Ask A Back Judge: Fundamentals Of Officiating

Tristan Raisch is starting a new “Ask A Back Judge” series for Tech Sideline. (Jon Fleming)

“Man, the refs really screwed us on that one.” “We woulda won if we only had to play one team instead of two tonight!” [Insert meme of ref with sunglasses and a red-tipped cane here.]

I’ve seen it, heard it and even said it all at various points in my sports fandom. But how well did I really understand what these folks in their silly striped shirts were doing? Not well, evidently. At least until I started officiating myself; the depths of my ignorance were quickly made clear. But the more experience I gained as an official, I noticed something interesting: I became a better fan. I knew the game better, and have been able to enjoy it more and more ever since I donned my first striped shirt.

That’s really my goal for this series: to help my fellow Hokies better understand and enjoy this game that probably influences all of our emotional well-being a bit too much. The officials, after all, do play a substantial role in the game. They’re every bit as big a factor as the bounces of an oblong ball or the direction and strength of the wind. Plus, y’know, the rules are kind of important.

The plan is to break down a play every week or so (we’ll see what the season brings) in which the officials seemed to play an outsized role. I’ll examine what they did well, whether they were where they were supposed to be, the rule(s) involved, and whether or not I think they got it right. Officials are human, after all, and it’s possible one made a mistake which cost (or even handed) the Hokies a win. It’s also possible they may have nailed a quirk of this bizarre game we love so much in a way that, painful as it can be to admit, confirms our Hokies were simply outplayed on a given Saturday.

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