Opinion

After Further Review, Get Out Of My Courtroom

John Steigerwald Contributor

There are life lessons that kids, who are involved in youth sports, can learn. That’s the good news. The bad news is that sometimes the lessons send the wrong message.

The coaches at Douglass High School in Oklahoma sent the wrong message to their kids when they went to court to get the results of a state football playoff game reversed.

Douglass was behind Locus Grove 20-19 and on its own 42 when Qua’Sean Sims caught a screen pass and ran up the sideline for an apparent touchdown, but while he was running, a Douglass coach ran down the sideline and bumped into an official.

Douglass was penalized 5 yards and the touchdown was called back. The referee blew it.

An automatic 5-yard penalty was the right call, but the rule book says it should be enforced after the touchdown.

Douglas lost 20-19 and Locus Grove advanced to the state semi-final, but not before the game was delayed for a week while a judge ruled on Douglass’ appeal to have the game replayed or at least resumed after counting what should have been the winning touchdown.

It wasn’t just the coaches who believed that a court should intervene in the outcome of a high school football game.

After the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association said the referees mistake was inexcusable but that it was prevented by state and national bylaws from protesting the game, Oklahoma City public school officials got Judge Bernard M. Jones II of District Court in Oklahoma City to issue a restraining order preventing Locus Grove from playing in the state semi-final.

The attorneys for Douglass argued that the OSSAA acted arbitrarily and capriciously in denying Douglass’ petition to overturn the result.

Maybe you can find a lawyer to tell you why the judge didn’t throw the case out of court, but the big problem is with the Douglass coaches who refused to accept the loss and took it to court.

What’s next, asking a judge to overturn the result of a Little League baseball game based on the video on somebody’s cell phone?

Fortunately, Judge Jones ordered that Locus Grove’s win over Douglass will stand: “While mindful of the frustrations of the young athletes who feel deprived…it borders on the unreasonable…to think this court more equipped or better qualified than (OSSAA) to decide the outcome of any portion of a high school football game.”

In other words, “Rub dirt on it and get back in there and play.”

As difficult as it may be for some people to believe, there was a time when an official’s ruling was final.

The technology didn’t exist that made it possible to see an instant replay.

And the technology was around a long, long time before the NFL became the first major professional league to allow calls to be overturned based on video review.

CBS introduced instant replay in 1963. Major League Baseball waited 50 years before deciding to use it to overturn umpires’ calls.

Living with the human errors made by human officials was a part of sports.

The first lesson for the kids on the Douglass football team should have been that it’s only football and that football and life are not always fair.

The second lesson should have been that the secret to not being the victim of bad calls is to play well enough to overcome them. Try not to be one point behind with a minute to go.

For as long as sports have been played, coaches have been telling their players that one play or one bad call rarely decides a game.

Instead, the Douglass coaches sent the message to their kids that, in the 21st century, instant replay is always there to protect you and there is nothing that happens to you that a lawsuit can’t overturn.

Pittsburgh ex-TV sportscaster, columnist and talk show host John Steigerwald is the author of the Pittsburgh sports memoir, “Just Watch The Game.” Follow him on Twitter.