It’s Official!

“The referee is going to be the most important person in the ring tonight besides the fighters.”

George Foreman

 

There is so much to talk about dear readers.

First and foremost, let me give some hearty congratulations to the North Carolina Tar Heels on winning the 2017 NCAA Men’s National Basketball Championship. I also want to congratulate their fans, some of whom I count as friends. But they have to admit to breathing a sigh of relief after reading my previous column predicting UNC to lose. What happened last night further cemented my well-earned, self-proclaimed, title of “World’s Worst Prognosticator.” The evidence is there and it’s real.

I said Gonzaga would beat South Carolina and UNC would beat Oregon. I got those right but those two picks were just building blocks to my ultimate projection that the Tar Heels would, for the second straight year, come up short. Not because they aren’t talented, not because they weren’t the better team; simply because they would be out-coached. Well I was wrong. They won AND Mark Few turned out to be as equally inept as Roy Williams (of course having the highly overrated, surprisingly soft, Przemek Zarnowski lay a mammoth egg didn’t help).
In that same column, I opined that it wasn’t whether UConn would win the women’s NCAA title, it was by how much. 20?, 30?, 40?, I sat like a smart ass and typed. Then Mississippi State handed my ass to me.

0 FOR 2 or as my critics might say 100%.
After hoops I turned my attention to golf and went on to say that neither Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, nor Phil Mickelson will be slipping on the green jacket at “toonamint’s” end. How much money do you have? What is your house worth? How close is the nearest pawn shop? If you’re smart, you’ll take it all and divided 4 ways betting a quarter of it on each of those four guys. My track record speaks for itself.

 

Next, if you’ll indulge me, I’d like to address the events of the past 48 hours in which sports fans saw one set of officials do precisely what they are supposed to do and another set achieve the opposite.
I saw a statistic today which read 44 fouls were called in the combined 74 possessions during last night’s NCAA Championship game. That’s like a billion per cent! I watched the game, TRIED to enjoy it but there were so many whistles my dog could have worn a path into the hardwood floor coming and going the room.

And now, from a number of reports,  it appears, with less than a minute left and Carolina up 1, the officials should have blown the whistle, declared the ball out of bounds, and awarded possession to Gonzaga. Instead one of them blew the whistle, declared it a held ball, and awarded possession to UNC. Watching, I was simply shocked they didn’t blow the whistle and call a foul!
A little more than 24 hours before LPGA rules officials received notice that the person leading a golf tournament had breached a rule (two actually) and was deserving of two, two-shot penalties. On live television they assessed those penalties in a timely manner and the contestants played on. Did the way both sets of officials approached doing their job affect the outcome of each competition? Most certainly. Could one of those approaches have been different? Again, most certainly (I’m looking at you zebras!).

Scores of folks are still talking about how each “score” was settled so with tongue slightly less than firmly in cheek I offer up a solution to avoid future disenchantment…
Let’s play the games without referees, rules officials or umpires! After you stop laughing, or shaking your head, indulge me. Why not? We, as kids, did it all the time. We, as adults, on the golf course, in the gym at the Y, or at the baseball diamond and soccer field at the local park, still do. You, and your friends, colleagues, partners, or teammates know if the serve is in or out; if the ball is a strike or not; if the guy driving to the hoop took an extra step; or if you happened not to put your golf ball back in the same place from which you marked it. It’s called the honor system. It’s called sportsmanship. And if one call goes against you or your team the chances are, simply because of the law of averages, the next one will go in your favor. It’s called fairness.
Producers have, in the past, televised an NFL game and a professional golf tournament using no announcers. Why don’t we try showing a game, tournament, or a match with NO officials or referees? I’m not suggesting Game 7 of the World Series, or The Super Bowl, or Wimbledon, or The United States Open Championship, or the NCAA men’s final but why not a Spring Training Game, or a soccer friendly, or a mixed doubles exhibition, or the first half of the NBA All Star Game? (some would say they play that without officials already). Heck, why not the first round of a Web.com Tour event? Many would argue, and actually this week have said, that most of the players in a golf tournament play without the benefit of the watchful eye of a rules official all the time.
Would some participants, in every sport, try and stretch the envelope? Game the system? Out and out cheat? Of course they would, I’m not naïve. But goodness gracious wouldn’t that be illuminating? Wouldn’t that give us all a glimpse into the character of the athletes we follow, like, and, in many cases, want our kids to emulate? Where’s the harm in this type of experiment? Where’s the foul? It could be a ton of fun to watch and an eye-opening social experiment.
In the end, it’s just sports… or at least it’s supposed to be.

About Keith Hirshland

My name is Keith Hirshland and I am a four decades television veteran who has spent time both in front of and behind the camera. During nearly forty years in broadcasting my path has crossed in front of, behind and alongside some of the best in the business... And some of the worst. Many of those people I count as friends while others wouldn't make the effort to spit on me if I was on fire. This television life started early watching my Mom and Dad found, fund and run a local affiliate TV station in Reno, Nevada. As a teenager approaching adulthood I worked for them, first as an on-air sports reporter/anchor and later as a director and producer. Jobs in the industry took me across the country and then to many places around the world. Sports is my passion and putting it on TV has been my business. Production credits include auto racing, baseball, basketball, bowling, college football, field hockey, soccer, volleyball and water polo but the majority of my time "in the chair" since 1990 has been invested in the game of golf with both ESPN and The Golf. Channel ( I was one of the first forty people hired by TGC in 1994 ). I am a fan and I watch TV sports as a fan but I also have hundreds of thousands of hours watching from inside a production truck. I think that makes me qualified to comment, my hope is you agree. I have written two books, Cover Me Boys, I'm Going In (Tales of the Tube from a Broadcast Brat), a memoir that is a tribute to my parents, the hard working, creative people who started ESPN2 and The Golf Channel and a look back at my life in television. My second book is a novel, Big Flies, and is a mystery that tells the story of a father and a son with four of the world's most notorious unsolved robberies as a backdrop. I look forward to sharing new thoughts about golf, golf television, sports in general and the broadcast industry with you. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. They are not connected to nor endorsed by any other person, association, company or organization.
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