Working in a Fishbowl

Last year in school, Gaby, my oldest daughter studied idioms - you know, those little phrases that mean something other than the individual words.  Well, this posed some challenges in our house when it came to homework as Gaby, just like her mom, is a direct communicator.   However, we overcame those stumbling blocks and are now ‘having a ball’ learning and using idioms as much as possible in regular conversation.

How does this relate to referees or officiating? 

‘Humor me for a minute.’  One day, Gaby asked me what it means when someone is ‘working in a fishbowl.’ 

Since both Rahn and I have been in sales most of our careers, I explained a bit about sales jobs, sales automation tools designed to help sales people measure and achieve their quotas and how, in sales, performance is relatively transparent by looking at the numbers.   Well, then I had to explain what "the numbers" meant. 

Gaby responded, "OK."  Basketball officiating has taught me the various meanings of "OK," so I tried another approach.  We walked downstairs to look at our fish tank.   

I attempted to draw the parallel that everything those little fish were doing could be viewed and tracked by anyone, if someone REALLY wanted to...kind of like the sales automation tools used in the workforce.  Gaby replied, "Well, it's not quite the same, Mom.  We can see what they are doing but they seem unaware of us.  They almost look trapped.  In fact, I don't think they even have goals."

So I asked her, "Gabs, you know when you are watching mommy referee, isn’t that like I am working in a fishbowl?"   She replied, "Mom, NO!  You are not trapped and you get to do whatever you want because you are in control of the game.  Those fish aren't in control of anything!"  

I smiled knowing I wouldn't be able to let that perception continue.  We talked for a bit about the two professions (sales & officiating) and we discussed how our work and our performance  are relatively transparent to those interested in viewing and understanding it. 

All that from one idiom!

As referees we do 'work in a fishbowl' pretty much every time we take the floor.  And, no, we don't get to do Whatever we want.  

Whether there are 25 or 25,000 people watching the game we perform our work in front of an audience.  Our performance is judged in real-time (and, nowadays, re-judged by many different people post-game via the film).  There's a system in place we use during the game and as long as everyone on the crew understands the system and works it, we can pretty much accomplish the goal we were hired to achieve – to facilitate a fair playing environment in accordance with the rules of the game.  

Nowadays, we have a ton of visibility in our profession and there appears to be a demand for high performing referees.  Most games are on TV or streaming on the Internet, and with replay monitors giving us the ability to review certain types of calls, the spotlight on the importance of getting our calls correct on the floor is evident.  Long gone are the days of just making calls and moving on to the next.

Anyone who's gone to the monitor recently knows that you are hopeful you got the call right on the floor because sometimes the angle(s) we get on the monitor may not provide the "indisputable evidence" we need to overturn/change a call.  We train to get these plays right and yet when we go to the monitor we are relying on folks elsewhere to get us the angle we need.  The final decision rests on our shoulders, yet we aren’t always able to derive the accurate call from what we see on these monitors. Sometimes there’s two angles or three, four...and so on, and sometimes the system just doesn't work to give us any good looks, the monitor is too small or not HD and the view is just unclear.  Different venues have different capabilities, and it’s still not consistent at most levels from site to site.

In monitor review situations, I would rather NOT be in a situation like the “fish in the tank” as Gaby understood their situation, in control of nothing and at the disposal of the system.   Since we choose to be officials, want to referee the games AND the system wants us to get the call correct, here's my simple solution to a variety of monitor-related issues:

After the crew does it’s best to make the right decision on the floor and communicate that ruling to the teams and the table personnel, the review process typically begins and referees have a protocol they need to follow.  Within this protocol there are items that have to be checked off the list for the crew to move forward efficiently and effectively.  What if the instant replay technician (or the producer) has a checklist as well?  Their checklist would include each available angle, and each angle gets checked off after being viewed by the officials until the decision can be made accurately (i.e. the decision may be determined from first angle or last available angle, when it takes more than one or two).  In this situation, the Referees can walk away from the monitor being able to make a decision that is consistent with what can be deduced from all the available information.  

Sounds a whole lot better to me than an officiating crew walking away only to later get a clip of the commentators seeing an angle the crew never saw - especially when the decision the crew made would have been different had they been able to watch the same angle/view those sitting at home saw.  Although we do ask them if they have showed us everything, a more formal procedure would be to put the final check on those that have the film – the officials would not able to leave the monitor until they have confirmed all angles were viewed.

Putting in place a "system" for the producers and the replay folks would seem to make the whole system work more efficiently with more people being held accountable.  Although it may not ALWAYS lead us to the accurate call, as sometimes the angle on camera is just not there, a systematic process puts a few extra fish in the bowl to help approach accuracy.

 

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