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Posted: November 7, 2009 5:29 p.m.

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Not every Tom, Dick and Harry should be an official

Editor's note: Bumpkin Stew is twisted look at the truth. Where truth cannot be told, there is sarcastic speculation. If you do not agree with what's written, you may deny the truth in it's simplest form. That, my friends, is on you. Take it for what it's worth. That's all I ask.


Seldom as a journalist have I been at a loss for words. But sitting in the back seat of Eastside head coach Rick Hurst’s Mountaineer, watching the final 3:48 of the Eagles’ game at Franklin County Friday night — with Hurst and defensive coordinator Jason Tester in the front seat, that’s exactly what happened. No words. Quiet amongst the three of us. Then, during the two hour drive back, I pondered what unfolded in front of me and the words you are about to read came to me. Allow me to digress.

Eastside defeated Franklin County 22-20 to finish the region schedule at 7-0. That was expected. But something inexcusable happened during the game. Something the Georgia High School Association is embarrassed about today. The officiating crew became God.

I know your names but for the sake of nothing other than I don’t care to print them, I’m going to refer to you as Tom, Dick (the side judge) and Harry (the official on the other side that kept calling holding even though he had such poor angles each time, the calls were more like suggestions). We’ll call the head official (the guy in the white hat) Tom.

Tom’s crew ejected both Tester and Hurst after calling two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on each. This is equivalent to a basketball coach getting tossed for receiving two technical fouls.

I had to just explain that to you because it’s something that never happens, let alone twice in one game. You probably have a better chance of winning the Mega Millions. But it happened. As a result, both coaches won’t get to participate in the playoff game Friday.

The game went pretty smoothly in the first half. Like they’ve done all year, the Eagles came out and looked to pound another Region 8-AAA opponent into early submission. Everything was going to plan and Eastside led 22-0 at halftime. But then something happened at halftime. Since I wasn't in the officials' locker room, I have no idea what, if anything was said. I can only speculate. Perhaps it went something like this.

Tom: "Well guys, Eastside is up 22-0. I’m about sick of this metro Atlanta team embarrassing all of the teams in Region 8-AAA. We have to do something."

Harry: "Well what do you reckon we do? Franklin has no chance."

Tom: "I know. But we have to do something."

Dick: "Well we can just start calling stuff. Maybe that will help Franklin out."

Tom: "Maybe. But it’s probably going to take more than that. This team hasn’t been scored on in three weeks and nobody can stop them. Even the crew at the Stephens County game couldn’t pull it off."

Harry: "What if we threw out the head coach? Then that would hose them for their playoff game?"

Tom: "Now we’re talking. Okay, let’s see if we can get them on a quick sideline penalty then bait them into "forcing us" to throw a flag. From there we can just mess with their heads and kindly escort them back to Newsham County. "

Harry: "It’s Newnan County."

Tom: "Whatever [reaches for his penalty flag, then hesitates before puckering his nose]."

Dick: [interrupts Tom] "Sounds good to me. I’ll see you guys back out there."

Now I have no idea what those guys talked about at halftime but wouldn't you know it, things changed immediately. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for the flags to fly. In fact, there were more yellow flags in the air than footballs in the second half. And they weren’t even for the play on the field.

Hurst picked up a penalty for questioning a call. As soon has that flag flew, Tester gave his two cents [about the call on Hurst] and was flagged too. At this point, the referees didn’t even care about what was happening on the field. Instead, Tom, Dick and Harry were engrossed in this back-and-forth with the Eastside coaches.

So immediately following Tester’s penalty for questioning Hurst’s penalty, he was flagged again, this time for questioning his penalty. Okay, let’s recap. Hurst is flagged, then one play. Tester is flagged, then flagged again. No play happened. Exit Tester stage left.

About this time, a legitimate referee would have known the game was completely out of hand. A good referee — heck, a man with any dignity would have stopped play and talked to each coach [by the way, Franklin wasn’t so much as warned for a sideline violation. In fact, I never saw Tom look that way the entire second half. He was fixated on Hurst the entire game] and clearly explained there was to be no more back-and-forth. Instead Tom, Dick and Harry kept going, penalty flags holstered and ready.

In the meantime, Tester’s ejection and all the Tom Foolery on the sidelines had an adverse affect of the way Eastside played from then on. Franklin County scored twice and the Eagles were beginning to show signs of frustration.

After Franklin County’s second touchdown, Eastside began moving the ball with ease once again. Then came a flurry of penalties. Two long runs for first downs were called back because of holding. The Eagles ended up missing a field goal.

Now Franklin County went on a drive and was aided by Eastside penalties. One of them was an offside on fourth down. All of these calls were subjective and are acceptable. Fishy? Yes. But it is what it is. That’s part of the game and Big Brother will sort that out too. So Franklin scores again but misses the two-point conversion.

What Eastside needed was a big play and who better to provide that than Git Aiken. The senior took the ensuing kickoff 65 yards down to the Franklin County 22 but wait, an illegal block in the back penalty brought that back. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse, Hurst was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty — his second of the game, and was ejected. There was less than five minutes in the game. Are you serious? Can you not just swallow your whistle for five more minutes? You’ve kicked out the D coordinator and ruined his week, can you not just bear whatever the head coach says [as long as he isn’t cursing you out or talking about your mom — which he wasn’t] and be a man and walk away one time?

Not Tom, Dick and Harry. Remember the God complex? Tom wanted to play God. His de facto disciples — stooges if you will, were loyal to a fault.

I know what Hurst said and it was along the lines of everything else that was said all night — or all season for that matter. Never was there any profanity and other than some barking and complaining, none of what the coaches said warranted anything close to what happened. It begs the question, four penalties against coaches and two ejections in one game after none in either’s careers prior — ever, is that possible?

One could say that after the first flag, Hurst should have gathered his coaches and himself included and put the gag order out. In athletics, good umpires and officials will warn coaches and give them some leeway. It’s then up to the coaches to do their part. These guys lost control right away and never had the intelligence or character to get it turned around. Tester wasn’t even given an opportunity to check himself. How are you going to ring a guy up for questioning the original call? In legal terms that’s called double jeopardy and there are laws protecting people from precisely the same thing.

A referee’s job is to call a fair game within the confines of the rules. Nowhere in the white book does it say where you interject your ego and make the game about you. Your job as an official is to be a mirage. You are not a part of the game. If you want to be a part of the game, go find a job coaching.

Fortunately, once the GHSA reviews the game film, it will have no choice but to hold the officials accountable. It’s all on tape. GHSA officials will see how much attention Tom and Dick pay toward the Eastside coaches. It probably won’t be enough to get Hurst and Tester back on the sidelines for this week’s playoff game, but at the very least, if there is any justice, these guys will flunk their end of the season reviews and won’t be around to do this again.

GHSA officials will talk to Tom, Dick and Harry and believe what they say because you can’t hear otherwise on the film so the suspensions will probably stand. If these guys are consistent, they’ll say Tester and Hurst used inappropriate language and that is the reason they were tossed but I’m sorry to say, that ain’t the way it went down. See I pride myself on telling it like it is. Tom, Dick and Harry enjoyed what they did. Like 5-year-old children that snatch their toys away from another child at day care. They took it upon themselves to be a part of that game. These guys have no character so what’s to stop them from lying to Big Brother? It wasn’t about the kids anymore. These guys didn’t care about the kids.

Lost in it all was a very good game. You won’t catch me calling out referees for making bad calls on the field. That’s not what this is about. So penalties [on the players] aside, the two teams played a competitive game. Aiken was a stud as usual, rushing for more than 100 yards and three touchdowns. Califf Carnes was knocked out of the game in the first half after taking a shot to the head and the defense made a game saving stand on the goal line on the final two point conversion. All of that was lost in the selfishness of the officiating crew.

Friday night’s game was a black eye for high school officials. Even Franklin County’s AD was miffed. He couldn’t believe it — said he’d never seen anything like it in all his years. I’ve never seen a more gross misuse of power in my 36 years [30 or so as a cognitive being]. For whatever reason — bitterness toward Eastside for coming in and throttling every team in Region 8-AAA the past two years and making a mockery of the schools up north, disdain for living in an area where the smell of manure or dead chickens or whatever it is in the air makes you constantly check your shoes to see if you stepped in something — whatever it is, Tom, Dick and Harry proved how self-destructive the human race can be.

The GHSA has much to ponder. What does it do with Tom, Dick and Harry? What does it do for a school that won seven straight games and is playing as well as any in the state but now suddenly finds itself without two of its key leaders? What about the kids? What about the seniors that turned a 1-2 team around and did what they were supposed to do to lead their team to a possible state championship run?

Tom, Dick and Harry, you will be held accountable. If not this week by the GHSA, someday down the road by someone else. People of poor character get theirs in the end. You think you pulled a fast one but all you did is show yourself to all those fans and players on each side. You think the Franklin County coaches have any trust in you now?

You may have kept Hurst and Tester out of the first round, but this team plans on being around for more than one playoff game — kind of like it did last year. You remember, last year when Eastside won the region and was the only team from Region 8-AAA that made it out of the first round of the playoffs? Maybe that burns at you. Maybe you don’t care about any of that. Maybe you just like playing God. Whatever the case, in the end, you lost and you failed. You seek omnipotence without respecting the responsibility it brings. That’s why you lose. You have to shake coaches’ hands knowing they see right through you.

Eastside's kids fought through it all. They won. And other than advising Hurst and Tester to go buy a lottery ticket after the cards they were dealt, I was almost at a loss for words. Like I said, almost.

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