Roger Marolt: Zebras are an endangered species, so I might become one
I’ve gotten myself into something spiraling out of control. I feel like I’ve fallen down a flight of splintered stairs into a dark, moldy-smelling cellar of an abandoned Midwestern farmhouse and I can’t get up and nobody can hear my Clapper. As my eyes adjust, I see instruments of torture hanging on the wall. There are cobwebs everywhere except in front of a smallish door in the corner. I think there might be a slight broken line of light at the bottom leaking through, but it also could be my mind playing tricks. It doesn’t even matter. I’m doomed.
That only describes what I feel like. The reality is worse — I am on the verge of becoming a lacrosse referee.
It started innocently enough. Two things seemed to have conspired against me. First, I volunteered to run the scoreboard and time clock for the Aspen High School girls’ lacrosse home games. Second, I am friendly by nature.
The job of timekeeper is practically scripted so that you don’t have to interact with people. If anyone so much as makes eye contact, you have the opportunity and authority to hold your hand up and say something like, “No time to chat. I need to concentrate.” You don’t even have to say “sorry.” Everybody gets it — you have a job to do.
What they don’t know is that the job doesn’t take much concentration and, once you get the hang of it, you could do it while being interviewed by Oprah. I know that example is purely hypothetical, but one can hope, right?
I guess I got lazy. It was halftime and the home team had a sizable lead. When one team gets up by that much, in fact, there is a rule that says the clock keeps running no matter what; nothing for the clock guy to do. They call it the “mercy rule” and it is designed to promote a quick end to suffering by players, fans, coaches, refs, sports reporters on deadline, etc.
So, I hit the auto clock pilot button and mentally checked out and started talking with the ref taking his break at the scoring table where I sit with other important people keeping statistics and such. Poor guy. He was the only one to break a sweat in the first half. He was refereeing by himself!
I sympathized as he informed me of the severe shortage of lacrosse refs on the Western Slope. During the season, when this guy wasn’t driving all over the place, he was running all over some lacrosse field. He said they desperately needed help.
I asked him what it took to become a lacrosse referee during these hard times. I assumed it was a rigorous process.
“You have to do a half-day seminar,” he told me. “But I could appoint you right now just to watch the out-of-bounds lines.”
I confessed that I knew nothing about the rules of lacrosse. I figured this would come as a surprise as I have been conspicuously vigorous yelling at him and his peers for the past eight years from the sidelines as my daughters played, making legendary disparaging remarks about everything from eyesight to I.Q.
“I know,” he said, “but I can teach you.”
Before I could whistle a violation of my shooting space, we were trading emails and discussing training, carpooling to games, uniform sizes, comparing the thickness of our glasses, etc.
I eventually came straight out and said I wasn’t comfortable with how quickly things were progressing. I wasn’t ready to commit. I at least had to wait until my youngest daughter went off to college in the fall before I could get serious. It wasn’t him, I assured. It was me.
Now, I have regrets. I want to give back to the high school sports my kids have benefited so much from. Being the captain of the local football chain gang doesn’t feel like enough, yet I don’t have the massive amounts of time necessary to be a coach at that level. Still, why couldn’t I have been bamboozled into being a baseball umpire or football referee; the rules of which I at least understand.
I’m the coach who got tossed for shouting encouragement to my players: “No matter how bad these umps are, we need to show good sportsmanship!” I’m the fan who can’t break the habit of groaning over calls I didn’t even see. Who knew it would come back to haunt me this badly?
Roger Marolt now understands that game officials are real people with real feelings with tons of patience. Email at Rogermarolt@gmail.com.
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