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Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed • Apr 1, 2017 at 8:30 AM

I didn’t get to see last weekend’s Kentucky-North Carolina regional final, though I heard some of it on my phone and watched the dramatic final 11 seconds on video afterward.

Apparently, some members of Big Blue Nation vented their anger at the officials, specifically John Higgins, whose unlisted home phone number somehow got out there. That phone as well as his business line have been inundated with calls from irate Wildcat fans. Others (or maybe the same ones) got on the Facebook page of his business, writing wrote damaging reviews and posting one-star reviews which prompted him to take the page down altogether.

He’s even received death threats and spent a couple of hours this week huddled with law enforcement for some two hours. Higgins, by the way, is scheduled to work the Final Four this weekend.

Like many of you, I’ve gotten angry with officials while watching a game. I’ve wanted to do things that aren’t nice. I wonder how these guys, who obviously aren’t qualified to work games played by the greatest players in the world, get assigned to this game. These teams worked hard to get here; what did these refs do?

And then, coaches and players who dare publicly, and rightfully, criticize these officials after the game, are censured, reprimanded and fined by their league. Haven’t these guys heard of the First Amendment? If players and coaches have to face the music after a game, shouldn’t the refs?

What happened to John Higgins this week is Exhibit A as to why those procedures are in place.

Kentucky coach John Calipari, who was tagged with a technical foul during the contest, poured gasoline on the smoldering fire with his postgame comments about being in the game despite the officials fouling his whole team out.

As I wrote two and three paragraphs back, I’ve said and thought things I shouldn’t have.

But guess what, I get over it.

Working in this business, I’ve run across many an official/umpire and the vast majority are good people who are trying to do a difficult job to the best of their ability. While the top pro leagues are well-paying full-time (with the exception of the NFL) jobs, from college on down it’s a side occupation which may, or may not, be good money. I’m sure it depends on which tax bracket you’re starting from.

I know a former coach in Wilson County who’s now a principal in another county who’s spent the winter driving around Middle Tennessee officiating high school games and flying all over the eastern United States calling women’s college basketball. I don’t know how he keeps his travel schedule organized or keeps from missing too many days at his regular job.

I doubt the money, no matter how good it may be, is really worth some of the aggravation.

But even though I sometimes may believe the games would be better off without referees, we all know that’s not true. While replay is gaining a bigger foothold in the higher pro and college leagues, we’re not ready for blanket officiating from video at every high school or Little League game, and I’m not sure we ever will. Even the sharpest video images can’t discern every play clearly.

But all that aside. No matter how big and important the UK/UNC game was, it was still just a basketball game. Get over it.

There are plenty of things going on in the real world to get legitimately angry over. Some of you probably have issues in your personal life over which to be deservedly upset.

Calipari himself seems to be moving past it, as all players and coaches must do. He tweeted to Kentucky fans to remain classy even after the loss.

Perhaps he should have said that into the microphone early Sunday evening.

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