If a yellow flag lands ever so gently on a field somewhere in Rockland County, does it make any noise?
Especially when the bleachers are filled with folks who crossed over the Hudson River to watch their favorite sons play football. The notion of regionally-biased officiating is as old as leather helmets.
It’s called home cooking.
“People used to say, ‘You have to win by two touchdowns in order to win by one when you go to Rockland or Dutchess for a game,” Ossining coach Dan Ricci said. “I believed it when I was a younger coach, but the feeling has faded over the years.”
There was a revival of sorts on Saturday at Pearl River, where so many of the dozen or so flags that went against Harrison drew a vocal response from the maroon and white spectators. It was open season on the referees.
“Way to look at the chains before you spot the ball,” a defiant Huskies fan yelled.
There was sarcastic applause, too, when the unbeaten Pirates were called for a late hit along the far sideline.
It made for great theater.
And that’s only because the players refrained from chiming in. There was plenty of chatter in between the lines, but nobody was pointing fingers at the men in stripes.
“We try not to bring it up,” Harrison coach Dom Zanot said after his team fell in overtime. “We don’t want the referees to be something they’re concerned about. It needs to be another football game.”
The It’s long been a topic in the coaching fraternity.
“I know you bring up where you’re playing next and the other coaches are like, ‘Oh, no. You have to go to Rockland,’ ” Zanot added. “I’m sure it’s the same in Rockland, ‘Oh, no. You have to go over the bridge to Westchester.’ So we do hear it a little bit. Even so, the field is 100 yards long so it’s not a big deal.”
Unless a fourth-quarter holding call negates the go-ahead touchdown.
There is no doubt the feeling is mutual when Rockland teams wade through all of the construction traffic and play on the east side of the Tappan Zee Bridge.
“We didn’t start coming over until the 1980s, I think,” said North Rockland athletic director Joe Casarella, who spent decades on the sideline. “I don’t think it actually happens a lot, but there are some crews you have to worry about.”
This is why officials need to have good eyes and bad ears.
“You need to have something to yell about,” Casarella added. “So it might as well be the refs.”
That’s humor, people.
Frankly, there isn’t enough history to inspire great rivalries between schools from Westchester and Rockland. The notion that an official might be helping out the neighborhood kids adds needed spice to games that otherwise may not have much appeal.
So go ahead, needle the whistleblowers. Politely. Humorously.
“You need to see a junior varsity game,” Casarella said. “It’s so much worse. There usually aren’t many people there so you can hear all of the comments.”
Every call faces scrutiny in football because there is one game a week, and the outcome very well could be determined by a judgement call made on the run by an elderly gentleman in really tight shorts.
I’ll probably hear about that one from a linesman this weekend.
Don’t tell anyone, but there’s a shortage of officials in Rockland and many of the guys working on that side of the river live outside the county. I don’t want to spoil the fun.