Thursday, October 21, 2010

What comes up, comes down

Massachusetts National and FIFA Referees circa 2003
(L to R Claudio Badea, Erich Simmons, John Matthew, Rachel Woo, Niko Bratsis, Jen Bennett, Gus St. Silva, Tom Supple)
Just the other day I was informed about the retirement of a log time Massachusetts, turned California FIFA referee, Jennifer Bennett. Since 2002 Jen has served those whom she represented with distinction and humility. During her time in Massachusetts, I had the opportunity to work with Jen in a variety of contexts and believe today, as I did then, she is one of the very best.

In reflecting on retirement generally, I again heard the words of refereeing legend, Angelo Bratsis in my head stating that "... going up is much easier than coming down." Truer words have never been spoken about both mountaineering and refereeing, which hold amazing similarities to each other.

Over the last 6 months or so when I have been very actively reengaging the soccer community, it at times has been a conscious thought if I acted the right way on the way up, as I intend to now on the way down. Fortunately my answer has always come back "yes", but am not so convinced that that will always be my answer.

It would be easy to say that I was so singularly focused on becoming a FIFA referee that I sometimes forgot about the typical pleasantries that others may have found offensive. Or maybe just a punk kid with an attitude problem at times that shot his mouth off. Both would seem to apply to me at times in my life.

I know for a fact that not everyone was sad to see me go from pro soccer when I did for a variety of reasons. None of which are really relevant here. Looking back over the landscape that I traveled I also realize that some would feel that way regardless of how, or who, left the professional refereeing ranks.

What is critical (and I speak generally as well as specifically here) are really two things at this juncture.

First, as an ambassador of the game, it is critical to remember to treat THE game, and all of its participants with the appropriate amount of respect. Granted this is not always easy to do, and reasonable minds can disagree, but it is critical to maintain decorum.

Second, as the title states, what comes up, comes down and this includes referees careers. For me I am trying to reinvent myself from active referee to one who can help referees get where they want to go through discourse. We will see where that winds up. Others will have different paths for sure, but it should be evident that one will likely be treated the same way down, as they treated those on the way up.

My suggestion, be nice. It's a long way down.

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