By Derek Blanchette
When I go to cover a game and enter a gymnasium or step foot on a field, the first thing I do is locate the flag. That way I am not scrambling when the national anthem is played to figure out where I should be looking. On Tuesday night, after Dylan Osgood scored an apparent goal, the first thing I did was look for the flag. Not the one with stars and stripes, but the one of the associate referee. No flag. No flag equaled good goal. At least that was what I thought. Well, I thought wrong.
See, if you have only watched high school through October you are probably asking yourself: "What exactly is he talking about? There are only two officials at each soccer game, right?"
Now, I like you am confused by this. Apparently, the two-official system that every team plays their entire regular season under is simply not good enough for the post-season. See, the MIAA and their collection of people who are a couple of cards short of a full deck, have changed the game on everyone. Prelim and quarterfinal games are played under the regular two referee system. But come semifinal and final games, the MIAA, in their infinite wisdom, goes to a three-official system. The lead official works the middle of the field while two sideline officials work half of each sideline.
Why does the MIAA do this you ask? I have no better answer for that than this: because they can. Because they are the MIAA. Because they are the big, bad bully and what they say goes. If you don't like it, tough, there is nothing you can do.
Is the two-referee system perfect? Absolutely not. Is any system with referees perfect? Absolutely not. But how does an organization let an entire regular season be played one way just to turn around and change everything completely? Not to mention the fact that you now have one ref in the middle running 60 yards just about every 40 seconds to keep up with play. That is the equivalent of running over four miles in a standard 80-minute game.
On Tuesday night, kick-off temperature was 31 degrees and had dropped to 27 by the game-winning goal in overtime. The official in the middle was roughly 60 years old. How many 60 years old do you know go out for 4-mile runs in the cover of night in freezing temperatures, while also having to control a game with less field coverage being played by kids that are three or four times younger than them? This makes sense how?
Now, the MIAA (an attempt to contact the MIAA was made three times to discuss the refereeing situation with no response) may bring up the fact that they have subcommittees that discuss rule changes and approve them. Just because a subcommittee approves an idea doesn't mean it is good.
You could find any parent who has three kids that at some point who has had those three kids come to them and say something utterly ridiculous about why they should be allowed to stay out until 3 a.m. or why they need to take three dozen eggs from the house for a "Home Economics project." I will guarantee you those parents shot down the ideas despite the three-child subcommittee thinking they were brilliant.
Why do those ideas get shot down by parents? Because they have common sense. Because they know that their decisions will affect the lives of others. At the MIAA, they don't care what their decisions mean to others because no one can hold them accountable. Their word goes and if you don't agree, there is the door. The MIAA has a monopoly over high school sports in the Bay State, and it is a sad state of affairs.
What can be done about it? Really not much unfortunately. Until someone bands together and comes up with a better way to do things -- which by the way would be any other way than how the MIAA does things -- not much will change. There will be no checks and balances. There will be no democracy, just more dictatorship. The MIAA, drunk on power, will continue to rule in whatever way it sees fit. And that is ridiculous, at least says this subcommittee of one.