Hey, Coach.”
Mike and I go way back, and we are not friends. He is hands down one of the worst referees I have ever seen in any sport in my entire life.
“I expect a good clean game. Tell your guys to play defense with their feet and keep their hands to themselves.”
“Yeah, sure, not a problem,” is what came out of my mouth. “Go choke on a fat gorilla dick,” is what I was thinking.
I knew this game was war. Mike always ruins every game he refs in, and even my kids knew it. I let them know who our ref was and they all let out a collective sigh. I saw one kid mouth “dammit” as he got ready for the game to start. The game began and was a close, physical game, just how I expected. My guys play very physical, and they play tough defense, sometimes getting a little too rough. They were fouling the other team pretty badly, but my man Mike wasn’t calling anything. Being the good sport that I am, I felt I needed to stand up for the other team’s coach. Eventually, the other coach’s son went down from a hard foul and was in a lot of pain. The coach ran out to tend to his son, so I stole the spotlight.
“This is what happens when you don’t have control of the game, Mike! You let the game get to this point. Now little kids are out here breaking bones because you can’t make the right calls in a rec league game!”
Excessive? Sure, but I had to assert my dominance over Mike. I don’t like Mike. Mike then jogged over to have a word with me (read: waddled like an obese penguin). He let me know that I needed to respect him and let him do his job and I do mine. He asked me to please stay calm, and that my outburst would only escalate the tension in the game.
Mike then preceded to call a foul every 15 seconds. I’m not kidding. Before I knew it, two of my kids were fouled out, and I was down to five players. We were up 3 in the fourth quarter when a kid from the other team tripped on the basketball as he was dribbling. I don’t know how he managed to pull that off, but he hit the floor harder than real life hit me the day I graduated college. Mike called a foul, but nobody touched the kid. Whatever. I got really mad when he called the foul on my star point guard, who was on the other side of the court. The kid was at least 20 feet from where the “foul” occurred. I was now down to four players, and missing my best one. I couldn’t handle it anymore.
“Mike, that was absolutely awful.”
That’s it, that’s all I said. But Mike gave me a technical. That wouldn’t be a huge deal, but that wasn’t enough for me. The parents and even fans of the other team began to boo. I began to laugh, and I laughed hard. I laughed like an evil villain in an old Disney movie. I think Mike got his feelings hurt, because he gave me another technical and threw me out of the gym. Okay, Mike, you won this battle. I wasn’t sitting in the parking lot for thirty seconds before three dads from my team joined me outside. Great. Were they coming to cuss me out? Were they going to pull their kids from the team? Were they going to beat me up for costing my team the game?
“Looks like we got tossed from the gym too, Coach. Let’s party.” We didn’t have any beer, but we talked until the game was over. We talked about work and what I did for a living and so on. One parent invited me over for dinner. I even gained some pretty solid LinkedIn connections from these guys.
Oh, and the league put me on probation for a year. Thanks, Mike. .
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