Skybird: Dale Brown’s Ops Report LOGO

Dale Brown’s Ops Report
Copyright © 2003, TDPI


The Bombers finished with a 3-9 record, including three forfeits. I stopped keeping stats on my own performance, invoking the old “if you can’t stand the answer, don’t ask the question” idiom.

We have the core of a good team. Next year, we need to schedule more practices—last year we practiced almost every Sunday afternoon, and it really paid off—and we need a real commitment from the folks we sign up to play. Skybird: Dale Brown’s Cameo Shot Naturally, on our last game of the season, I scraped up my left knee pretty good, and after two months it’s finally healed up. The team suffered through its usual assortment of aches, pains, pulls, dings, bumps, and bruises. We may not have the oldest team average age in the league, but we’re certainly right up there.

Why do we put ourselves through softball? Certainly not for the glory. Even the winning team in C league gets little recognition; the A league champs might get a photo or two in the local paper. We all get fresh air and exercise in other ways. We usually play too late for our kids to show up and watch, so it’s not for quality family time. Frankly, we don’t play that well to be inspirational, and we use four-letter words far too often, so having our kids there wouldn’t always be desirable anyway. We did have a pretty good end-of-season party—but we really don’t need softball to have an excuse to party.

It’s a mystery. We subject ourselves to injury, embarrassment, and the agony of defeat… for what? After three seasons, I haven’t figured it out yet.

Since my wife and I had signed our son up for soccer, I decided to finally succumb to the pleas of the coaches and sign up for referee classes, since every team is required to have an assistant ref who does the game if a certified ref isn’t available. The first class was so enjoyable that I stayed and finished the certification program.

If I was puzzled about why I would spend two to three hours trying to squeeze one or two brief flashes of athletic brilliance out of seven innings of frustration at best and humiliation at worst in softball, it is sometimes an even greater puzzlement why I would sign up to be a soccer referee.

Of course, I have no one to blame—everybody warned me. A lot of running—I can handle that. Not much respect and sometimes downright animosity—I wasn’t really ready for that. They said that the resentment and anger towards referees isn’t really prevalent in our small town. They were wrong.

Here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • 1) There is no such thing as a “fun” soccer match when you mix parents together, even if it is a small town and everyone knows and see each other on a fairly regular basis.

    Example: one team showed up with the minimum number of players, half as many as the other team. The short-sided coach asks if he can use some players from another team as substitutes. Even if both sides only played seven players, I knew the short-handed team’s players would have to play the entire game, while the other side had plenty of subs, so I allowed the other team’s players to substitute a few players. It’s fair, right? It’s only a game, right?

    WRONG! I will never allow that ever again. Turns out the coach of the short-handed team picked the best players to sub on his team, then ended up taking kids from his own team out so the better players could play. Although every kid still got to play two quarters, it had the appearance that I had allowed that coach to get an unfair advantage. Did I ever hear about that decision!

  • 2) Refs need to be decisive, even if they’re wrong. Kids and parents can smell indecision and doubt like a shark can smell a drop of blood in an entire ocean, and if they think that arguing might result in a more favorable call, they’ll argue. Games quickly spin out of control if that happens.

    If I was going to give myself a score on the number of correct calls I make every game, it would probably be in the 60% range, and I may be too generous to myself. But I have three consolations: it’s my first year as a ref; I’m equally wrong to both sides; and I KNOW I have a better correct-call percentage than most of the parents on the sidelines, even if the play happens right in front of them. Even parents who have been soccer parents for years don’t know the laws of the game, and besides they’re usually watching their kid, not the ball or the other players. All they know is their kid is on the ground or their kid doesn’t have the ball any more, and they assume a penal foul occurred.

    The solution: make the call, ignore everyone but the assistant refs if you have any, and play on. No matter what call you make, someone will disagree. Better to just make the call and stick with it than waffle.

  • 3) Never, NEVER talk about the game afterwards with your friends, especially if they had kids who played. Every parent remembers at least one bad call or play, and they will throw it back in your face every time.

  • 4) The best comeback line to anyone who complains about missed or flubbed calls: “Put on a black jersey, grab a whistle, and try it yourself.” That shuts ‘em up quick. You are out there in the middle of the field all by yourself—no fellow refs, no coaches, and no parents to hide behind. It’s not easy. The image of everyone stopping and looking at you when you blow the whistle, waiting for you to make a call, is usually enough to make even your most vocal critics pause.
  • And the most important thing I’ve learned:

  • 5) You need a ref to play a soccer game. Like a 22-piece orchestra, the quality of the performance suffers if there’s no conductor, even if all the performers are superstars.
  • There’s a difference in the game with and without a referee. Games without refs are much more chaotic, disorganized, and confrontational, and the kids quickly realize that. The whole tone and demeanor of the field changes when the ref steps out on the field and blows the whistle. Kids who shy away from aggressive play learn to trust refs and become better players; kids who tend to play harder, looser, or more aggressively get their jets cooled quickly by the refs; parents soon learn they can’t outshout the whistle.

    There are times when I get home and wonder long and hard why in the world I volunteered to be a referee. And then I’ll hear some kid in the supermarket say, “That’s our ref,” or my son will try to stop the dog from chewing a sock by pretending to blow a whistle… and then I take an extra five minutes in the hot tub to get rid of the last few aches and pains, and I remember why.

    Click here for more on Air Battle Force!

    Get Air Battle Force At Amazon.Com!

    Air Battle Force (MAY 2003)

    Maverick Pilot Patrick McLanahan Takes aerial warfare into unknown territory in a heart racing new adventure.

    Still smarting from recent losses, the brilliant but unpredictable former USAF Major General is accepted back into the fold and assigned a simple task: devise and build the air combat unit of the future. McLanahan's answer: the Air Battle Force - a rapid-response team of elite commandos protected by state-of-the-art body armour and supported by an armada of anmanned planes.

    His idea is soon put to the test when the oil rich Republic of Turkmenistan becomes a battleground between Taliban insurgents, former Soviet overlords, Iranian opportunists and American oil companies and politicians. But can a handful of commandos half a world away, aided by an unproven force of robot warplanes, fight and win a war in which semingly everyone - even 'friendly' forces at home - want them to fail?

    'Whe a former pilot turns his hand to thrillers you can take their authenticity for granted. His writing is exceptional and the dialogue, plots and characters are first-class... far too good to be missed.'
    --Sunday Mirror

    ‘Dale Brown is a superb storyteller’

    ‘Dale Brown is the best military adventure writer in the country’

    Robert Gottlieb
    Trident Media Group
    (212) 262-4810

    Parker Information Resources

    Welcome to AirBattleForce.Com
    Lake Tahoe, Nevada, USA
    Cyberspace home of: Dale Brown Skybird: Dale Brown’s Ops Report LOGO

    The HTML Writers Guild
    Notepad only