Friday, January 16, 2009

Sporting officials should set example for students

Often we wonder what kind of example we are setting for our youth and ask ourselves what kind of role models our young people are given to look up to.

Adults from all walks of life randomly come in contact with youth every day, but our youth mostly interact on a regular basis with individuals who volunteer to spend time with them. We, as a society, count on those who spend the majority of time with our youth to teach young people good character and ethics.

Because our youth spend a majority of their time with teachers, coaches and others involved with school activities, we count on those people more than any others to foster high standards of ethics and set a good example for students to follow.

Sometimes some of those charged with setting the bar high and teaching our young people the value of having high standards of character, ethics and responsibility fall short of that goal.

Such was the case during a basketball game I attended Saturday afternoon — and what I witnessed appalled and saddened me at what we have let become role models for our children.
An official, Wes Cope — sanctioned by the Fort Worth Chapter of the Texas Association of Sports Officials, displayed actions, verbal taunting of fans and the haughtiest demeanor I have ever seen an official demonstrate.

It is sad to see an official sink so low, especially when he affects so many.

Bad and missed calls are a part of the game, and I do not have an issue with a call an official has made — I believe officials call games to the best of their ability, even if it is the wrong call.

The problem with the call Cope made, was that the clock — with 4.2 seconds on it — wasn’t started on the inbound of the ball, it was started after the ball passed mid court. The resulting shot, at the buzzer, sent the game into the second overtime period.

Needless to say, fans of the team that would have won went nuts pointing out the clock had not started correctly — many stating the clock should be reset and play done over. This would have probably been the best way to handle the situation, but Cope decided he did not want to re-play the time.

While the two other officials conversed with the coaches from both teams, Cope decided to show students what a demonstration of bad sportsmanship, a lack of cooperation and questionable ethics looked like.

Cope looked toward the stands where several fans were voicing concern about the call being made, smiled widely and mouthed words toward them that can not be printed in this publication.

That action was merely the icing on the cake, as he had made several others like it throughout the course of the game.

It is sad when this passes for proper behavior by someone who should know better and who is a member of an organization which has as one of its purposes, “Fostering a high standard of ethics; encouraging sportsmanship and fair play. Insuring closer cooperation and better understanding among officials, athletic representatives, coaches, players, athletic directors, parents and the media.”

When I approached Cope as he left the court and asked for his name — I did not yet know — he refused to answer. I repeated that I just wanted to know the names of the officials calling the game, and stated it was an official media request. He again refused to answer and asked a police officers to tell me he did not want to speak to anyone.

That doesn’t sound much like cooperation.

Our athletes, students and other young people see plenty of people in the world displaying poor behavior on a regular basis, they shouldn’t be taught it is the proper way to act by those we expect to teach them right from wrong, to hold themselves to a higher standard and have high character.

The officials calling high school sports games should be held to the highest standards, and should be the paragon of ethics, sportsmanship and fair play.

The act of becoming an official should be one for people with the quintessence of character.
I believe 99 percent of officials who officiate games in our area are role models for our youngsters, but those whose deportment is the model of wretched behavior, such as was the case with Cope, should be removed from the positions of influence they occupy.

Blake Ovard is the managing editor for the Star Group Newspapers and can be reached via e-mail at