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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Futile Ramblings: Refereeing IM sports

Published: November 30, 2007
Section: Opinions

For those of you who are interested in my well being, I separated my shoulder last week during my team’s final flag football game. Now you are probably saying to yourself, who in God’s earth separates his shoulder playing flag football, this guy must be a huge loser. While you would probably be accurate in assessing my status as a ‘loser,’ the injury was inevitable, as it came on a play where I got hit harder than Tom Brady has been struck all season.

When I arrived at the emergency room, the doctor informed me that the separation in my shoulder is something that is common among NFL players. However, he neglected to mention if he had ever heard of a flag football injury that was this severe. He then proceeded to provide me with discharge instructions that read, “This injury is due to a direct blow to the shoulder.” While I am cognoscente of the fact that none of you actually care about my injury, this report is actually going somewhere. The segment of this story that I would like all of you to comprehend is that there was no penalty called on the play where I got injured.

When I decided to sign up for the Brandeis Intramural flag football league this past fall, I wasn’t expecting the University to provide the league with NFL-caliber referees. I wasn’t even expecting the referees to be satisfactory or competent.

However, I did have the expectation that they would be virtuous and fair to all of the teams participating in the league. I understand that referees are people who are capable of making mistakes, and I completely support the notion that they should not be ridiculed for their honest errors and blunders. However, I do have a problem with referees who deliberately make mistakes, based purely on the fact that they either dislike one team or like the other one.

Last weekend, my flag football team earned the right to play in the flag football semi-finals. The previous week, we defeated the second ranked team and we felt really good about our chances at proceeding onto the championship game. However, we were never even given the chance to compete on an equal and level playing field, due to the fact that we were playing 11 against 7. (Flag football is typically played 7 against 7 but there were four biased arbitrators judging our game, making it 11 against 7) The four referees that were in charge of providing both teams with fair and equal opportunities at winning this match-up, did everything in their power to make sure that the team we were playing would win this game.

Now, one might ponder what type of person would rig a flag football game and under what basis would they execute such a disgraceful and appalling act? I will tell you who would perform a stunt like this. The same guy who was picked last in gym class throughout the duration of his life. The same guy who picks up his lame friends from home at the airport and blasts ‘the boys are back in town.’ The same guy who dressed up like Jack Twist from ‘Brokeback Mountain’ for Halloween.

As for why these guys would assist the other team instead of ours, I can answer that question as well. Ironically, the head referee of our semi-final game, just so happened to be good friends with the majority of the players on the opposing team. The opposing team also just so happened to have three players who were also referees on their team. Now I don’t know about you, but I have a serious problem with allowing people to be both referees and participants in the same league. Unfortunately, this is the way that Intramural sports at Brandeis University are organized.

The first four plays of our game were penalties called against our team, all of which were penalties that none of my team members had ever heard of. When we finally received the ball for the first time, we connected for a forty-yard pass but this play didn’t stand because one of the ghosts playing for our team was called for an offensive holding penalty. Another ghost was called for illegal contact on the following play and the list of outrageous penalties goes on and on. However, when I got hit harder than Rocky hit Apollo Creed on the final blow in Rocky 2, no yellow flag was thrown. In NFL terms, a play like this would warrant in a hefty fine and a two game suspension.

In Brandeis Intramural flag football terms, this was just another play in the game. It is important to note, that on one of the last plays of the game, one of our players hit their quarterback after he released the ball. Since the director of the league was on-hand for our game, he immediately rushed to the scene to scold our player for ‘intentionally’ trying to injure the opposing player and all four referees tossed their flags in anger to call a penalty.

However, when I separated my shoulder and had to leave the game, not only did this very same director neglect to warn the player on the other team about the late hit (it was the second time in the game that the same kid had hit me after I threw the ball) but he also paid no attention to my injury. He elected not to ask if I was all right or if I needed any ice. Nothing. I am telling you, this game was rigged more than Patriots-Colts game last weekend and since our quarterback, this writer, is not Tom Brady and our coach has a mild form of dementia, we were unable to overcome the atrocious refereeing in this game. Do I blame the referees for undoubtedly providing my team with no chance at winning? Partially. But I also blame the director for inexplicably rigging a flag football game.

In all honesty, were we the best flag football team out of the remaining four? Probably not. But it sure would have been nice to have found out.