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Barry Neuberger
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May 6 - My Turn Finally Arrives

I can’t even begin to guess how many basketball games I’ve been to at the current Madison Square
Garden. Years of season tickets for the Knicks, St. John’s Basketball, NITs (pre/post), Holiday Festivals,
Jimmy V Classics, Coaches vs. Cancer, etc. When I worked at Pace, we played Pratt in the first of a
tripleheader on a Saturday (11:00 AM tip-off). When I worked at NYU, we played CCNY prior to St. John’s
and Georgetown (they were 1-2 in the country). I was there when the Knicks scored the last 19 points of
a game to beat the Bucks, I was there for Trent Tucker’s buzzer-beating (and rule changing) shot on
Martin Luther King Day, Pearl Washington, Ron Rowan, Walter Berry, Harold Jensen, many Big East
Tournaments. But I’d always been a spectator, never a participant.

Did I tell you that, in addition to being a fan, I really enjoy refereeing basketball, whether it’s in summer
camp, recreation leagues, wherever. Although it’s nice to get paid, I’ve always enjoyed the workout, the
running and most of all, being part of the game. When I was younger, I loved to play, but those days are
in the rearview mirror. Wherever I’ve lived, I have found some adult league where I could blow the
whistle. Even attended referee camp in Johnson City, Tennessee, when they were putting in the 3-man
crews, and several of those guys in camp with us are now in the NBA. So I’ve always been fascinated by
basketball officiating but not enough to make it my livelihood.

So when I moved back to New York a year ago, I reconnected with the Lawyers Basketball League, the
nation’s largest intramural basketball league. Hundreds of teams from various law firms, all competing
on a friendly, but fairly intense level, one game a week, in some of the city’s nicest gyms (Dalton HS,
Trinity HS, etc.). It’s a great league, well organized, and these firms pay top dollar to have their people
participate. For the officials, a three game night gives you a good workout, some meal money and
definitely a higher level of trash talk than you’d get at West 4th Street. There are many excellent officials
in this league, so I had to work my way back into the rotation to get consistent work. Soon after I started
to get some regular nights from the league office, I noticed on the website that several Lawyers League
championship games, as well as a few with the New York Corporate League (a subsidiary of the LL),
were being played at Madison Square Garden. Could this be my shot at getting on the floor? And I don’t
mean walking across the floor behind the baseline between games of a doubleheader, either. So as the
playoffs drew to a close, I wondered, would I get the call? Or do I have to wait another year, put in my
time and wait until next year?

Sure enough, on Monday, the league office called. A 1:45 tip-off on Friday, would I be interested? YES, of
course. So on this day, May 6, I was instructed to walk through the player’s entrance, it’s really the
employee’s entrance, but on this day, I WAS THE PLAYER, my name was on the list and I was instructed
to go right up to the locker-room. After a (lightning) quick change into the stripes, out on the floor and I
must admit, I got fired up walking out to meet the captains at mid-court. It was a three man crew, which I
was a bit rusty on, but like riding a bicycle, you never……well, you get the idea.

I will say that I wanted to get my first call out of the way, so luckily there was a foul (my call) on the first
play of the game. Ran right within the proper distance of the scorer’s table, gave ‘em the color, number
and now we’re rolling. What followed was the fastest hour of my life, running up and down, and knowing
how important this game was to the guys playing, trying not to get into thinking that I was following in the
footsteps of Ronnie Nunn, Darell (not Ronnie) Garretson, Larry Lembo, Mickey Crowley, et al in the
world's most famous arena.

Never has a lunch hour been as much fun. Took me a long time, but I finally got to the floor. Well worth
the wait.