Ten seconds are counting down on the clock and the team pushes the ball underneath the basket and gets the shot off just in the nick of time before the buzzer goes off.
But wait, the referees do not agree so they have to go to you to decide the game.
Cody Arnold, the long-time clock operator for Black River Falls athletics, has had to make this call.
Arnold can remember the call like it was yesterday. Westby was playing at Black River Falls and the Coulee Conference boys’ basketball title was on the line.
“It was a packed house all night and it was a close game through the entire ball game,” Arnold said.
“About 10 seconds left to go, Westby was down towards the far west end of the gymnasium. They in-bounded the ball and dribbled it out a few passes. They got inside and thought the bucket was good at the buzzer. Westby would have won by two,” Arnold said.
One official called the shot good, while the other waived it off. At that time there were only two referees, so as the third referee, Arnold had to make the call.
“I was like, ‘Well the horn was already off before the ball was already released by the player.’ So the basket was no good and we play overtime,” Arnold said. “That was probably one of the hardest calls I ever had to call in my life.”
Even after overtime, the Westby’s fans still were not happy.
“I actually got escorted out of the gym because a lot of the fans from the opponent’s team were really upset at me, but I called it the way I called it and the way I saw it,” Arnold said. “I wasn’t showing any favoritism to any team – I was just there doing my job.”
Arnold has been doing “his job” as the varsity boys and girls basketball and wrestling clock operator since 2002.
He actually started as a clock operator in middle school, and volunteered throughout high school at various low-key games. He was asked in 1998 after he graduated if he would continue, and so he has worked his way up from c-team games to now running the clock at varsity games.
“I am a big, huge supporter of Tiger athletics. I just love the community and I love the way they do it here at the Black River Falls High School. It is like a winning atmosphere to me,” Arnold said.
Taking on the responsibility
Even though Arnold loves Tiger athletics, he holds the job of clock operator as a very important responsibility.
So much so he can’t even cheer on his nephews, one of which has already graduated and the other who is playing on the varsity basketball team as a senior this year for the Tigers.
“When I’m watching my nephews play I kind of cheer them on, but I can’t say anything when I’m on the clock,” Arnold said. “Especially on the time clock, it is really a big responsibility.”
Arnold devotes most nights every week to operating the clock for varsity basketball games and wrestling matches, which makes keeping a schedule really important.
“I try and meet with our athletic director Jim Rufsholm over the summertime so I have all of my scheduling all set and what I need to do,” Arnold said to ensure his clock operator responsibilities don’t interfere with his day job.
Arnold also helps out at Melrose-Mindoro if he has a night off and they need someone to run the clock, and he even helped train a clock operator for them.
Even though Arnold is very dedicated, sometimes he does have to take a night off.
“I work with a bunch of really great staff members here from the Black River Falls High School to help out on the clock when I’m not here,” Arnold said.
Staying in the game
For most people, keeping track of the points, fouls, buzzer and time clock is hard work. For Arnold, he has created a system that keeps him in the game.
“The thing that really keeps me going in the game is that I actually do a little play-by-play. That keeps me involved in the game,” Arnold said as he provided a little made up play-by-play to drive home his point.
If he gets off somewhere, he also has those on the scorer’s table to keep him in check.
With everything going on, Arnold also has to pay attention to the game and the referees.
“I actually tune everybody out in the crowd because the most important thing I want to make sure is I watch the official because they tell me when to stop the clock and when not to stop it,” Arnold said. “I do what the officials tell me to do and listen for the whistle. Sometimes it gets very noisy inside the gymnasium depending on how big the gymnasium is.”
Even though he does try to tune out the crowd and all the noise, sometimes the crowd does get to him like at the Westby game.
“I have fans that get on me, or even if they don’t like it when I stop the clock with like one second left to go,” Arnold said. “Especially when there is like less than 10 seconds to go and I forgot to turn it on because sometimes it is just a quick second.”
For the love of the game
Even though it is hard being a clock operator sometimes, Arnold keeps doing it because of his love for sports.
Not only is he the clock operator for several sports, but he also records the games for football, is an announcer for baseball and volleyball games and is a certified softball official. One of the first things he ever did with Tiger athletics was helping out the football team as a manager while he was in school.
After his many years with Tiger athletics, there is one player Arnold has enjoyed watching the most.
“For basketball I would say probably when Jack Taylor was here. He was one of the most fun players to watch. A lot of scouts were watching him, and he was a really good player to watch,” Arnold said. “I think that was one of the most fun years to watch.”
For Arnold, being involved in the game is his favorite part and he hopes he gets to continue doing it for a very long time.
“As long as I am still healthy enough and loving everything I am doing, I would love running the clock as many years as I can,” Arnold said.
Even with the important responsibility of being the clock operator, Arnold is planning on intentionally taking one day off this year so he can actually cheer on the team he loves so much.
“This year since I have my last nephew that is in high school, I am actually probably going to take senior night off and sit in the stands with my sister and brother-in-law and cheer on my nephew that night,” Arnold said.