Saturday Morning Quarterback

Andy Reed • Apr 9, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Due to production complications at the paper Monday night, I didn’t get to see the national championship game, though I did get a break just in time other the Westwood One radio call of Villanova’s buzzer-beating three-pointer which won the title for the Wildcats.

Later, I saw the replay of said shot as well as the circus shot by North Carolina just a few seconds earlier. The overnight news shows were asking if this was the greatest championship game ever.

Understandably, Tar Heel Nation doesn’t consider it the greatest game ever. And one fan has taken it upon himself to start an online petition urging the NCAA to overturn the results. As of Thursday afternoon, a few hundred had signed on. And considering UNC basketball is a national brand, I don’t doubt it’s probably in the thousands by now. As a public service, the petition is available at www.change.org.

The fan, Michael Kline, doesn’t address the winning three by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins, which will go alongside walk-off World Series-winning home runs by Bill Mazeroski and Joe Carter as moments which will be remembered a thousand years from now if the sports world stands. He talks about the officiating being incredibly one-sided in favor of the Wildcats. He says fouls called on Carolina weren’t called on ‘Nova, which allegedly committed several traveling violations which also weren’t called. He also calls on the association to investigate the officials.

Kline has agreement from some in the media - not concerning the petition, but in agreement on the officiating.

I can’t comment on the officiating since I didn’t see the game, and I didn’t care who won. I just hate it I missed the game. As an aside, a college class project forced me to miss Villanova’s ’85 championship game, which also constantly gets brought up. Otherwise, I think I’ve been able to watch at least part of every title game since 1978.

Anyhoo, this petition is a reflection of this country’s over-litigious society. Feel wronged? Something didn’t turn out how you thought it should? Sue somebody. In the case of a sporting event, hopefully every judge in the country would laugh this possible lawsuit right out of court. And the NCAA will do the same thing.

The only way the NCAA will do about this game is take away the title if Villanova is found to have used ineligible players. Otherwise, what happened on the court will stay on the court.

There has been bad officiating since sports were invented. There will be a thousand years from now, even if everything is handed automatically by instant replay. I watch replays of calls now and wonder how officials in football and baseball make some of the calls they do even after watching, presumably, the same replay I just did.

I will admit I have felt angry for a team or player (sometimes one I was rooting for and sometimes one I wasn’t but who I felt was cheated) and felt bad things should happen to the crooks in the striped shirts who should wear that pattern full time behind bars or on a work detail.

But you know what? I get over it.

Starting a petition to overturn a result is petty and sour grapes. It would be far worse if those drives were actually acted on. Officiating is such an inexact science and a matter of opinion. If results were overturned based on the perception of bad judgement calls, we would wonder if, at the end of the game, the team we saw win the game would be allowed to keep the victory. What would be the point of watching?

If the petitioners thought the referees on the floor decided the game, what would be so different if it was being decided in a hearing room somewhere?

I’ve never officiated. But I don’t doubt the job isn’t as easy as it looks, even on the occasions when it looks difficult. Officials undergo training. But the human element will always be there. And as tempting as it is to say instant replay is the cure to all problems, be careful what you wish for.

Leagues go to great lengths to protect officials, and rightly so. I do think they go a bit far in punishing players and coaches who publicly criticize refs. As a journalist, it flies in the face of my free speech beliefs.

Coaches generally do have a channel to go through to air their beefs behind closed doors. And the officials have to answer to those leagues - behind closed doors (with the notable exception of the football officiating crew at last fall’s Duke-Miami game which was promptly suspended for allegedly missing several calls on Corn Elder’s riveting kick return at the end).

Those closed doors are a problem. We never hear from the refs on why they called what they did. Coaches and players at the highest levels have to face the music from the press and public after a game. Why do officials get to hide behind closed doors?

It would also be nice if the leagues would reveal more about the officials before the game. Their names may be announced and, if you’re a real aficionado, you might know what conferences they regularly work and have an opinion of their work. But what about their qualifications? How are they selected? We know how the teams got to the championship game, but how did those three officials?

Fans always yell to the officials, “How much are (the other team) paying you?” I’m less concerned with how much than by whom.

On second thought, part of that petition may be valid after all.

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