To the point week of 02-21-08


SOME GENERAL THOUGHTS that I can’t help but think about as winter moves along:

– Many fans of high school sports have been interested in the developments surrounding the Southwestern Lady Rebels concluding their season on Saturday night against Heritage Christian in the Batesville Regional.

Heritage Christian, the number one ranked team in Class 2A, defeated Southwestern to claim the regional crown, but that’s only the beginning of the story.

After the game, Southwestern coach Donna Cheatham called into question the motives of the three officials who worked the championship game. She was quoted in the Monday, February 18th issue of The Madison Courier as saying:

“These girls work for 10 or 12 years to reach this point and its taken away from them in one shot,” said the Hall of Fame coach. “Those officials were either stupid or they were on the take. Nobody who watched that game could say that those officials were on the up-and-up. The same thing happened last year and it isn’t just me that feels this way. When other officials come up to you and say you got the shaft, it should say something. There are good people who will not do this anymore because of crap like that and something needs to be done.”

The “last year” that Cheatham referred to came during the regional semifinal against the same Heritage Christian squad. In that game, Southwestern trailed by only one with 15 seconds left and desperately tried to foul in order to stop the clock. On two separate occasions, Rebel players grabbed Eagle jerseys without a call before an official whistled an intentional foul that essentially ended the game.

A year ago, Cheatham felt like her team was on the short-end of the stick, but she held her tongue. Saturday, she fired away.

“(The officials) were either stupid or they were bribed,” she said.

Now I don’t know Darren Wright, Brian Humphrey, or Craig McCarty, the three officials who were assigned by the IHSAA to work the championship game, but I do know that the integrity of these three men has been directly challenged.

Not only has the integrity of the three men been called into question – according to Coach Cheatham they are, at best, “stupid”; at worst, “recipients of bribes”; but because the Indiana High School Athletic Association assigns the referees to each tournament game, the very integrity of the entire tournament has been called into question.

If the IHSAA is, as the coach hints, manipulating the outcome of games to reach desired results, then where does it stop? Should all coaches who lose a game send a game tape to the IHSAA offices for review? Would it make any difference, because apparently they would be sending evidence to the very organization that created the conspiracy?

As of the writing of this column, the story written about the game in The Indianapolis Star had a total of 74 comments by readers posted to it. Most of those comments come from people who say that they live in places as far away as Florida, but apparently they were in attendance at the game.

Comments have battled back and forth about how fair or unfair it is for a team to recruit players in order to make it more competitive (Heritage Christian); the sportsmanship of the players; and the fairness of the officials.

As I read all of the posts, many of which chose to make personal attacks rather than valid points, I was drawn on Monday evening to a story that was posted on the website, but not in the sports section.

The story involved Michael R. Schenkel, a 16-year old sophomore at Carmel High School.

Seems that Michael was on his way home from school when he turned his Nissan into the path of a concrete mixer, with the impact throwing Michael’s car across the median and into the path of another vehicle.

I don’t know anything about Michael Schenkel other than what I’ve just told you, but I do know that his death put all of this into perspective for me.

Folks, no matter how high your expectations are for your favorite high school team; no matter how devastated or cheated you feel when they lose; every member of the Southwestern Lady Rebel basketball team got home safely last Saturday night.

They woke up on Sunday, probably still emotional and depressed over their loss – but they got up and they went about their business. They went to school on Monday, and they accepted hugs from classmates and they went to class and they began to think about how they might support the Rebel boys’ team as it begins Sectional play.

There is no age requirement on those Indy Star postings, but far and away the majority of them are from adults. Back and forth they all go, debating this call or this event.

High school athletics is its own monster because adults have demanded that it be so. Kids now play a single sport all year around, and we as parents spend hundreds of dollars hauling them to various tournaments and competitions because we think that’s what they want.

But what happens in the end is that our children ultimately face defeat – justly or unjustly – and instead of consoling them; adults spew venom at anyone and everyone who they feel is responsible.

Sometimes, you just lose the game.

No matter how much it may hurt to say that.

I don’t know if the IHSAA will investigate this game or the comments made about it. I don’t know if the Indiana Officials Association will speak its mind about the matter.

What I do know is that Michael Schenkel’s parents are burying their son today. I’m sure they really don’t care who wins or doesn’t win a sporting event.