rules

Out of Bounds

A good player does not necessarily make a good coach, just as a good coach does not necessarily make a good referee.  I played lacrosse in high school and college and currently coach a JVC team for a lovely and civilized private school just down the road, and we have a great time.  We work on skills, we learn drills, we perfect plays, we grudgingly condition, we tease one another, we laugh a lot, and we are undefeated.

I have a tendency to overcommit, in ability, time, energy, interest, whatever.  Things I enjoy seem easier and closer, whereas things that I do not seem to be the opposite, and reality does not always follow these seems of mine.  In fact, oftentimes, I find myself in situations that I’d much rather not be in, doing things that I have no business doing.  Which leads me back to last week where I was asked to help officiate an eighth grade girls lacrosse game, and I happily agreed to be a second referee in a match that turned out to be unexpectedly competitive.

Being an enforcer of rules is not exactly a natural position for me, as I am a firm believer that generally there are just too many rules, most of which do nothing but hassle good people who normally make responsible decisions.  Rules encourage people to explore beyond them, to look for loopholes, they become benchmarks to work around, something to keep attorneys busy (I may or may not be projecting here).  Those who think we are under-ruled are the same who constantly propose new ones, and who insist on enforcing obsolete ones, and these are the most annoying people on the planet, and the world would be a much happier place if they would all go away and live on an island together where they could boss one another around endlessly.

I was determined to defy my rebellious and opinionated nature and to be the best referee that I could possibly be.  Who knows?  Maybe this could be the beginning of a lifelong career, traveling all over the world as a black and white striped portable judge and jury with a monogrammed silver whistle and a closet full of pressed identical track suits.  Maybe I could become so good that I could predict offenses a split second before they happened, and my razor sharp eye would pick up every infraction no matter how far away down the field.  I’d just sit in a chair reclined on the sidelines with one eye open, emitting a varying crescendo of chirrups and doling out yellow cards, free shots and turnovers.  But as I researched this science of field policing, I began to realize that I just may have over-committed myself.

I sensed my limitations closing in on me.  The rules are complicated and there are a lot of them, and they are accompanied by various sounds and gestures, an animated shorthand that enables you to communicate wordlessly, but as a talker I found this daunting.  All of this is designed to keep the girls safe, or so the enforcers say, but players still occasionally get hurt and it frequently has nothing to do with a rule infraction or ill intentions.  Feeling overwhelmed, I narrowed down the five most important, or most frequently called offenses, and wrote them out on an index card that I studied and repeated, and at the game I clutched it in my hand to reference, just in case.  I tried to remember other referees and their demeanors that I could perhaps channel.  I confessed to the main referee that I was out of my element, and offered her a preemptive apology.

The game began without incident, and as it rolled along I sprinted dutifully up and down the field, clutching my index card, never taking my eye off the ball.  I remembered the girls names, I studied their styles, I winced when they slashed and gasped when they crashed their sticks and the real referee, Shorty, was a busy bee; thankfully, she didn’t need my help.  I fought the urge to cheer when the draw was won, when a great shot was taken, and when the goalies made a save.  I clutched my whistle tightly as I ran, never missing a beat, watching every ball roll out of bounds and brought back in by the faster player, and if Shorty didn’t call it, who was I to argue?  I was the supportive referee, new-age with a Tony Robbins flair, encouraging players to be their best and congratulating them when they were, instead of focusing on the negatives.  I saw the three seconds, the shooting spaces, the face cradles, the empty cross checks, the cross in the sphere, the out of bounds, the restraining and holding, and the pushing, but it just never seemed right to blow the whistle and stop such marvelous action, that was Shorty’s job, and if she didn’t call it, well I certainly wasn’t going to second guess the pro.

The heckling occurred in the second half with three minutes left and the score tied, 11 – 11.  A dad in the bleachers yelled, Out of bounds, ref!, as if I didn’t know that.  Of course I knew, I was standing right there, I’m not blind.  A blind ref would make even less sense than one with anarchic tendencies and authority issues.  Why stop a perfectly good run for accidentally stepping six inches beyond an arbitrary white line?  It didn’t make sense to me.  Shorty smiled and laughed continuously and blew her whistle with precision, but mine was just ornamental.  She was the professional enforcer, and if I had been half as zealous, we would have been there for hours;  I had to counter balance.

Lacrosse is a marvelous sport that is fast and graceful, and is a joy to watch when well-played.  The game ended in overtime and half the parents were pissed, the other half were elated.  I thanked Shorty for her hard work and dedication, I thanked the coaches and the told all the girls what a wonderful job they did on the field, and then I ran up the hill to the parking lot as quickly as I could.  Parents do crazy things, I know, because I am one, and I wasn’t convinced that something wouldn’t be thrown at me.  I waved casually to the remaining spectators as I raced across the track in the opposite direction of the bleachers.  I got in the car and locked the door, then sank into the seat as a wave of nausea rolled through me from head to toe.  I unclenched my hand and peeled from my palm the worthless and soggy sheet of rules that I had so carefully crafted and threw it on the floor.  Then I made a mental note to cross officiant off the list of potential mid-life careers for me, not that I needed this experience to come to that conclusion, but sometimes the not-so-subtle reminders of our limitations help to redirect us to more gratifying pastures.

Advertisements

Rabble-Rousing Rule-Breakers

As a kid, I got into a lot of trouble.  Not usually for major offenses, but constantly for stupid little stuff.  Some rules for me were more like benchmarks, or statements to be tested.  It didn’t make sense to me why there were so many rules for so many things, and it seemed like everything was against the rules.  Why could we not run around the pool?  Every kid runs around the pool.  That’s all we think about on a hot day: getting to the pool and running around it, running after our friends, running to the snack bar, running to be the first to greet a latecomer, running to burn off your sugar buzz, running away from your parents when they say it’s time to go home and you are no where near ready to go home.  Who wants to walk around a pool?   They say it’s so you won’t fall and hurt yourself, but not running doesn’t keep you from falling; and running doesn’t always end up in people getting hurt.  Where is the logic behind that rule?

They should leave the runners alone and blow the whistle at the kid who does get hurt.  That’s the kid who should sit out for five minutes, the one who wasn’t paying attention, crashed into the chair and skinned his knee.  The moral becomes, pay attention, or you may get hurt and will be forced to sit by the mean lifeguard and watch all of your friends having fun running around the pool.  Everyone else is perfectly fine, they shouldn’t have to suffer for one person’s misjudgment.  The trick here is to run as fast as you can around the pool, and the second they blow that stupid whistle, jump in the water.

Here’s another one: I cross the street whenever I want.  Any free human being in a free society should be able to make that decision for themselves.  If you cannot decide properly whether or not it is safe to cross a street, you should either be in a stroller, or in a home somewhere safe with padded walls and floors where you can’t hurt yourself, handcuffed to a chair.  Instead, somebody decides that nobody should be allowed to cross a street except where designated, because one person’s potential inability reflects upon an entire community’s competence; i.e., you are now no longer allowed to maybe get hit by a car.  That makes no sense to me.  Why would I wait for a blinking light to tell me what I can determine on my very own, that there are no cars on the road and that it is safe to cross a street?  Why on earth do I have eyeballs?  In part, so that I can make appropriate decisions regarding my personal safety, not just so that I can recognize my children and coordinate my outfits.  Street crossing is something that I have been doing successfully for many, many years, which makes me an expert.  Hence, I cross a street when I see fit, not when a non-expert computer who has never, ever crossed a street before, tells me it is safe to do so.

Which brings me to stop signs.  Why do we need to press the break and hold it for three seconds for it to count as a complete stop?  A rolling stop is fine if nothing is around that would require a full stop.  Either version of a stop could lead to an accident, because accidents happen.   If you’re not paying attention, the chance of an accident increases dramatically, whether you stop or not.  If you feel the need to make an unnecessary law, why not outlaw accidents, or not paying attention, and let us make our own determination as to what requires a big or a mini stop?  If you are the only car for miles and miles and miles and no humans are anywhere around and there is no chance of you hitting anything but the stop sign itself, why must you even stop at all?  I probably wouldn’t.

And what is up with parking meters?  Why do we allow these immoral metal nuisances?  My obsession with the immorality of parking meters begins here, where parking meter rates and taxes rise in order to cover the costs of the stupid parking meters and their overlords.  When meter enforcement is increased in order to collect more fines in order to pay for more meter enforcement, a government hamster wheel has been created that benefits no one, and harms everyone; this is why it is immoral.  It also means that the $500 dress you just bought in the new boutique is really $540, with taxes, and, if you take too long looking at yourself in the mirror, trying to decide whether you look ridiculous or like a fashion goddess trendsetter, you’ve acquired a $25 parking ticket, which in effect raises the cost of the dress to $565.  Or, how about you just paid $5 for a crappy cup of chalky coffee, see an old friend in line whereupon she regales you with her ten-point plan for finding perfect husband number-three, which took longer to tell than the dime you dropped into the meter granted you permission to hear.  Now, your crappy cup of coffee has cost you $30.  Who on earth would pay that for a cup of coffee?  So, we are forced into the protection of malls with “free” parking.  The poor shops and cafes with meters gradually go out of business or migrate to  malls where people can stay for long periods of time buying and perusing goods unmolested by sociopathic meter cadets and spending their money freely, while still contributing to the tax coffers.

In the mean time, the the city gets sued because only people who can walk get to write tickets (which is so much fun, a highly sought after position), and so in order to be an equal opportunity employer, the city has to buy little scooters for the parking ticket personnel, which means they all become obese because they sit all day, and now the health care and disability costs skyrocket for the city and taxes have to be raised, AGAIN.  But the cash cows, the businesses and shoppers, have moved to greener pastures, and so the numbers of parking meter payers and offenders drastically decreases, just as the demand for an increase in said payers and offenders skyrockets.  And why do cities not understand why they go bankrupt?  They are either run by kindergardeners or hamsters.  Dr. Seuss could come up with a system that makes more sense than this.  How about this: ditch the meters, fire the personnel, lower the taxes and let us all own, shop and eat in peace?  If I pass someone’s meter and it is expired, I drop in a quarter, which is against the rules, by the way.

Now, I get the reason why we have rules and laws, and I understand that we need them in order to have an orderly society that can prosper.  But freedom doesn’t mean that you are free from pain or discomfort or loss or injury; it means that we have the opportunity to make choices in our lives, and good ones are usually rewarded, and bad ones are sometimes punished.  If you desire rewards, you have the choice of whether or not you will do the work and make the decisions required in order to achieve those rewards, just as the converse is true, as well.  Buying an overpriced cup of coffee is not a behavior that should be discouraged by the financial punishment of a city government, it is a choice that I have every right to make all by myself.  Because I am a big girl.  Ultimately, laws and rules only effect those who choose to obey them, anyway.  If you desire a peaceful society, why harass good people? At the beginning, middle and end of the day, the choices are ours to make, and if we are all turned into a bunch of rabble-rousing rule-breakers, well, you get what you paid for, you over-achieveing rule-makers, and you are exponentially outnumbered.  Liberum arbitrium.