There are certain happenings in the sports world that make us wonder.
One of those came for me in the quarterfinals of the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA state soccer playoffs, when Greenbrier's boys played host to Centennial on May 7.
Let me preface this by saying I was not there that day, so I did not see what happened. That being said, when I heard about the game, the situation seemed a bit strange.
With the Wolfpack trailing 2-1, a penalty was called inside the box with just one second remaining. I won't go too much into the result of the ensuing penalty kick, because the last thing I want to do is drag somebody down. Let's just say that Greenbrier lost the game by the same 2-1.
The situation was curious for several reasons, however:
- I am no soccer historian, but I have never heard of a penalty being called inside the box with a single second remaining in a game.
- The penalty kick was actually the second one awarded to the Wolfpack in the game. Reed Norton made the first one for Greenbrier's only goal of the game.
- Penalties are almost never called inside the box, sometimes to a fault. What seems like an act of violence can sometimes go uncalled.
These two fouls might have been deserving of a call. As I said, I wasn't there to see them. But the uniqueness of the situation made me wonder whether there might be some "home cooking." I mean, one second left in an 80-minute game?
I wondered if, perhaps because of travel costs and budgetary cutbacks, referees local to where the game is being played are used even in state playoff games.
According to Ernie Yarbrough, the GHSA's associate director and sport coordinator for soccer, playoff officials for every sport are chosen the same way: A selection committee receives submissions from local referee associations, and those names are evaluated and deemed either competent to serve or not. Then, that committee assigns games to be worked.
During the playoffs, Yarbrough said, referees generally are not allowed to referee the game of a team they refereed during the regular season. This is designed so that past situations do not influence the game at hand.
In addition, he said, referee selection in the playoffs is done without regard for travel costs. There are even times that referees will travel from Atlanta to south Georgia for games.
Yarbrough acknowledged that the potential pool for referees is smaller for soccer than for football or baseball, so sometimes local referees must be chosen; however, every effort is made to avoid that situation.
I do not know who served as the referee for that game. Maybe it was a local referee, maybe not. Now knowing the GHSA's selection policy, I feel confident the association does its best to avoid home cooking.
The point here is that when you see something curious, it is better to ask to get to the bottom of it than assume the worst.
Maybe, just maybe, you'll be satisfied with the answer.
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