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                                or NOT                                                               By Dave Sabaini

                                      OFFICIALS W H O WEAR GLASSES OR SUNGLASSES,
                                      SPORT FACIAL HAIR AND TATTOOS,ARE A F W
                                      POUNDS OVERWEIGHT AND FLASH THE BLlNG
                                      MAY WANT TO RECONSIDER OTHER
                                      ALTERNATIVES TO THEIR PREFERRED STYLE
                                      WHEN WORKING A GAME. HERE'S WHY MANY
                                      OF THOSE LONGSTANDING TABOOS STILL
                                      PREVAIL BETWEEN THE LINES.

                                              n old Jim Croce song says: "You don't tug on Superman's cape, you
                                              don't spit into the wind, you don't pull the mask off that old Lone
                                              Ranger, and you don't mess around with Jim." Words of advice that go
                                      beyond mere good ideas into the realm of something that's forbidden: taboos.
                                      'The song is full of them and so is life.
                                         Although some taboos amount to little more than wives' tales, designed to
                                      merely frighten folks into - or out of - certain behaviors, others may indeed
                                      hold some wise advice for those who heed them.
                                         Every society has them. So do most occupations.
                                         What about officiating?
                                         If you officiate for any length of time, you'll work with others who will tell
                                      you what not to do for the good of your officiating career. Some taboos relate
                                      to mechanics, others to rule interpretations, and it's difficult to argue with
                                      those. Often they are borne of solid experience and we'd do well to heed them.
                                         Still, there are more general officiating taboos that get handed down from
                                      generation to generation. Here is a look at the best known of those taboos:

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        It wasn't that many years ago that an official
    who wore glasses was destined to have a short,
    low-level officiating career. Even if there was an
    understanding scheduler willing to overlook the
    official's visual impairment, he had to look             1
    forward to a career with withering, insensitive
    comments like, "Here, ref, try mine . . . see if
    they work better." Coaches and fans alike were
    likely to use the official's eyewear as the reason
    for every call with which they disagreed.
        So, is wearing glasses still a taboo for officials?             people an opportunity to cast a negative perception
        "I haven't really thought of wearing glasses as being a         of an official, but they are more commonly accepted
    taboo," says Jay Stricherz, a Pac-10 football official who          now than in the past."
    wears glasses. "It's more of a 'We'd rather not have to wear           Modern officials who need corrective eyewear
    them' feeling. Obviously, wearing glasses acknowledges the          have other options these days, of course, like
    sentiments of (some) fans and the media, that refs can't see,       contact lenses and Lasik surgery. Cashion is one
    that they need to wear glasses."                                    person who feels that, acceptance aside, contacts or
       Retired NFL referee Red Cashion agrees.                          Lasik are both better options than glasses.
        "I think that officials wearing glasses is a whole lot more         "Officials would be a little better off (with either
    accepted these days," Cashion says. "If they help an official       alternative)," says Cashion, "because then the issue
    see the game better on the field, why would anyone object? I        of glasses never comes up. Weather, perspiration,
    just don't see how they can do it (officiatewhile wearing           getting them knocked off, even the danger to the
    glasses)."                                                          official's own face - all those issues go away if the
       Cashion's caution comes from the knowledge that                  officialwears contact lenses."
    sometimes it will rain, or be muggy, causing the glasses to            Stricherz notes that he tried contacts, but didn't
    be less than helpful.                                              like them and has considered Lasik, but is
       Stricherz has that issue figured out, however. "The only        concerned with possible side effects such as
    concern I have with my glasses is when it rains hard. That         changed night vision. But he is quick to add, "I
    hasn't happened often and never to the point where I was           have never received any negative comments on my
    concerned or had to (stop to) clean them, or even take them        wearing glasses. Never, zippo. Maybe they're
    off.I simply pull my hat down a bit more to cover my               talking behind my back, but I haven't heard it."
    glasses and it's been fine. I just work through the rainy and          Boudreaux agrees that an official's skill will
    moisture periods and they have cleared up well. The                offset any misperception that wearing glasses
    advantage of having a crystal clear view of the ball is so         might cause. "There is a much greater
    significant that I'm willing to run the risk of impaired vision    understanding of what officiating entails these
    due to rain. Of course, I do carry a back-up pair just in case."   days, and what it takes to get to a certain level," he
       Changing times is also the reason former MLB umpire             says. "The fans have learned that (our officials) are
    Larry Barnett believes glasses are not an issue in his sport.      not guys we've just picked up off the street.
       "We've come into this century," laughed Barnett. "We            They've had extensive training and experience and
    used to have to wear ties and jackets while umpiring the           testing. That all makes a difference."
    plate. That's another bad idea that's changed. If your glasses
    are seven inches thick you (may want to consider
                                                                        --                   .-- --
                                                                                               - --.
    alternatives), but that's another issue."                           THE BOTTOM LINE:
       "The perception has changed," agrees Gerald Boudreaux,                            s
                                                                        Wearing glasses a an official is no
    coordinator of the Southeastern Conference men's basketball
    officials."From a management standpoint, (there is still
    some concern that) glasses could cause a distraction or give
                                                                        longer taboo.
                                                                        -                           _   __.____   _-
                                                              I--~-   - .-      -.-.
                                                                                 -- -         - .
                                                                                             . *-         ....

                                                                          A related yet very different issue is the growing
                                                                       trend of some officials - particularly in football
                                                                       and especially at lower levels - to wear sun~lasses

                                                                       while officiating. Of course, sunglass'es have been
                                                                       an accepted part of the game for baseball umpires

                                                                  I    for quite some time. In fact, some plate umpires
                                                                       wear shades these days. But is there a taboo against

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               football officials - and others - wearing
               sunglasses while they work?
                  Absolutely, says Ken Rivera, coordinator of the
               Mountain West Conference football officials.
                  "It's just something you don't do," he says
               emphatically. "It brings attention to an official and
               may give the impression that he is too casual in his
               approach to the game."
                  "I'd have a problem with it," agreed Dave Parry,
              the CFO national coordinator. "It's not so much the
              cosmetics of it, but they could fog up and collect
              sweat (making it more difficult for an official to
              see). "In my 19 years with the Big Ten, I can't recall
              anyone using them. I wouldn't want to wear them,
              and I'd prefer high school officials not wear them,
              either."                                                         headway into other sports as well, ranging from rings to
                  "(Football)players can't wear sunglasses,"                   hair beads.
              observes Cashion, "why should officials? In                         Although there is a bias against bling at lower levels of
              baseball, the players wear sunglasses, so it isn't               play, the higher you rise, the more you see - at least for
              really an issue if officials do, too. In football, the           players. So, is the door for adornment opening for officials
              official needs to typically concentrate on a larger              as well? Not likely, say our experts.
              area than in baseball. Sunglasses can interfere."                   "Except for wedding bands, I don't think the wearing of
                  Both Parry and Rivera agree that there may be               jewelry is too widespread among umpires," says Mike
              the rare exception to the norm when an official may             Fitzpatrick, former PBUC executive director. "We have a
              need to wear sunglasses for medical reasons, but                provision that a watch has to be carried onto the field, but
              that would be the only exception.                               there is a recommendation that it not be a wristwatch. That's
                  "We work so hard reminding officials about                  used for the timing between innings and in case of a rain
              (every aspect of) their appearance," Parry observes,            delay."
              "that putting on a pair of sunglasses to look hip can               Football officials are required to have a watch on the field
              undo a lot of work."                                            as well. But Cashion says that is typically only one or two
                  "Wearing shades on the field just to wear shades            officials in the game. "The issue that we're talking about
              is certainly still a taboo at the upper levels of               here is professionalism," he says. "If you have an official
              football," Rivera notes. "My guess is that it always            who walks out wearing rings from the three bowl games
              will be."                                                       he's worked, he lacks professionalism. And if it comes down
                  Everyone agrees that while wearing sunglasses               to that guy and somebody else equally qualified, the other
              as a football official may not prevent you from                 guy will get the job. It doesn't look good to the supervisors
              advancing to the next level, it certainly won't help you.       if an official wears lots of jewelry."
                                                                                  Although there is no written regulation prohibiting
                                                                              umpires from wearing jewelry on the field, Fitzpatrick says
                THE BOTTOM LINE:                                              that it's rare. "Certainly if (the jewelry) was distracting,
                Wearing sunglasses a a football official is                   somebody would have something to say about it, but it just
                still a taboo.                                                doesn't come up at our level," he says.
                                                                                  "I always wore a (religious) chain inside my shirt my
                                                                              entire career," says Barnett, "and it was never a problem. I
                                                                              think if guys get carried away and have several on, the crew
 - - - -I( -#
        '        -A
                  , ,       ,
                                                           --       !!        chief might have something to say to him about it, but
                                                                              again, times are changing."
                                                                                  Leave the chains and other bling to the players and Mr. T.
                                                                              --        --      -.               .
                                                                                                                 -                                  .. - ' -7

             enough to feed a 1 1 - ,IJ
                                                                               THE BOTTOM LINE:
                                                                               Wearing jewelry on the field as an official                                 1
             third w'6rld'countr'yL
             for a year ~asebell. '
                                  I      I
                                                                               is still a taboo.
                                                                              -.- . - ..-                                          -                      !
             p l a y e hveloqg ,
             adorned themselves
             with jewelry       1 '.
             ranging from good
             to. gau+y.qYou see
             bangles making.,-.      '    '

                                                   -   =
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              lnlclllgcncr rponnvc


                        They seem to be
                    everywhere these days.
11                  Watching some players
                    who have them is like
I'                  watching a running,
                    jumping comic page.
                    Tattoos, once the domain
                    of salty sea dogs, are now
                    as common as fast food
                    joints. Most average-sized
                    towns have multiple tattoo                                                       "You want your officials to represent themselves
 I                  parlors, and people once thought unlikely to have tattoos                    and their conference as best they can, so, yes, I
 1                  have several. Even some grandmothers are getting them.                       want them to be in the best shape they can be,"
 1                  Athletes in every major sport show full-arm tattoos and                      maintains Sally Bell, coordinator of women's
                    beyond.                                                                      basketball officials for the Sunbelt and Southland
                       But are visible tattoos acceptable in officiating? Are                    conferences, and a former Division I official herself.
 I                  tattoos taboo?                                                               "All other things being equal, I think the fit official
 I                      "Professionalism dictates that (visible) tattoos are not                 is going to provide a better-officiated game and
                    acceptable (on officials) even these days," states Cashion                   have more credibility," says Bell. "We want the best
                    firmly. "It's different for the general public. But I'd have to              out there. Fit officials will have fewer injuries and
                    ask, What do you want to be? Do you want to be a                             longer careers. It's all connected."
                    professional official? If so, you need to portray that in your                   "There is a reasonable minimum degree of
                    appearance."'                                                                athleticism officials must have to be able to work a
                        Many state associations walk a "slippery slope" on the                   game," echoes Cashion. "If you can't get yourself
                    issue, says Dana Sanchez, director of officials for the New                  into position to make a call, or if you lack the stamina
                    Mexico Activities Association. "Our officials are independent                to finish the game the way you started it, there is a
                    contractors. In addition, with so many states being in need of               problem. There's a strong requirement to be in

     1              officials, it would be difficult to disallow someone on the basis
                    of personal choice, unless, of course, the tattoos are offensive."
                                                                                                 reasonable shape to both protect your health and to
                                                                                                 do what is required for the game you're working."
     I                  "(Tattoos) wouldn't impress me if I was looking to hire                      "The athletes today are in tremendous physical
                    someone," agrees Barnett. "Look at Josh Hamilton (of the                     condition," Barnett agrees, "and so are most of our
                    Texas Rangers), he has all those tattoos, and he says he                     young umpires. I enjoy watching their hustle. They
                    wishes he could have them all removed. Maybe it's just my                    have to be in shape."
                    era, but if an official came to me and had visible tattoos, I                    These days, conditioning is a year-round priority
                    wouldn't hire him."                                                          for officials looking to move up. Bell says there
                                                                                                 should be few, if any, off-days as far as conditioning

                  ( T H E BOTTOM LINE:                                                           for officials goes. "Even on game days, I d go to the
                                                                                                 hotel's fitness center and have a workout," recalls
                  ' Visible tattoos are still a taboo.                                I
                                                                                                 Bell. "It's just something you always have to stay
                  kL  - ---- -- - - - -
                                 ----                                        -       d
                                                                                                 on top of. Get a routine and keep at it."

                      Tune in your local television sports on any given night
                   and you're likely to see officials working youth league or
                   high school games whose best days of fitness are far behind
                   them. Due to a lack of number of officials in most areas,
                   state associations find themselves in the unenviable position
                   of having to hire officials whose physique is not
                   complemented by uniforms featuring broad vertical stripes.
                      Out-of-shape officials working local or high school games
                   are relatively common. But what about the official who has
                   his or her sights set higher? If you could stand to lose a few
                   pounds, are you hurting your chances to move up because
                   your waistline has moved out?
                      Is tubby taboo?

                   48         REFEREE April 2009
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                                  Sport Resource Centre
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      lotcuigmce   SPO~".

                   Y         ,
                            7.   -

                  "When I look back on my career, I wish I'd have              official whose appearance was "unbecoming" due to facial
               spent more time in hotel fitness centers," agrees               hair or other factors.
               Barnett. "I loved the job for 31 years, (but didn't                "I don't know that it would bother me to see an official
               spend much time on fitness)."                                   with neatly trimmed facial hair," she admits, "but having
                  Fitness is a simple issue for Bell. "It's black and          said that, I can't remember having seen an official with facial
               white as far as I'm concerned," she states. "It's               hair."
               something you as an official can address                           Wynns admits that Indiana also does not have a written
               individually. Find what works for you and go with it."          policy prohibiting facial hair on officials, but agrees that
                                                                               officials "just know that's not the way to go." She also
                                                                               believes that if there are a few officials with facial hair out
                    T H E BOTTOM LINE:                                         there working games, coaches, fans and players might have
                    Poor fitness is still a taboo.                             an instantly negative reaction upon seeing them because
                                                                               facial hair is "not the norm."

               FACIAL HAIR
                  It has long been held that "serious" officials
              never, ever have facial hair of any kind. It's a taboo.
              Something so definitive, so important, must
              therefore be written in every major official's
              manual, right? Not exactly.
                  "The language we put on the recommendation
              forms we send to our officials don't actually
              address facial hair," notes Paul McLaughlin,
              assistant executive director of the Florida High
              School Athletic Association. McLaughlin supervises
              the soccer, lacrosse and baseball officials for Florida
              high schools. "With this delicate of a topic, you
              have to be careful how you word things. The
                                                                                  McLaughlin summed it up best when he said, "an official
              assumption is they're neatly dressed and groomed                 only gets one chance to make a first impression. If an official
              appropriately. A neat, crisp, clean appearance is                looks a little ragged, he's going to get what he's going to get."
              what we look for."
                  "We're on a -pretty touchy subject here,'' agrees
                                    -                                          /-.--
                                                                               - -- - -      -      -                       - ,-
                                                                                                                           - -,                             --.
              Larry Snyder, supervisor of football officials For the
              Division I11 Heartland Collegiate Athletic
                                                                           /    THE BOTTOM LINE:
              Conference. "But, ,ves, in officiating the standard is
                                                                           !    Having facial hair as an official is still a taboo.
                                 .    .            "
              no facial hair - especially at the upper levels."
                 Snyder recalls two friends who many years ago
              interviewed for positions as NFL officials. They                    So despite the fact that time marches on and ideas
              both had neatly trimmed mustaches. Both shaved                   change, despite the fact that the games themselves change,
              before they left for their interviews. "It's an                  and despite the fact that we'd all like to "steer our own
              unwritten rule," Snyder states flatly, "I see pictures           ships," there are still taboos in officiating. Those taboos have
              of high school guys with beards and it looks                     been in place for years and the ones that continue today
              terrible. It doesn't make any difference on the guy's            seem to have a long shelf life ahead of them. The question
              intelligence or judgment, but it's just a (negative)             now seems to be: Should officials looking to move up the
              perception. You just won't see (facial hair) at the              ladder heed those taboos?
             .Division I or professional levels."                                 That is a question every official needs to answer on his or
                 Snyder points out that facial hair is not                     her own. If you are a rebel at heart, you might want to
              something that's specifically "talked about." It's               consider the words of noted writer Henry Miller, who said,
              virtually universal, however, that "serious" officials           "Whenever a taboo is broken, something good happens,
              don't have facial hair. Period.                                  something vitalizing. Taboos, after all, are only hangovers,
                 Snyder points out that if he had a good                       the product of diseased minds, you might say, of fearsome
              candidate who had a good chance to work for him                  people who hadn't the courage to live."
              and move up the collegiate ranks, but needed a                      But remember, Miller never wanted to officiate a bowl game.
              shave, he might well sit him down and have a chat                   Taboos are taboos for a reason. Dismiss them at your own
              with him.                                                        risk.
                 Theresia Wynns, an associate commissioner for                 Dave Sabaini is afreelance writer and official who lives in Terre Haute,
              the Indiana High School Athletic Association, says               Ind.
              she would "absolutely" feel at ease addressing an

                                                                                                     April 2009      REFEREE     49

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