What I’d give to be in that locker room…

“If you want to see Paul get riled up,” says my wife, “have him watch a game where the ref blows a big call.”

That’s not exactly true.  An honest miss leads me to feel tons of empathy (there but for the grace of God go any of us).

But the big miss at the end of tonight’s Gonzaga/Syracuse game?

Oh, man.  That was hard to watch.

I shouted at the screen. I could NOT BELIEVE that the C, Doug Sirmons, went in and got a call that there was literally, absolutely no way he could have seen.

As I’m sure he will tell you if he speaks about it (and because Syracuse, blessedly, recovered from the setback and won anyway), he’s sick about it.

So what are my takeaways?

1.  I would bet anything that adrenaline caused Sirmons to blow his whistle.  Big game, big play, a little weird looking?  We get our intensity up.  I need to learn from his mistake and remember: the more intense they get, the calmer I get.

2.  How did Mike Stuart, the Lead official, feel?  He’s the only dude in the gym with a good look at whether Trevor Cooney’s shoe is on or just next to the edge of the end line paint.  We wouldn’t let a second-year official in our association get away with that, but here it is, coming up with one of the top officials in the nation with seconds left in a one-point Sweet 16 game. And that whistle must have shocked him even more than it shocked me to see Sirmons running across my screen to the end line to call a play that wasn’t his.  I might have been tempted to put a cigarette out on him, but this interesting story tells me that all Stuart did was ask if the play was reviewable. (It isn’t.)  In some ways, it may have been harder for him to keep his cool than Sirmons.  But he did.

3.  Finally, what would I do if I were in the locker room for this one?  Sweet 16 game, big moment, and my partner has to face a pretty egregious error?  What if Gonzaga had scored the winning hoop after the miss?  I’d have no choice:  I’d support him.  Because, as I’ve said often here, there but for the grace of God go any of us.

But man oh man, was that ever hard to watch.  I hope Sirmons bounces back quickly and well.  Impressive of him to keep his focus after what must have been a painful replay review. And props to his partners for their professionalism under fire.