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Red Cards at a College Showcase?

Red Cards happen. Sometimes to good people. But the leading causes of red cards at a college showcase are stupidity and lack of discipline.

I have watched Referee Assignors do their pre-tournament meetings with their assembled crews on numerous occasions. I have heard them provide showcase-sensitive instructions: To be aware of substitution requests at stoppages, knowing that coaches are already struggling to apportion minutes fairly to all their participating players. To keep the scheduled games on time so that evaluators can see the game they expect when they arrive at a field. To understand that showcases involve primarily older players, and to provide latitude for physical contact accordingly. And, to pull discretionary yellow and red cards out grudgingly, to give players every opportunity to be seen by the coaches that need to see them play.

Notice I said “discretionary” cards. Sometimes a player takes the discretion away from the referee. By dropping the “f-bomb” loudly enough for younger siblings three fields over to hear, or by cursing the referee, or by throwing a sucker punch at the back of an opponent’s head, or by emitting a stream of wet spittle into an inhabited plane, or…well, you get the idea. The player has forced the ref’s hand, and the red one comes out!

Notice that none of the listed examples involve the game on the field. They all involve boorish behavior extraneous to the game. In other words, avoidable behavior! And this point is not lost on any evaluator in attendance. If a player does not have the self-discipline to stay on the field when his or her college future is at stake, what can the coach realistically expect of the player when an NCAA playoff game is on the line?

The red card born of stupidity is also a selfish act. The sanctioned player has not only hurt themselves, but also deprived their substitute of valuable minutes at a showcase, since the team has to finish out the game a man down. Teammates can no longer show as well, since they are now scrambling to cope with a manpower disadvantage. Coaches have to adjust substitution patterns, possibly disproportionately hurting minutes at one position rather than another. In short, the whole team potentially suffers for the stupidity of one.

Ah well…it’s now done, and the player has been sent off. Is there anything the player should do after seeing the red card pulled out?

First, clear the field without additional displays of poor judgment. Staring in display, obscenely gesticulating with one’s arms, dramatically ripping off one’s jersey and flinging it to the ground are best reserved for the next WWE Wrestlemania broadcast. Such actions will not endear the player with the referees or evaluators present, and probably not even teammates who may be losing valuable showcasing minutes due to a prolonged stoppage of play.

Next, after the game, always check the policy for mandatory sit-out games following a red card. Go to tournament HQ, ask to speak to the Referee Assignor if possible, apologize for your conduct, and inquire about the post-game sanctions. Every once in a while, you may be pleased to discover it’s less than anticipated. If not, at least it’s a positive step toward rehabilitating one’s self-discipline.

Bohdan E. Porytko, Morristown NJ, 2008.

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