HOUSTON – Opinions are like pillows. We all have at least one. Some are just the way we prefer. Some make your neck hurt.
Opinions on high school sports officiating can be a much worse pain in your neck.
This is not an officiating-bashing column. It’s a hard job and frankly, 99.9 percent of you are usually wrong when you’re sitting in your Walmart foldup doing all that fussing.
But there are times you’re right.
April 25, 2015. Hickory Flat at Greenville St. Joe, a deciding Class 1A playoff Game 3. It’s tied in the bottom of the eighth inning and Hickory Flat coach Andy Dillard goes to the mound to talk with ace Phillip Tatum.
Tatum, the starter, walked the previous batter and Dillard went to discuss bunt strategy on the following nine-hitter. That’s when he was told by the home-plate umpire he’d have to pull Tatum, because he made an illegal mound visit.
Problem is, you get an extra visit per extra inning and that was Dillard’s visit. So the umpire was just wrong, harmfully wrong. Dillard pulled Tatum and St. Joe went on to reach on another controversial bunt and won with a two-out RBI. Now that may have been the result either way, but we don’t know. All we know is Dillard was illegally forced to remove his ace.
Hickory Flat got in touch with the Mississippi High School Activities Association, but without video evidence, as much as I’d like to blame them, there was nothing they could do.
Hickory Flat principal Barry Goolsby wanted to make it very clear he placed zero blame on the MHSAA or St. Joe.
His advice, though, is timeless.
“You need to videotape baseball games. I would advise all baseball coaches to videotape their games,” Goolsby said.
HOUSTON ALMOST DID IN
On a playoff Tuesday at Houston, a called out at first didn’t, but could have easily cost the Hilltoppers a game at the most inopportune time.
Trailing 1-0 in the opener of the North 4A finals, – a trip to the state championship series on the line – Houston looked to have loaded the bases with no outs. But Zack Poteete was called out on a bang-bang play at first.
There is no replay, obviously, but in this case, it was pretty dang obvious without replay he was safe. Houston knew it. Lafayette know it. Everyone knew it, except the first-base umpire.
Now what he saw was an out and maybe he was 100 percent convinced it was so. Scary thing to put big dreams in the hands of human beings.
It means a lot to make a state championship game. Even pros hold these days as high as any in their pro careers. To risk having such dreams squashed by humanity is terrifying.
Houston rallied and won, but that call, for nearly the next three innings, was looming. Officials make mistakes and unfortunately they squash championship dreams.
Though the MHSAA is not to blame for poor officiating, making public repercussion of bad officiating is a good place to start cleaning up its reputation for things it is blamed for. And as Goolsby’s advice holes, videotaped games are the only way to repercuss.
I’ve seen maybe three incidents ever in which I was convinced a team was getting the shaft. It happened to Aberdeen football twice on my watch, once at Mooreville and once at Water Valley. It happened to Baldwyn basketball in the most blatant display of incompetence I’ve ever seen in a state championship game.
Those are unfortunate, but rare. Officials are usually right and fans are usually wrong. Unfortunately when that is reversed, well, it’s just unfortunate. Even when it’s less human error than human brain lapse.
The only way to place the blame, legit or false fan fury, is via videotape.