Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 48 - Christian Posch - HEALTH HUMANITY & HANDBALL - Part 3 of 3


Yeah, I think a couple things, if you could get like a referee that could be a good commentator, and then if you start like streaming handball on the internet first because you don’t have to worry about trying to get a major channel or TV station to pick it up.


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JESSE: Yeah, I think a couple things, if you could get like a referee that could be a good commentator, and then if you start like streaming handball on the internet first because you don’t have to worry about trying to get a major channel or TV station to pick it up. Start popularizing it that way and kind of use that as a method kind of like– So, like I do triathlon and the various organizations in charge of triathlon have been working on like streaming races online and on their own platform, Facebook in their own platforms to try to popularize the sport more.

Especially because we’ve kind of hit a plateau in terms of growth in the sport in the US. It really got popular for a while and it’s kind of flattened off and come down a little bit, probably in part because of the cost of it. But just thinking about like, my brother’s a referee and he refs for several other sports; baseball, football, basketball. I don’t know, he loves being a ref.

And it’s fun to watch, like football games with him, American football because he can see all these things we don’t see. Which means if you can get somebody that’s a good personality and like is a good commentator, they can be like, actually point out these things and be like, this is what’s happening, see it on the replay, and give that in-depth analysis because I’m sure you may have seen ESPN. People are obsessed with the numbers. They want all the numbers about everything.

There’s just like, this just ridiculous stat culture in sports here where it’s like, every single game or match depending what sport we’re talking about. Somehow people want a new record. It’s like you watching football. It’s like, yeah, most scores by a 30-year-old linebacker who has a tattoo on his right arm and his birthday was today or something. It’s a culture of like what’s the weirdest record we could come up with? So, if you could get that figured out for handball, I think you could start to get people on board.

CHRISTIAN: I gotta give a shout out to USA Team Handball. So, they’ve been streaming the national championships, at least for the last, at least five years in a way that is done, I would say, really decent. They did a decent job and they have two really fun guys commentating it. [??? 02:40] referees, but they’re really knowledgeable and they know what they’re talking about.

JESSE: Are they former players?

CHRISTIAN: Yeah, exactly, former players. And they have a good head on their shoulders and it’s actually fun to listen to them. So, if you’re interested in that tune, in USA Team Handball. They usually stream the National Championships. Right now they have been canceled [??? 03:02] the Corona outbreak. So, we’ll see if it happens late in the year. Usually, I’m there too to support the American referees a little bit. Actually, when I was an international referee, so I’m Austrian by descent and I live in Germany, but I spent a long time in the US.

And when I was in the US, I did refereeing already a long time before that, but the US Federation asked me if I wanted to pursue a career in refereeing on a higher level. And that’s how I ended up refereeing and representing actually the US and US Team Handball.

So, for all these tournaments that I went to, I was actually under the US flag, which is funny because I’m not a US citizen. My wife is but I’m not. And that turned out to be actually the problem that I’m not an IHF referee anymore. So, international but only for the Pan American Federation, so the entire American continent.

And obviously I ref here in the major leagues in Austria and sometimes just for fun here in Germany too. But with all the work that’s going on, I can only devote so much time to it. But I keep it up as a fun hobby and I try to go to tournaments and stuff as often as I can. But that has gone down in numbers quite a bit.

JESSE: So, is there like a certification, you have to keep like re-upping to do with the IHF?

CHRISTIAN: I would actually have all these certifications and I would pass all the physical and rule tests and whatnot. The problem was actually really my status, not being a US resident or for that matter, actually, not being a US citizen. Which apparently got them into problems because if you start refereeing under the US flag and I’m now refereeing, let’s say the Austrian National Team.

That’d be a conflict of interest because of Austrian. I don’t think it is at all, frankly. I think it’s a silly argument to make. But that’s how things run these days. If you live in the hometown of your sports team, whatever that might be, you’re unlikely to ref that team. I think a good referee can separate these two things, and just tries to do a decent job and is not being held back by nationality or whatnot. Yeah.

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. I was like, there’s a saying, and I’m sure I’ll butcher it, but it’s something along the lines of like when a ref does their job, you don’t even notice them.

CHRISTIAN: That’s right.

JESSE: Like they don’t interrupt the game, they only officiate it. All the calls that they make are basically things you would expect and agree with because– [crosstalk]

CHRISTIAN: [??? 06:01] that still right. That’s the–

JESSE: Right. Right.

CHRISTIAN: But you’re totally right. I mean, how I would like to see my job as a referee on the field is basically to just lead two teams who want to play a game, want to do a certain sport, and you help them to stay within the rules. Because everybody is going to try to bend these rules as far as they can. And they need someone from the outside to say like, well, that’s too much, my friend. We’re going to go the other direction now. So, you need it. At the same time, it’s not about you for like most obvious reasons, right. It’s about the two teams playing each other and you shouldn’t interfere with that. Yeah. Totally agree with that.

JESSE: Yeah– [crosstalk]

CHRISTIAN: [??? 06:47] all different kinds of things here.

JESSE: The biggest irritation I get, like when I’m watching soccer, and I’m watching– so I live in Kansas City. So, Sporting Kansas City is our soccer team. Anytime I’m watching Sporting is that you get used to the refs like you get familiar with the refs is what I mean. You’re like, okay, I know this one, that one. And the thing that is most irritating to me is when we’re watching different matches, and the officiating is inconsistent between referees.

Yeah, like one ref will give you a yellow card if you sneeze at another player, and then the other one won’t even think about it if somebody comes through somebody’s ankles, and then they walk off the field with a broken ankle. They’re like, yeah, it was fine. It was a clean tackle, but like no, it wasn’t, they weren’t anywhere near the ball.

Just this lack of consistency bothers me just because it’s like as you mentioned, your job basically should be to enforce the rules of the game, not to interpret or make up the rules of the game but just this is what it is, this is how it is, this is how I call it. But there seems to be such inconsistency between them. That’s probably the thing that kind of bothers me the most.

CHRISTIAN: Yeah, I can understand where you’re coming from. But at the same time, I got to tell you that the rulebook is also a living organism. It’s not black and white here either. And if you give a rule book, maybe soccer, handball, you name it, if you give that kind of piece of law, if you wish, if you give that to an attorney, he would put it in the shredder because none of it would hold to any of the principles that are applied in law.

They’re applied for sport, so they are softer, there’s room for interpretation, and to some degree, that needs to be that case. Because if you execute and enforce every single rule, the way it’s written down on paper, there wouldn’t be a game. It would just be interruptions left and right and all the time. So, that’s a growing organism itself. And that’s why we need to as a referee, for example, you need to have a lot of games, a lot of different teams that you kind of blend in if you wish, right.

And yeah, every referee is going to have its own trademark. And there are some referees who are super strict on behaving. Yeah, like sneezing into someone’s face right now would be a red card. Yeah, it depends. It depends. Again, it depends on the context. If you just look at the action, and you take it out of context, it might be nothing or it might be a red card. Right?

So, it really– and you might actually have a different view on that kind of situation yourself. Right? Well, you can see how complicated it can get and from various perspectives. I mean, the referee is always wrong, especially [??? 09:51].

JESSE: Somebody is going to disagree. It doesn’t matter how many people, somebody’s gonna disagree.

CHRISTIAN: See, but that’s the easy part about refereeing. It’s not your job to satisfy the most people. It’s your job to, like, have these teams stay with the rules. Somebody’s always gonna be unhappy. And I remember I refereed a game with my colleague who’s actually from Denmark. So, he’s also not American, but we refereed for the US. We’ve refereed the Pan American Championships and we had a fairly high-level game between two South American countries and they’re big rivals and the gym was packed. And we had to throw out one of the main players of the home team in like, after five minutes or something, right, like, very early in the game.

That’s the kind of situation you should mentally put yourself in trying to be that referee [??? 10:47]. You really gotta be sure what you’re doing in that because there is going to be pressure from the outside big time. But if you take the standpoint of saying not I don’t care, that’s the wrong way to put it. But oh, somebody is always going to be unhappy with it. But if I think that is the right decision, you have to take it. That’s your job. And that’s kind of the comforting kind of approach that I’ve taken over the last I’ve refereed for 20 years now. And it has always helped them actually always kept me on the safe side.

JESSE: Yeah, I kind of think about you mentioned context matters, and I was thinking about soccer at the time. And it’s like, with the rules being a living rulebook, the thing that comes to mind immediately is playing advantage when there’s been a foul. Like a clear foul was committed against the team, but that team still has the ball and is going towards a scoring opportunity. You don’t stop them because they have the momentum and field advantage, even though it was against the rules. if the foul was committed, it technically should be stopped but the refs are like, it doesn’t make sense because you would be hindering them instead of helping them, which is what the rule is supposed to be doing.

CHRISTIAN: Exactly. And in handball that’s the creme de la creme of refereeing. You realize what’s happening in front of you and you see that there is actually an advantage resulting from an unfair tackle or something, right. And they’re still able to pass on the ball and they are able to score so you obviously don’t want to interrupt here. But the handball rule and I think it’s the same in soccer too, you can still punish later on. You’re not like prohibited to like give a yellow card or in handball, it would be two minutes suspension, right, where [??? 12:47] sit on the bench for some time and think of what you just did. You can still do that after the fact, right. It’s never too time to enforce that if it was indeed unfair and a hard tackle. But that’s the really hard part of refereeing.

JESSE: Yeah. Christian, we’re starting to run out of time. And I know we’re running over because we had issues with our time zones this morning. So, what you may not have seen them with the interviews that Joe sent you because they were earlier on from last year. This year, I’m asking everybody a different question at the end of episodes. So, this year, I’m asking everybody, what do you think the purpose of sport is?

CHRISTIAN: Oh, that’s a big one. That’s a big one. Right now everybody’s talking about Corona and sports is actually at a complete halt right now. I mean, it might actually be the best time to judge on that kind of question, even though it’s such a big one. What’s the purpose? The purpose is, a big part of it is I think, is entertainment. But there are so many other elements to it. People do sports for recreation. They do it for staying healthy and fit.

Actually, that’s a very good tool for counteracting aging, by the way just to complement our previous discussion. So, it’s a whole garden of flowers. It’s all different kinds of things from entertainment to a huge business, to recreation, to health, to even finding your significant other. I mean, I met my wife on the tennis court, basically. Right. So, I can’t distill it down to just one thing, I’m sorry. That’s too hard.

JESSE: Yeah. I mean, that’s kind of the point of the question, though, right. Because everybody has this different attitude about why we’re all out here doing these things? So, that’s why I love that question because it’s so large and it’s so nebulous. I find often people’s answers just come down to their experience and the thing that they take most out of it.

CHRISTIAN: That I can give you, that I can give you. I do it for my physical well being, for my personal physical well being but also for my psychological well being. Because refereeing is a hell of a job. You’re exhausted like after a game, a really tough one, your brain dead. This is taking like– But you learn, you’re disciplined– you learn to be disciplined, you learn to take quick and immediate action and decide on the flip of the coin. And these are all things I enjoy and they actually help me not only in sports but in all different kinds of other aspects of life.

So, it’s the physical part, the enjoyment of just going out there sweating your lungs out. And then also the training of discipline, which comes, you know, you’re a triathlete. I mean, if you don’t have discipline, you’re not going to go anywhere [??? 16:00]. So, it’s these two elements that are probably the biggest parts in my life. Yeah.

JESSE: See, I got an answer outta you after all. Christian, if people want to follow you see your funny but accurate memes that you like to share, where can people find you and kind of see what you’re up to?

CHRISTIAN: Oh yeah, for sure. You can find me on Twitter. The handle would be PoschChristian, just like my name, starting with the last name. I’m happy to share that if you want to include it into your stream. Other good resources would probably be LinkedIn, I should be easy to find there. It should be easy to find me there too. Yeah, I think these are probably the most– like the two major outlets.

JESSE: Yeah, I think you’ve got a fair number of people following you on Twitter. So, it should be pretty easy to identify you there.

CHRISTIAN: [??? 17:00] that kind of stuff. Yeah, I guess don’t get it, but it’s the case. Yeah. And they can find the scientific stuff, I mean, PubMed is obviously the source for that kind of [??? 17:10] into heavy research, that’s where you should go. But that’s obviously true for any researcher.

JESSE: Yeah. Yeah. All right. Christian, thanks for spending some time with me today.

CHRISTIAN: Absolutely. It was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.

JESSE: Take care.

CHRISTIAN: Okay. You too.

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