After Further Review ... My parents taught me about boundaries (i.e. being careful not to offend others through your words or actions). In any relationship (e.g. husband/wife, parent/child, teacher/student, etc.), each of us must respect the other person's space.
As an NFL official for 31 years, I practiced that both on and off the field. Some coaches and players wanted to be more than just friendly, however, it was important not to invade their space or allow them into mine. On the field, it's easy for an official to be familiar with coaches and players more than just as casual acquaintances. As an example, it is natural for an official to want to compliment a player when witnessing a great play - but you can't.
So when I saw an NFL official give a player a "high five," after that player solidified his team's victory in a Monday Night Football game, I was concerned. The high five occurred without the official initiating it nor intending to give the impression he was congratulating the player. When it drew criticism, the bloggers went crazy. One blogger said, 'It was funny and spontaneous; the sort of feel-good moment that's becoming all too rare in an increasingly humorless NFL."
Funny? To whom? It's not funny to the losing team or their fans. Officials must demonstrate impartiality to engage the trust of players, coaches and fans. For example, if a coach approached me to shake hands when I walked on the field during pre-game preparation, I always went to the other coach to do the same. The first coach might just have wanted to say "hello," yet to others, it may appear to have been more than that. Be friendly, certainly; but, detached.
An official in any sport, at any level, must be sensitive to impartiality. At the pro level, there are millions of gambling dollars bet every day. With the conviction of (former) NBA official Tim Donaghy for providing information to gamblers, the risk level has been raised to "high." When Cincinnati Bengals #85 WR Ochocinco thought it was funny to try to put a $1 bill in an official's packet, he violated not just a rule (NFL fined him $20,000), but a boundary. In the recent Tiger Woods accident/transgression admission, the public may be fascinated; however, Woods has no responsibility for an explanation to the public. Boundaries apply universally.
Will you respect the boundary of others by using good judgment?
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