Friday, May 30, 2008

SPORTS: The Seven Magic Words

Wednesday-night's NBA semi-final clash between the Boston Celtics and Detroit Pistons was almost decided by referees handing out technical fouls late in the game, first to Rasheed Wallace and then to Kendrick Perkins. In both cases, it was something they said, since their level of visual complaint didn't raise to the level of technical, late in a close game. See Bryant,Kobe for the lower limit of what you CAN get away with.

Since I don't know WHAT they said, I assume it was at least one of the Seven Magic Words, which I am NOT going to detail for you here. Suffice to say, all officials in all sports will listen to entertaining complaints, even virulent ones. But if you say any of the magic words, especially in companionship with the word 'mother,' then it comes down to whether to toss the player or hit him with some punishment just short of expulsion. The list DOES vary between sports and between age groups. For me, when I was younger, the list included a name. Hitler.

First, let me assure you I looked nothing like Hitler in my teenage days. Didn't grow a moustache until well into my 20's. And I never wore my hair all that short. Still don't. Sooooo, how'd I end up throwing a manager out for saying, "Stop acting like a little Hitler ...?"

My first year of managing town rep teams was exhausting. I was a 16-year old running the town's 10-11 year old rep team, the Bramalea Buckaroos Squirts. The Bramalea Boys Softball Association was in desperate straights when they gave me the job, pairing me with a much older, wiser man in Barry Murphy. More about him in a future post. Still, I was worn out after coaching the Buckaroos that year.

The next season, I helped out with a couple of teams and coached one myself, back in house league. I also did some umpiring. And one of those games was a game between my old team, the Bramalea squirt reps, and a team from Eringate, coached by the same fellow that had coached against me the year before. He wasn't the most pleasant of sorts. He's also probably old enough now to be in a retirement home. So why kick dirt on his memories? Well...

When I umpired, I ALWAYS told both managers that I had an absolute rule about the use of the Seven Magic Words. I never defined the words then, either. I told them it was immediate expulsion to use any of them. And I'd tell them this was their warning. That tended to give me the reputation as a man with a quick hook. But I only ever tossed one manager in my life. It paid to advertise.

I was umping by myself. There was a play early in the game at second base. Joey Hrysko, the only holdover from my team, was trying to tag the Eringate runner out. That runner was one of the sons of Avellino Gomez. I seem to remember it was Matty, but it might have been Avellino Junior. You ARE talking about 30-plus years ago. When I called time on the play, Joey was straddled over Gomez, who was hugging the base for dear life. As soon as I called the play dead from about 10 feet away (I hustled a fair bit in those days), Gomez pushed off Hrysko, who fell back, but was not hurt in any way.

"You do that again and you're out of the game!" I yelled. The words had barely got out of my mouth when I felt hot breathe against the back of my neck. It was the Eringate manager arriving ready to argue. He started, "Stop acting like a little Hitler."

'You're OUTTA HERE!"

I calmly walked back behind home plate and took out a watch. At thirty seconds I warned him he had another 30 seconds to get on the other side of the road, the nearest point he could exit the park and still see what was going on. He made it with two seconds to spare.

Eringate protested the game afterwards, of course. They lost. Of course. Seems nobody likes being called a Hitler.

Now, that name might not currently be one of the Seven Magic Words. But I bet if somebody used it in a game, the ref or ump of the moment might not have any difficulty adding it to the list.

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