Allow me to share a piece of advice that was bestowed to me some years back when I was performing the seemingly wholesome task of officiating youth football:
"Judd -- be sure to take your whistle off when the game's over."
It took me a few games to understand exactly why such direction was offered, although after a memorable contest in which I was thoroughly chided by rabid parents for the better part of two hours, I got it: they might want to choke me.
I lasted two seasons.
When watching the Gopher's pedestrian 67-63 win over lowly Indiana on Sunday, a fellow viewer and myself engendered unto a halftime conversation about Big Ten hoops officials. The talk ultimately grew into a discussion about our own officiating experiences, before changing into a talk about refereeing in general, and then finally morphed into a conversation that led me to the list noted herein. I may have been a crappy ref myself, but I harbor no ill will toward those who make it a livelihood as it takes a special kind of person to get yelled at (and perhaps accept the threat of strangulation) for a paycheck.
Here's one man's list of the five best officiating signals in the big four sports, a small homage to the most ignored people in sport's most loathed jobs:
5. Hooking in hockey
I always enjoy a signal that directly mimics the indiscretion of the player.
4. Tripping in football
Strangely - and rarely seen-- feminine mannerism, offering a unique dichotomy to the most brutal of sports.
3. Offensive charging in basketball
Perhaps no other officiating call in all of sport can vacuum-seal the energy of a home team's momentum, or rally the juice of a host's fans the way a charging call can. Done well, the referee's earnest motion almost mirrors the gravity of the moment, and the pace of the foul in question.
2. (tie for similarity) Safety in football; Penalty Shot in hockey
Much like the aforementioned "tripping" on the gridiron, both of these gestures are greater in specter, in part, for their rarity of occurrence. In football for example, just 21 occurred this NFL season. Done with flair, the call will make Susanna Hoffs proud. Performed sheepishly, and the official just looks kind of dumb.
1. The Punchout
No other call in all of sport affords the official the chance to espouse his personality the way a strikeout does. Some guys are forceful and physical; others are so patient that both live viewers and television fans are left with a moment of anticipatory pause. Either way, dude's grabbing some pine, but there really is nothing better than an emphatic punchout in a close, late-game situation.
What did I miss? Please comment with dissenting opinion, gentle reader, as you see fit.