25 June 2011

Earn Your Stripes

Let's talk about zebras. Officially, it's the refs' job to monitor the game, call penalties, determine when points are scored, and generally make sure everything goes smoothly. For those of us in the bleachers, though, they also serve another role. They let us know what's going on.

We've seen some mighty good zebras. Doomsday and Ethyl Benzene of GMDD, for example, are excellent at watching the pack, making calls clear, and letting the announcers know things that the spectators want to know, like why play has stopped.

Other refs we've seen lately haven't lived up to that standard. They'll send someone to the box without showing why, they'll miss obvious penalties right in front of them, they'll miscount a score at the end of a jam because they weren't paying attention to their own jammer, and all of this results in a frustrating bout, both for the skaters and for the spectators.

So zebras, here's our wish list:

1. When you send a skater to the box, don't just tell her why, tell the rest of us, too. Make the symbol clear, and repeat it.

2. Don't get so distracted watching specific players that you lose track of the pack as a whole. The most common thing we find ourselves screaming from the bleachers is, "no pack!"

3. If your jammer got through the pack first but isn't lead jammer, tell us why. If she's second out of the pack, be aware of the other jammer's status so you can quickly indicate whether your jammer is lead or not.

4. Be aware that different teams interpret the "she calls off the jam by repeatedly placing both hands on her hips" rule differently, and don't fault a player for doing it in a way you're not used to. She may not bring her hands all the way up to her shoulders, for example, and she doesn't have to. All she has to do is tap her hips. It's up to you to watch for it and end the jam in a timely fashion.

5. Don't play favorites or take a player's word on a call you didn't witness. The corollary to that is: pay attention, don't miss penalties, and don't let "your" skaters get away with anything.

Reffing is hard work, and we've seen some of our favorite zebras make bad calls or miss an illegal block now and then, but as long as you're clear about the calls you make and pay attention to the action, you'll make the game more enjoyable for everyone.