Olympic Error

Some questions asked. Some answers questioned. And how did you celebrate the 5th anniversary of Barry Bond’s historic homerun?


At the risk of pandering to my audience, I can’t blame the Canadian women’s soccer team for being irate. What happened to them against the American team was an injustice, and sometimes all you can do is cry.

I know it’s not easy refereeing, but there are times when a ref has to know when to swallow his or her whistle. To call a delay on a goalie possession at that point during an Olympic game was to miss the big picture. Great officials are like great referees in a boxing match; the better they are, the less you notice them.

On a much smaller scale, I have to share a similar, albeit far less significant injustice. I was coaching a junior varsity basketball game (Don’t laugh. This still hurts!) a few years ago. It was a playoff game, and we had just battled back from being down by a dozen to pull within 3 points with a minute left, when one of our players was called for his final foul.

Because he was a grade 12 student, and he had fouled out of the game, it was the end of his high school career. And because he was a jv basketball player, it meant it was the end of his basketball career, too. (I’ve noticed that precious few jv players make the leap from second tier high school hoops to the NBA. Alas!)

After he came to the bench and was congratulated by his teammates, he made a mistake. He did what he had seen professional players do on a regular basis: he pulled his shirt off as he sat on the bench.

I confess that I didn’t notice this infraction because my eyes were on the game. Unfortunately, the referee’s eyes were glued to my now shirtless player, and before I could say, “What would James Naismith do?” the ref had called a technical foul on us. This gave our opponent 2 free throws and the ball, and it effectively deprived us of any opportunity to make a comeback.

Afterwards, I thanked my players and talked to them about the importance of keeping their composure, (and their shirts on!), about not blaming anyone for wins or losses, and about savoring a great season. But part of me wanted to talk to that referee because I wanted him to know that, while he was technically right in catching a boy making a mistake, the consequence for the infraction was not proportional. He could have just walked over and told the lad to put his shirt back on and left him with a warning.

It’s the kind of response that would have shown a sense of maturity, a sense of perspective. And it’s the kind of response we should have seen this week in London, too.


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