Official Treatment

March 7, 2014

A book I quoted in this space three times last November – How: Why HOW We Do Anything Means Everything by Dov Seidman – has me thinking about sports officiating.

One premise of the book is that the Internet era has made the world so transparent and connected that there is no such thing anymore as “private” behavior or a “minor” mistake. Everything can become a public matter – instantly. Anything can become a major problem – overnight. Worldwide.

So, when our local real estate agent, who officiates junior varsity basketball, misses a call that an invested spectator captures with his or her smart phone camera, and sends to his or her relatives and a local media outlet that night, there is no limit to where that video could appear by the next morning.

And while major college and professional officials may now receive four-figure fees to work under those conditions, officials at the junior high/middle school and high school levels – sometimes working for little more than gas money - wonder if it’s worth the hassle. 

There are many obstacles to recruiting and retaining officials for school sports, including poor business practices by assigners and bad sportsmanship by coaches and spectators; but a significant factor not to be overlooked is the adverse potential of immediate worldwide criticism for a call that had to be made in the blink of an eye.

The human factor of sports is now subject to inhuman expectations. In an enterprise that strives for fairness, it appears that it’s the official who is being treated least fairly.

Be the Referee: Over the Back

By Sam Davis
MHSAA Officials Coordinator

January 31, 2023

Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.

Below is this week's segment – Over the Back - Listen

Did you know there is no such thing as “over the back” in basketball? If two players are going for a rebound and the player behind another player is able to grab it over the top of the player in front – that’s not necessarily a foul. He or she did not go over the back.

The player behind another player may have committed a foul such as bumping the player in front, or pushing that player – gaining an advantage to grab the rebound – but that would be whistled for a push or grab. Not over the back.

A taller player or player who can jump higher grabbing a rebound is not a foul. It’s only a foul if they create an advantage by pushing, bumping, or any other kind of illegal contact while in the process of going for a rebound. Fans yell over the back all the time, but an official will never call a foul for going over the back.

Previous Editions:

Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End ZoneListen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change
- Listen