Loran - Smith
As the seconds evaporated from the scoreboard clock in the Mercedes Dome in Atlanta a little more than a month ago, I watched Kirby Smart, bitterly disappointed, stride across the playing field with measured alacrity to congratulate Alabama’s Nick Saban on victory.
Already, even while nearing the entrance to the Bulldog locker room, I was hearing fans talk about “getting robbed.” They saw that the television crew failed to replay an Alabama pass reception which appeared to have been dropped but ruled a catch. A former network announcer sent a text my way, “You guys got screwed.” What did Kirby do? He took the high road which he always does. That was the way it was in 2017 when Tyler Simmons blocked a ‘Bama punt and the Big Ten officiating crew flagged him for being offsides. The crew later admitted they had missed the call.
The following Monday, following the heartbreaking loss, I flew with Kirby to Charlotte for a trophy presentation by the American Football Coaches Association. On the way up he was lamenting the outcome of the play. He and the coaches had underscored with the greatest emphasis with Simmons that the opportunity was there, but he simply could not be offsides.
Kirby’s position today is the same as it was a half dozen years ago. The game was over. The score would never change. No amount of carping or evidence will ever change it.
Ole timers in Tuscaloosa may claim that Pat Hodgson’s knees were on the ground in Sanford Stadium in 1965 on the heralded flea-flicker play that led to the classic upset of Alabama between the hedges on national television.
The Georgia position on that call was that the rule said that for any catch to be legal there had to be “possession and control.” Conclusion was that if the ball had fallen to the turf, it would have been an incomplete pass.
One of the most controversial rulings in SEC history came in the 1966 Florida-Florida State game when a Seminole pass receiver named Lane Fenner caught a touchdown pass that would have won the game, but an official ruled Fenner was out of bounds.
After the game, FSU partisans produced still photos that confirmed Fenner was well in bounds. Did Bill Peterson, the Seminole coach ever howl and gripe! He carried those still photos about in his brief case and took great delight in showing you how his team was done in by a dastardly i official, who “blew the call.” It is still talked about in Tallahassee today, butthescorehasneverchanged. It remains in the record books as a Florida victory.
Taking the high road is the smart thing to do, which is a Kirby mantra. You don’t replay games. It is interesting that with all the clamoring for a replay system—and that when we got it in place—that we can’t get the kinks worked out. Why do the officials not err on the side of caution more often. My view is that as long as we have the human element involved, we will continue to have these controversies. continued from page
In the meantime, when you are the one who becomes the hit dog, it is best not to holler, to shout out to the media and social media. Take the high road and work behind the scenes to improve the system.
If you are a competitor, you are always working to find a way to win. Anything that will give you an advantage, you will explore to the fullest. When it doesn’t work out, you are disappointed and/or mad. Then you have to walk across the field and face your adversary with a victory handshake.
That is when some people do dumb things. Make the wrong statement, come with an insult or commentary that brings about regret. Nothing will change the score, which is why those who take the high road are the ones who manage the best.
The classiest of the vanquished over the years have been golfers. They learn at the outset to underscore courtesy and manners. The coach who was most magnanimous in defeat for many years was Bobby Dodd of Georgia Tech. Bear Bryant was given to magnanimity throughout his career. Vince Dooley belonged to that fraternity.
I have long held the view that the Georgia coach is one of the smartest out there, but with the way he handles such things as officiating faux pas, he has become one of the classiest.