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Saturday Morning Quarterback
Apr 03, 2007 12:00 am
Covering the Girls State Tournament years ago, the losing coach of the team I was covering was very emotional and nearly in tears after the game, complaining how the officiating cost her team the game.
That was an extreme case of a coach taking her case public. Other coaches often feel the same way, though they normally keep their complaints off the record. After all, they don't want to burn bridges with the referees they may see again.
Major college conferences and pro leagues have rules against publicly criticizing officials with violators subject to censure and fines. But you can be sure they're burning the ears of their league's officiating supervisors. As one official told me before going out to whistle a region final, he was about to learn about his ancestry.
So it was refreshing to read Kevin Stallings' quote after his Vanderbilt team lost to Georgetown on a basket in the final seconds of their NCAA regional semifinal last week. The Hoyas' Jeff Green apparently traveled before scoring the go-ahead basket with 2.5 seconds left. There was no call and the CBS announcers made no mention of Green's shuffling his feet at the time. And watching the game live, I didn't notice anything amiss.
But by the time the Associated Press ran the game story, Green's non-traveling call was in the lead. And I could overhear the TV studio announcers talking about the play and one of them saying it was definitely a travel.
Stallings, to his credit, didn't want to ruin Georgetown's moment, even as his Commodores' season had just been abruptly terminated at the end of a terrific game.
"I'm certainly not going to take away from the dignity of this game," Stallings was quoted as saying. "I haven't seen the replay. Don't care to. He made a great shot."
Vanderbilt forward Ross Neltner was also not eager to beat a horse which was just coming to life.
"I didn't really see anything," Neltner said. "We'll watch the tape, but it's inconsequential at this point."
Watching the replay, yeah, he may have been quilty of the sin of shuffling. But those non-calls occur all the time. And other times they're called just as often. The officials would have been just as criticized in other quarters for deciding the game if they had blown their whistle at that moment.
But it was refreshing to see Stallings and the Commodores, even in the immediate aftermath of the heat of battle, graciously giving Georgetown credit for the victory and not blaming the referees for their loss, though it would have been very tempting.
It was a great game, the Hoyas made one more shot and it was over. End of story.
I wonder how excited the Westwood One radio play-by-play announcer was over the finish.
Listening to the end of North Carolina's overtime collapse against Georgetown in the regional final two days later, I thought I was listening to the Hoya Radio Network. He [and I don't know his name] was so excited about Georgetown's comeback as the Tar Heels suddenly couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.
Westwood One is the network which broadcasts the NCAA tournament. It even uses the same jingle as CBS TV.
But the color analyst was by far the more professional of the two announcers. And the color man's name? John Thompson II. Big John had reason to jump up and down as it was his son's team which had just barged its way into the Final Four. You could tell Thompson II was proud of his son, but he expressed it in a way that wasn't disrepectful to the Tar Heels. After all, he's been in both shoes.
But the play-by-play man hollared like he was president of the Georgetown fan club or alumni association. Big John isn't a professional announcer, but he could have taught his broadcasting partner a lesson in decorum.
Just as Kevin Stallings and the Commodores taught us all an uplifting lesson in sportsmanship.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 17 or by e-mail at email@example.com.