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Seeing Red Kindle Edition
|Length: 393 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||
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"Children of Blood and Bone"
Tomi Adeyemi conjures a stunning world of dark magic and danger in her West African-inspired fantasy debut. Learn more
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Having played and coached in a large metropolitan competitive league when I was a younger man, there are two things I can state with absolute certainty: (1) Regardless of what players and coaches may say or how they may act, in the end they are both grateful for and appreciative of competent and dedicated referees; (2) I have no recollection of any player or coach (including junior league) every voicing a desire to become a referee. Having said that, I can only admire Mr Poll's drive and dedication to be the best at a thankless but absolutely necessary job.
This book opens and closes with Mr Poll's most notorious career episode: the 3 yellow cards issued to the same player in the same World Cup match. I think a fair person would agree that to define a referee's career which spans more than two decades by one unfortunate event is patently unfair and disproportionately distorting. In addition, the error was of no real consequence to the tournament outcome, or the game outcome for that matter. So why is Mr Poll curled up in the fetal position and crying his eyes out? Why do so many people take such great pleasure in his misery?
For much of the book, Mr Poll builds a case for himself as a man who has trained mentally and physically to become the very best at his profession, all the while maintaining a grounded and humble attitude. He must absorb cruel and unfair treatment from fans, the press, players, managers, club owners, the league, and even treachery from his own referee brethren in order to achieve the holy grail: referee a World Cup final game. His can-do attitude and solid work ethic will propel him forward regardless of these obstacles. However, by the end, it is apparent that he does not possess the thick skin to weather the storm. He is, in fact, a very sensitive and high-strung man who suffers greatly and easily. I believe that much of the excess criticism directed towards him is brought about by that same reaction people have whenever a starched-shirt slips and falls at a formal event and soils his clothes. We look forward to a good laugh at his expense.
None of this is meant to discount his great contribution to the sport. He was a great referee. Think for a minute about how difficult it must be to work for decades at a profession which brings no glory. While all the players around you are tallying up wins, goals, shutouts, pennants, titles, cups... What do you have to show? Another game in which you committed no errors in judgment? According to whom? Certainly not the fans or players or coaches or owners or .... Truly a thankless job. So I can't blame him for taking pride for his accomplishments.
I think this is a well-written book by an important participant in a great sport. I commend Mr Poll for his service and for deciding to share his perspective with us. I especially found the appendix where he answers the top 10 FAQs very interesting and worthy of another book. However, for trying to pass himself off as merely a humble servant of the game who is misunderstood.... yellow card.
As has been mentioned by an earlier reviewer, the most impressive part of this book is the description of the degree to which soccer refereeing is a very serious calling that requires quite a high level of cardiovascular fitness as well as the mental aspect of making judgments, knowing the game itself and its rules, and maintaining a subtle, qualitative sense of the personalities and the changing emotional state of the players during a game. My two strongest reactions were: 1.) Top-level officials are people, too ("Duh!") and 2.) I would love to see baseball umpires as closely and constantly evaluated and (especially!) assigned to the most prominent games and series on a largely meritocratic basis, as Poll describes for English and international soccer. (Yes, he also describes cases in which politics or personalities were a consideration, but that seems really to be a relatively minor issue.)
Since reading this book I now fairly regularly read his column on the Daily Mail web site, which partly just rehashes some of the points made here but includes many new and insightful comments as well. (The typical responses also show how much a certain segment of the English public seem never to tire of putting down the substance of anything he says with the shopworn witticism "You can't even count to two." Gee, maybe Americans don't have a complete monopoly on boorish and self-righteous comments about sports and the people involved in them!)
Also as mentioned by an earlier reviewer, the flow of the book is a bit disorienting, since a large part of it is chronologically arranged, but a large part is not. This is a fairly minor quibble, however. I learned a lot from this book as a whole, and it was nearly always enjoyable page-by-page as well.
A great insight int the life of a referee. I did not realize how stressful it could be, never realized how their instant decisions would create so much stress for themselves...
Sidenote: The book is actually shorter than advertised around 15% in the end are his stats as a referee.