Monday, 24 April 2017

Worse than raging dissent - Mr. Calm and Rational

Game 45, 2016-17

Last season I refereed a game where the home team’s captain was a hypnotist. The first few times I gave decisions against his team he walked up to me and commanded, “Look into my eyes, referee. Look into my eyes.” I resisted this invitation on the grounds that if he really was a hypnotist, I might spend the rest of the game ceding to his will every time he said, “Mister Referee, you will now award my team another penalty kick. And the score is already 67-0.”

How to control a referee
who will not see reason
Of course the captain didn’t want to hypnotise me. He wanted to talk. There’s a certain type of player who just loves to talk. Not about the weather, or what you had for dinner last night, or the worrying rise of right-wing populism across the European Union. No, they want to talk about your decisions. These players are not necessarily the moaners and dissenters. Rather they think that, through a calm and rational discussion, they can persuade you that the foul you just awarded against their team was, in fact, not a foul at all.

It’s nice to imagine calling a halt in play while league officials rush on to the field with a table, two chairs, two glasses and a jug of water. The player and I sit down to review my decision at length. First, I give my point of view. The home team’s number 6, due to a combination of slowness, ineptitude and stupidity, had hacked down the opposition’s speedy, nimble winger. My garrulous friend sees it differently. His heavy, hulking, dead-eyed number 6 would never do such a thing. The winger clearly dived.

Unable to agree, and in the absence of video cameras at amateur grounds, we invite other players to
give their point of view. It seems we have 11 voting for a foul, 11 voting for the dive. So why not empower the substitutes, the coaches and all the spectators too? Hey, stooping old bloke with his limping dog – I know you haven’t seen anything clearly for about 30 years, but did I just perpetrate a catastrophic injustice against the big number 6?

That would all take far too long, of course, although it might be a glimpse of the future burdened by endless video replays, and benches lodging official appeals against every last offside decision. Here’s the truth, though – I don’t want a long conversation with anyone on the field, particularly not with Mr. Calm and Rational. I’d rather hear (again) from your rubicund, raging number 9 who’s playing the game according to an imaginary offside law that allows rubicund, raging number 9s to roam freely like buffalos on the plain.

"You will immediately rescind my
yellow card, Mr. Referee."
Yesterday’s Mr. Calm and Rational, who’d already seen yellow for deliberately obstructing a quickly taken free kick, wanted to talk with me about a lot of my decisions. When I waved him impatiently away, he calmly and rationally asked what on earth was wrong with having a calm and rational discussion. Perhaps it’s just not the right time and place, you calm and rational dickhead. If the fact that you infringed the laws of the game and then I punished you appropriately is still bothering you at half-time, then sure, let’s shoot the fucking breeze about it. If you really feel we must.

Then we can have an enlightening exchange along the lines of:
Player: I never did that thing you said I did and punished with a yellow card.
Me: Yes, you did.
Player (patronisingly exasperated): Oh come on, you have to be kidding, how can you honestly say that I did that thing you said I did that you punished with a yellow card.
Me: Because you did.

Now clearly I’m the one being unreasonable here, inflexibly failing to yield any ground to Mr. Calm and Rational in his appeal for Common Sense as He Sees It. That’s simply because Mr. Calm and Rational is not only wrong, but he’s a chronic pain in the pipe when you’re trying to focus on a game involving 22 strong young men where new incidents unfold in a flash. The football field is just not really the place for lengthy, considered debate.

I should maybe try another approach. Look into my eyes, Mr. Calm and Rational. Look into my eyes. You will now shut the fuck up until long after the final whistle and I am safely sitting at home with a beer.

Final score: 1-3 (5 x yellow)

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