Thursday, April 1, 2010

F-bombs and angry mobs

You stateside folk take schedules for granted! You don't even know.

The only things carried out here on time are the ferry launches, church (so I've been told) and Carnival.

"Things are a little different here compared to the States," my future boss warned me during an interview over the phone. "Games rarely start on time, events are canceled due to confusion and sometimes, things just fall apart. For example, the high school football season just ended halfway through a few years ago. No warning. No solid reason."

And like that -- Poof, it was gone.

(Ahh, nothing like a Usual Suspects reference)

But the one group of people I have really become annoyed with on island is the basketball referees. Now I did some soccer officiating in my younger days and my father, a FIFA-certified bad ass, will attest to this: As a referee, you have to remain professional at all times or else your credibility will be shot and your calls will be questioned constantly. That's just common sense.

The referees here joke around with each other during the game, talk back to the adolescent players and run like hell at any hint of controversy. They are overweight, obnoxious and unreliable.

Now I, and most sports writers, avoid factoring these slobs into any story at all costs. Even if a player or coach openly comments on the refs, I try not to give them mention because the story should be about the players and what happened on the court. Not about what these idiots did to ruin the game.

Last week, I couldn't contain myself. It just shows how backwards this place can be sometimes.

Here's a link to a girls basketball story that was published in our paper. Please do not laugh at the layout of our award-winning web site. If the link doesn't work (wouldn't surprise me), here are a few paragraphs from said story:

Controversy over the final score was voiced by coaches, players and fans after the conclusion of the game.

An additional two points was accidentally credited to Alanna George, of Kean, with 2:16 left in the game. The error gave the Lady Devil Rays a 37-29 lead.

Antilles coach Chris Uybarreta called consecutive timeouts after he was informed by fans of the inaccuracy. He consulted the referees, but the score remained.

The Lady Hurricanes scored six unanswered points over the final 1:42, which should have tied the game, but it resulted in a two-point victory for the Lady Devil Rays. Erica Donastorg, of Kean, could have cleared all doubt, but she missed the front end of a one-and-one free-throw opportunity with four seconds left.

"I called two timeouts to try and straighten out the situation," Uybarreta said. "But we're not going to sulk. The girls played their butts off and I'm proud of them."

Kean athletic director Peter Seipel, who was the acting coach for the Lady Devil Rays, expressed similar sentiments.

"I'm extremely proud of how the girls played their hearts out and persevered through all the controversy," he said. "As for the ending of the game, it's not our decision. I don't want to point any fingers, but it's on the officials because they make the final call. Both teams played their hearts out and it's unfortunate that something like this mars what was a very good game."

Now what I did not include in the story is when the 20-year-old girl who was in charge of the home scoring book was confronted by fans and coaches about her mistake, she was more than gracious towards the criticism.

"F*ck all you motha f*ckers! You think I cheat? Then f*ck you! I hate you white bastards!" were her exact words. She screamed that message in ear shot of dozens of impressionable teenagers right before she threw the scoring book across the gymnasium and stormed out.

"What an exit," I thought.

Silence came across the gym after she left because the referees left right behind her. With no one else to complain to, naturally, the angry mob shifted its attention toward the best-looking person in the room.

"Newspaper guy! Are you going to tell the truth in your article? They cheated us!"

I knew exactly when the scoring mistake was made and who the fake points were awarded to. But do you think I alerted them of that? Hell no. I wasn't going to get involved, take sides or accept any free beverages.

Instead, I listened to their rant, I politely nodded and I walked back to my car. When I got back to my office, I knocked on my new boss' door and had a seat next to her desk.

"Got a good one for you today..." I said.

She sensed my demeanor and let out a sarcastic sigh. Then, without even taking her eyes away from the computer, she spoke.

"Welcome to the Virgin Islands."

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