Better judgement needed

I find it a bit ironic that one of my memories on Facebook today involved a story where a team was running up the score. I referred to the move as “classless.” Which it is.

I’m all about sportsmanship. You can win or lose with class. There’s no good reason not to.

I also usually give officials the benefit of the doubt when assessing penalties related to unsportsmanlike conduct.

Usually.

There are times when officials get a little quick-whistled and assess unwarranted penalties. The one that has always stood out in my mind was in the late 90’s. I was at a Warren basketball game and following a timeout, Mike Curran was retrieving the ball. He tried to roll it on his toe and kick it to himself. He misfired and accidentally kicked the ball into the wall. The official blew the whistle and assessed a technical foul. Mike laughed it off, and I honestly don’t remember who won the game.

What happened at Warren Area High School Monday night hardly constituted unsportsmanlike conduct and was appalling on multiple levels.

Warren senior wrestler Liam Stevenson won the final home match of his career in just 34 seconds. Stevenson, shook hands with his opponent, had his hand raised, and before leaving the mat for the last time bent down and gave it a kiss.

Apparently, that warrants unsportsmanlike conduct for wrestlers.

Seriously?

I get trying to contain emotion in an emotional sport, and gestures meant to show up opponents should be assessed the proper penalty.

What Stevenson did hardly warranted the punishment (a deduction of one team point…that cost the Dragons a win in a 33-32 loss to St. Mary’s). Clearly this was a senior saying goodbye to his home mat. Nothing more, nothing less.

This is one of those instances where the official needs to exercise better judgement. Again, I understand the need to keep the match under control, but this went too far. There wasn’t even a warning issued. It was an immediate point deduction for something that was far from unsportsmanlike.

If anything, this was Stevenson showing respect. Respect for the sport, respect for his team and respect for his home school. And the message being sent is that respect should be punished.

It’s not like Stevenson is a repeat offender. If anything, this is the second time in a week I’ve seen Stevenson show ultimate respect.

Against Eisenhower last week, Stevenson and Ethan Chambers battled into overtime. Stevenson earned the decision, and after the match shared an embrace with Chambers. Does this sound like the kind of kid who would try to show up his opponent? No, of course not.

This was one instance of an official being a little quick-whistled and it costing not just the individual, but his team as well. Instead of admitting the mistake, the official doubled-down and yelled back at fans screaming for a reason for the point deduction. It just wasn’t a good look.

After 20 years, Mike has been unseated from atop my personal perch of officiating blunders. This one is going to be hard to top.

And Liam, if you read this, well done, young man. I’d take you on my team any day. You give it your all and you do it with grace and class. Don’t let one horrid call change that.

My hat’s off to you, and best of luck as you wrap up your season.

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