Even watching this ruins my day

There but for the grace of God…

I caught this pretty vicious attack on a 51-year-old official by a 6-foot-7 high school senior boy from DeSoto High School in Arcadia, Florida on ESPN today.  I find it sort of funny that the ESPN First Take sportscasters took the very controversial opinion that unprovoked violence against officials has “no place” in high school sports.  I do agree with them, however, that these attacks have not necessarily increased in number; they are simply more likely to be on YouTube, especially when they’re as awful as this one.

Of course, if you want to question whether we’re going to make it as a civilization, feel free to look at the comments on the story.  There are more than a few commenters who say that surely the official, Jim Hamm, must have done something to deserve this attack.  Pretty incredible.  Others say “I’d never do this, but I’ve thought about it.”  The whole lot of them could use some therapy, or at least a year or two in a striped shirt (which I’ll be happy to buy for any one of them).  Yes, these may be anonymous mouth-breathers on internet boards, but this is a case where the excrement actually trickles up.  Recall that after referee Terry McAulay and his crew dodged plastic bottles filled with water–some chucked from the upper deck–by similar mouth-breathers in Cleveland, then GM Carmen Policy said he was happy about the attempted maiming of the officials.  “I like the fact that our fans care,” he said.  And the owner said that the fans  “controlled themselves pretty well.”  Yes, both later apologized, but the fact that these words ever left their mouths blows me away.

I can’t find a similar quote from what I recall to be an Oklahoma legislator as the state debated laws regarding assaults on sports officials, but I know a state Congressman said something about how some officials deserve a punch in the nose.  Need we discuss what many believe politicians deserve, Congressman?

Anyway, it serves as an important reminder that people like that are out there.

I  find it interesting–and scary–to examine a longer version of the video posted on NESN.  It gives more background, and allows us to watch Holland (white #10) and Hamm (C, closest to the camera) for some time before the play.  What’s scary is that, save the hard foul by White (not Holland) before the free throws that preceded the technicals and the attack, this doesn’t appear to be a game that’s getting out of hand.  It’s the second quarter, for goodness sakes.  But Holland goes berzerk all at once, even though Hamm’s demeanor appears very calm for a guy in the middle of an ejection (far better than I’d be).  He doesn’t approach Holland–just crosses his path on his way to the table–nor is he unnecessarily demonstrative in the ejection.  He doesn’t even respond one iota to the first shove Holland gives him…he’s practically Gandhi out there.  But nothing prevents the attack.  I’d feel better if I felt the crew could have done anything to prevent this, but the evidence I have indicates that they didn’t do anything wrong.  That’s what scares the crap out of  me.

Thank goodness for that policeman, by the way, and kudos to the DeSoto coaches for their quick move to Holland.  Fans were starting to run on the court, and while I don’t want to assume the worst about anyone, we can’t rule out the possibility that they were planning to help Holland rather than Hamm.

I’ll try to give Holland the benefit of the doubt and assume this is, and will remain, the stupidest action he does in his life, and hope that whatever punishment he gets from felony adult charges will help him solve his anger problem.

But, closer to  my heart, I hope Hamm is back on the court soon.  I don’t know that I would want to be.

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About Paul Hamann
I am a basketball referee in Washington State, working mostly high school games.

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