Alright, I admit it, this rant has been building up for a while now ... about 23 years. The first time I saw Ted Valentine officiate a basketball game, I was a kid, and it was the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament which used to be played in my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. Up until that point in my life, I never really gave much thought to the referees and their role in a basketball game. Ted Valentine made sure I never neglected to think of the officials ever again... From the moment that game began, it became obvious that Valentine wanted everyone in the Asheville Civic Center to realize that he was there, and he was in charge. He wanted to make sure that no one forgot him. Even to this day, I can hardly remember the name of any of the players in the game, but I still remember Valentine.
[singlepic=473,320,240,,]Since that game, I've probably seen Valentine officiate close to 20 games in person, and who knows how many on television. How do I know that? In every game Ted Valentine calls, he goes to great lengths to make sure that no one in a game ever forgets him, whether they be players coaches or fans. When Ted Valentine is on the floor, he makes it clear that the players get to compete at his pleasure. His overly-aggressive and antagonistic on-court persona dominates. When Valentine is officiating, it is about him -- God forbid the actual game get in the way of his opportunity to strut. Now, don't get me wrong, I know that officials do have a difficult job. They are charged with overseeing the collision of, often legendary, drive, strength, and egos -- and that's just the fans in the seats. I know they get a lot of lip, and very little credit -- when they do their job right, no one realizes they were there. They are supposed to be cool, objective, and dispassionate. They have to deal with mad coaches, jacked-up players, and fanatical boosters. I know this because my father used to referee high school basketball, and a close family friend is a college official. Still, that is what they sign up for; it's not like a person is required to serve as a basketball official. Ted Valentine has never been accused of being cool, objective, or dispassionate. He has had run-ins with the coaches of almost every major school in the country. Don't take my word for it, a quick Google of "Ted Valentine" will yield a litany of rants and raves -- some from respected journalists. Even I must admit, however, that Valentine is some kind of genius. Valentine is the only person I've ever seen that, the worse he did his job, the more rapidly he moved up the ranks... In my opinion, Valentine has no business officiating any basketball game. Of course no one cares what I think, and the SEC, Big Ten, ACC, Big XII, NCAA, and numerous other conferences continue to give Valentine choice assignments -- including the NCAA Final Four. So why am I writing all of this now? Valentine officiated the Tennessee vs. Florida game, and yet again he managed to make himself known. In this instance it was a technical foul called against J.P. Prince immediately after getting hammered to the floor by Florida's Dan Werner. As he slammed Prince to the ground, Werner was immediately called for an intentional foul by one of the other officials. Prince got up -- admittedly -- angry, yet no shoving occurred. Valentine, however, ran all the way across the floor and immediately called a technical against Prince. Now, I wasn't standing there. I cannot say that Prince didn't earn the technical honestly (Yeah, I know that's an odd way of putting it...). In fact, I can guarantee you that -- most likely -- Prince did earn the foul -- I'd have been pissed too if I had just taken an elbow drop the way he did. I have to give all of that to Valentine. Still, sometimes, as an official you have to exercise a little discretion. Sometimes, you have to balance a "technical" violation of the rules against the intent and purpose of the rules. As every official I've ever spoken with has told me, you could call a foul on every single play, but that's not what the referee is there for. You have to let the players play the game. That is, unless you are Ted Valentine...
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