REF-SPECT For The Game

By Clifford Benton
Updated: August 21, 2006

Queens, NY—The Almighty Force Basketball Tournament has the best streetball refs in the game. Not only do they know the game, they love the game and respect the game. When they ref, they do so with a higher calling. They’re on a mission to protect the integrity of the game.

Meet Referee Wesley Nelson Sr.: I played here. I grew up here. I wanted to learn the game from a player’s perspective, a coach’s perspective, and a referee’s perspective. My passion for b-ball says I gotta be under control. If you’re under control—basketball is easy—in fact, that applies to life. If you’re under control—life is easy. The hardest part is that I have to tell grown men to “man up” and just play the game. Some of these players haven’t learned the game well enough, and therefore they don’t respect it. They whine and they cry and the funny thing is that they don’t know the rules as well as they think they do. But, I’m all about respect. I teach the kids to be respectful of each other and the game of basketball. I don’t mind it when a coach starts yellin’ or a player gets emotional, as long as he remains respectful. It’s not so much a matter of you respecting me, but it’s about respecting the game and respecting yourself.

Meet Referee Rodney Clark: I love the game. I used to run leagues. I was a player first, and as a player, you have to understand the game. I know many of these players don’t (understand the game) so I don’t take it personal when they get upset. It took me a while to realize this because at first, the players disrespect bothered me. But then I realized that it was the uniform that they were mad at—not me. So, it’s not stressful at all for me to ref. I’ve refereed most of these tournaments out here. The most important thing about refereeing is being consistent. I don’t care if you’re bad or good, be consistent. When I played ball back in the day, there was no such thing as arguing with the refs. It was about being respectful. No referee wants to determine the outcome of the game. We’re not there to cheat anyone. We want the players to decide the game. I ref all age groups. My day can start at 9 in the morning, and I can be refereeing until 9 at night. A few breaks here and there, but for the most part, a full day of refereeing. I’m going to ref until I can’t do it any more. I’m going to ref until the day I die. ‘Cause, I respect the game.

Meet Referee Billy Medley: I’ve been coaching since I was 13 and I’m 51. And I’ve been refereeing almost as long as I’ve been coaching—too many games to count. I learned from Rudy Lee—the Director of Intermediate School 8 out here in Queens. I’ve coached Boo Harvey, Raford Alston, Roy Ivie, Brian & Dwayne Woodward, Kenny Anderson and a slew of others. I became a ref and would use my ref’s money to enter the teams that I coached in these tournaments. I love the game. Every aspect of the game is teaching a kid something about life. But the main thing for me is using the game to get a college education. Forget the N.B.A. The players of today are more athletic, but the play has dropped because they don’t know the game. And, the reason that we grew up knowing the game was because we played in after-school centers and programs. That’s what the problem is today; these schools need to open up. They’re not putting any money into certain areas. These kids need something to do, some sort of activity. We need to educate our kids. Some of them can’t deal with the academics so they drop out. It’s a shame. There is a big disparity in how kids are educated. It should be the same for everybody. But when I think about basketball today, maybe I’m from the old school. I see what they call streetball today, and it’s the Harlem Globetrotters. Guys dancin’ with the ball, running with the ball and not dribbling just to get the crowd excited. And the ref’s don’t call it. That’s a shame. The ref’s don’t call it. Where’s the respect for the game? If we don’t respect the game as refs, who will?