Friday, February 11, 2011

The officials for tonight's game, from parts unknown...

It may be older than your grandma's grandma, but that cliche about learning something new every day is absolutely true, even about things for which you thought you were well conversant.  For example, sports nuts like myself never completely learn everything there is to learn about sports.  Like the fact that basketball referees apparently don't have names.

I don't know if they have Orwellian numbers instead, but this heretofore unknown "fact" was brought to my attention this week by one of the officials at an Armstrong Atlantic State University basketball game in which I served as the public address announcer.  For reasons that will soon become clear, I will use pseudonyms to refer to this gentleman.

Shortly after making the usual pre-game introductions for the Armstrong men's game -  starting lineups, coaches, and officials - one of those officials, Slim Goodbody, said to someone at the scorer's table that it was against NCAA rules to read aloud the names of basketball officials.  Just before the end of halftime, Doctor X repeated this "rule" to me.  It was as if Stone Cold had given me the stunner.

Granted, this is my first season doing P.A. announcing for basketball games, but in every game I have announced for Armstrong and Savannah State University, the names of the officials have been read aloud.  One of the biggest thrills of the season was the chance to announce the name of an Atlanta Braves hero of my youth, Bruuuuuuuuce Benedict, an accomplished basketball referee since his retirement from baseball.

Still, since it was my first season, perhaps I had missed something.  Maybe Tallulah Bankhead was correct in that I shouldn't have given out his name.  So, I consulted the Bible of college hoops, the official NCAA rule book.  Well, what do you know?  There didn't seem to be a word in the entire book about public address announcing and whether or not I was allowed to say the name of The Midnight Rider or any other official.

I didn't want to think that Paul Bearer was making up a rule, so I next consulted the professional P.A. announcers group, the National Association of Really Loud Yellers (NARLY).  The closest reference I could find was under the group's P.A. Announcer Code of Conduct.  Guideline number five reads:  "Announcers shall respect the individuals who are responsible for the conduct and administration of athletic games and events, such as coaches, officials and administrators, and avoid making any comments that reflect positively or negatively on them."  I know for a fact I never said anything negative about Rey Mysterio, so I was still puzzled.

Finally, I got somewhat of an answer from my friend Mike MacEachern, Sports Information Director at SCAD and occasional clock operator at Armstrong games.  He said that, in the past, he was sometimes discouraged from giving out the names of officials to the public as a way of preventing gamblers from getting to them; to help prevent undue influence on the game.  However, as far as Mike knew, it was not an actual rule.  Besides, Bullet Bob Armstrong carried an air about him that seemed impervious to gamblers or any other untoward advances.

Perhaps the problem goes deeper.  Maybe Gorgeous George doesn't like hearing his own name.  But good P.A. announcers do their absolute best to make everyone's name sparkle.  Why, during the women's game earlier in the night, an official named Amy Todey was thrilled that I didn't call her "TOAD-ee" as many announcers have this season.  Her name is pronounced TODD-ee, although if I am not supposed to name the officials, she'll have to be Zelda Gilroy next time out.

Still, I'd like to give Cactus Jack the benefit of the doubt, so I hope he can forgive me for reading his name over the microphone prior to the game.  Should he officiate another game in which I am lucky enough to announce, he shall remain nameless.  Or, maybe he could wear a mask and be Mr. Referee Number Two.  From "Parts Unknown."

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