Saturday, October 14, 2006

If it were me...

I was going to avoid blogging about this, but it's become such a national story that I couldn't resist weighing in on Matewan High School coach Yogi Kinder's decision to leave a senior running back (whose name I won't use...I don't want to reward this butthole coach's tactics one iota) in a blowout game to set a national rushing record. The player ran for a record 658 yards and 10 touchdowns as Matewan blew out its obviously overmatched opponents 64-0.

Incredibly, it was even worse than it sounded in early reports. Matewan ran a no-huddle offense in the second half. They ordered their punt returners not to return punts, but to let the ball roll...to set up more possible rushing yards for the player.

Kinder demonstrated just about every ugly aspect of human nature. Seriously: check out the quotes in the very good Washington Post story.

There was a similar game last year in my sport of girls' basketball, when another butthole coach, Ed Grezinsky of Murry Bergtraum High in Manhattan, kept a player in to score a record 113 points in a 137-32 victory.

I've officiated horrible blowouts. I remember one that was something like 85-10. It was a JV game in my second year of officiating--the eventual 1A state champions against a rural school that didn't have any kids who could handle the ball. The coach took off the press at halftime (when they were leading by whatever ungodly amount), but the losing team's point guards would look at the ball as they dribbled. They'd get across halfcourt, and their defenders would swat the ball away and run upcourt for an uncontested layup. They must have scored 12 straight points that way. I wanted the winning coach to tell his kids to back off, play a zone, focus on rebounding, or something other than continue the humiliation.

For the most part, I'm not sure there's anything an official can do in such situations. I would have called any contact whatsoever a foul against the winning team on those steals--you bet your butt. But there wasn't any contact, I can't invent fouls. Just because the coach has no integrity doesn't mean I get to lose mine.

But an ESPN columnist, Greg Easterbrook, wrote this last week, and it's making me think:

The National Federation of High Schools 2006 Football Rules Book states, in Section 9, Article 3, "Neither team shall commit any act which, in the opinion of the referee, tends to make a travesty of the game." The head official present was derelict in not stopping the turning of the game into a travesty. Rule 9.3 is the most sweeping in football -- violation can be punished by "any penalty the referee considers equitable," from multiple flags per down to forfeiture of the contest. Yet the officials did nothing, allowing the integrity of the game to be mocked.

There is a similar rule in NFHS basketball.

Under what circumstances would I enforce the "travesty" rule?

I'm trying to imagine options if I'm the referee for the Matewan game. Do I go to butthole Kinder and say: "You will take your player out. Right now"? No, I don't. I'm not into making substitutions.

Do I force him to make his kids return punts? Maybe. If it's obvious that they're doing letting the punt roll for the sole purpose of giving their kid more rushing yards, that's not in the spirit of the game. I might flag an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty...but of course, if it's assessed after the punt (as I assume it would be), that would actually work to the advantage of butthole Kinder, since it would give his kid more rushing yards.

What about the no-huddle? The no-huddle is clearly not a strategic choice here; it's only intended to run up the score. It feels like an obvious "travesty" flag to me. But again, I'm stuck figuring out the rule. Does West Virginia run the clock under the mercy rule? Because if they don't, throwing a flag stops the clock, which works to Matewan's advantage. Backing them up 15 yards also works to Matewan's advantage. But if the clock is running, I suppose the ref could throw the flag and encourage the opponents to decline the penalty. While Butthole Kinder bitches about it (which a man of his limited morality clearly would), let the clock run!

What about a forfeit? No. That's like a nuclear weapon: we don't want to go there. That would punish the kids' deserved victory for the coach being a turd. I'm not comfortable taking away a win for that, or even threatening to (because you know Butthole Kinder would call my bluff).

So, in the end, there are few good options for the refs in such difficult situations, and while I'm glad ESPN's Easterbrook wrote what he did--it made me think--I think he's too hard on the officials. I'm simply can't come up with an effective and fair way for the officials to stop what happened. All of my ideas, which were developed over a couple of days of thinking, are far from perfect, and I doubt I'd be able to come up with them under pressure and on the spot.

Sometimes, I guess, the bad guys win, and we can't stop 'em.

12 Comments:

At 6:36 AM, Anonymous massref said...

As soon you mentioned Matewan, I wondered if you'd read about it in Easterbrook's column. TMQ is one of only two sites that I must check on a regular basis. (The other is an officiating website.) TMQ's football analysis is pretty darn good, he's funny, and he doesn't confine himself to football.

And I, too, thought that he was too hard on the officials. Unless you're prepared to forfeit the game, there's nothing you can do. You can't dictate tactics to a team.

I would hope that a state's athletic association might look into it from a sportsmanship aspect. I believe that CT has actually enacted penalties for any coach that wins by more than a certain number of points.

And while I certainly emphathize with those who claim that blowouts are the only time that the scrubs get to play, I think the benefits of a running clock far outweigh the drawbacks.

 
At 10:07 AM, Blogger TeacherRefPoet said...

Absolutely. Run the damn clock!

I'm not thrilled with the punitive nature of Connecticut's rule, however. It seems to me that a 50-point-win should be cause for a team to look into the game, not an automatic penalty. -Sports Illustrated- mentioned a coach that was legitimately trying to stay under a 50-point lead, but his third-string running back ran for a touchdown on an off-tackle play. I don't think a coach should be penalized for this. Neither did the losing coach in that game, whose appeal led CT not to suspend the winning coach.

 
At 4:57 AM, Blogger tommyspoon said...

Aren't you guys supposed to be neutral? Why should you care if Team A is stomping the bejezzus out of Team B? Don't get me wrong; these kind of stories really get my goat. But short of officials changing the very character of the game, I don't think there's anything that can be done. Except maybe giving the coaches a class on civility.

 
At 11:36 AM, Blogger Blogging Ref said...

Spoon,

Your attack on my integrity confuses me. (And yes, "aren't you guys supposed to be neutral?" is an attack upon any official's integrity.) The whole point of the post is that there's very little to be done. I come to the same conclusion in the post as you do in the comment. So what's with the attack?

As far as "why should we care," well, officials are there to care about the rules. This post was about the "travesty of the game" rule, which Matewan undeniably was guilty of violating with their no-huddle offense and refusal to return punts. But, to reiterate my point, the "travesty" rule doesn't appear to have a sensible way of being enforced, as both massref, me, the game officials in WV, and, most notably, -you- have concluded.

Have you visited www.nvfoa.com yet?

 
At 12:38 PM, Blogger tommyspoon said...

I am not attacking you.

 
At 2:47 PM, Blogger Blogging Ref said...

Accusing an official of not having neutrality is pretty serious, even if you don't intend it that way. It's probably the worst accusation you can make. I know it's in a hypothetical, and I know you're not angry, but "aren't you guys supposed to be neutral?" is a big deal. A 10 on a scale of 1 to 10.

I'm not angry about it, just confused how we got to "you're not neutral."

 
At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm just a fan who happens to live in Mingo County, WV. For what it's worth in the aftermath, the Gilbert Lions, a huge rival of the Matewan Tigers, held McCoy to only 63 yards this past Friday night. Personally, I'm glad for the kid that he can tell his grandchildren he set a rushing record. However, from what I hear, he's a nice kid, and after all that's been said (even though it's about the coach and not the kid) I wonder if he will tell his grandchildren about the circumstances of the record. It's a tough situation for a teenager to face--caught between the press about his record and the press about his coach. In other words, the coach's tactics hurt his own player as much, if not more, than it did the coach. After all, this coach has had negative press in the past, too.
As for the referees, I think that 99.9% of the time they do their best to keep control of the game, to promote sportsmanship, and to be neutral by calling only what they see and can attest to. If the bloggers here come up with an idea for handling this situation, I'd love to know about it. I know the Gilbert coach got upset with one of his third-stringers for scoring in a lopsided game once, and the kid said he didn't know what else to do. The coach patted him on the back and told him to try not to score anymore. It's a difficult situation at best. And just one more fan here thinks that running the clock in this situation is a good idea and is a start. However, there will always be glory-seeking coaches who will do "whatever it takes". Why aren't there classes for coaches and even players to promote sportsmanship??

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger Blogging Ref said...

Anon--

I was in your part of the country, including in Matewan, this past July. That's a gorgeous part of the world you live in.

Your points are on the money. There's not a lot for a ref to do in these cases, even though I think reasonable people agree that Matewan and its coach made a travesty of the game.

Pass along my thanks to Gilbert High for me. I'm glad somebody beat Matewan. I only wish it were in a way that could embarrass Kinder without embarrassing his players.

 
At 6:56 PM, Anonymous massref said...

BR said, "I'm not angry about it, just confused how we got to "you're not neutral." "

I don't think Tommy ever said or meant to imply "you're not neutral". He meant to say, "You guys are neutral, right? Why do you care what the margin of victory is?"

I don't speak for Tommy; that's just the impression I got.

 
At 6:31 AM, Blogger Blogging Ref said...

Mass--

Upon reflection, you're probably right.

Spoon--

Upon reflection, he's probably right. I was likely out of line.

--BR

 
At 10:43 AM, Blogger tommyspoon said...

BR,

Apology accepted. And special thanks to massref for cutting through my sarcasm.

I do apreciate the discussion, BR, but since there seems to be nothing that officials can do about this situation I suggest turning your energies toward other issues that you can deal with. Probably make you happier in the long run...

 
At 6:54 PM, Blogger Blogging Ref said...

Thanks for that--but I do think that asking "what would I do if faced with the travesty rule?" is an important thing to do. 'Cos I might be someday.

 

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