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Lack of officials keeps Comet volleyball team home during Homecoming Week


Lack of officials keeps Comet volleyball team home during Homecoming Week
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City sophomore Keely Anderegg slaps in an ace during last week’s home volleyball match against New Hampton. The Comet varsity VB team was inactive during their school’s Homecoming Week when its match against Waukon was postponed due to lack of officials.

By John Burbridge

Previously in this space with my name and face pasted to it was a treatise on how this record-breaking summer has become a means of distress for athletes preparing and playing in such conditions.

But there may be another type of HEAT that is hampering prep sports across the state … even indoor sports.

The Charles City Comets volleyball team was granted an unscheduled yet ironic opportunity to “stay home” during the school’s Homecoming Week. Having won six of their last seven matches after letting a five-set match get away from them against state-ranked New Hampton last week, the Comets were vying to get back into the Class 4A Top 15 rankings as compiled weekly by the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union while traveling to Waukon on Tuesday for a Northeast Iowa Conference match against the Indians — updated rankings are usually released on Wednesdays (note: the Comets are back in the Top 15).

But Tuesday’s match was postponed due to lack of available officials.

No big deal, I guess. The match has been rescheduled for Monday (Sept. 18).

Still, the Comet volleyball team found itself as the school’s only inactive varsity squad during CC’s Homecoming Week.

Lack of officials have recently forced several football games to be played under “Thursday Night Lights” with not enough whistles secured to cover the normal Friday night slate of games. Thus, several local teams’ openers — like Nashua-Plainfield’s away game at Postville — got the privilege of playing amidst the receding yet still-sizzling apex of late-August’s heatwave that dissipated just in time for the regularly scheduled contests on Friday.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing plenty of “gluttons for punishment” who are willing to suit up in black and white, blue and black … and even in pink and purple on occasions when a worthy cause needs greater awareness … to help stamp a seal of integrity to the formative events student-athletes may only get to enjoy for a brief window during their young lives.

Many sport officials are former athletes who want to stay in the game(s) of the sport(s) they love. Some are active coaches. Some are even journalists (those are the real gluttons for punishment).

Being an official for even youth sports — or especially for youth sports — has always required skin as thick as an armadillo’s. But I can’t help but wonder if the heightened level of theatrical remonstrance levied at school administrators, educators and librarians these days has in similar proportion spilled onto the playing field to a point where it’s discouraging much-needed “arbitrators” from stepping forward and contributing to the extension of the classroom.

People have been known to cast themselves as heroes of their own life stories … or at least on their LinkedIn pages “brand” themselves as stalwart defenders of all that is good, i.e. honesty, integrity, never leaves the toilet seat up; and fierce adversaries to all that is bad, i.e. cowardice, ignorance … weakness.

Not speaking out against what is wrong while remaining compliant by way of silence is often labeled as weakness. But those who are brave enough to speak out had better do it in a manner that ensures their voices are heard.

An effective retort to over-the-top belligerence has always been “Not only are you wrong, but you’re LOUD wrong”. But people today are encouraged to turn up their grievances to 11 even if it means popping a vein in their necks at school board meetings. Being soft spoken has apparently become a sign of weakness this deep into the 21st Century.

And if you’re even start to question that the self-righteous indignation you proudly (and loudly) unleashed in the name of saving the republic may have left darker marks on your target than intended and that an apology may be in order, you’re in danger of becoming the dubious Triple Crown Winner of Weakness by hitting the three major weak spots in one wayward thought: Introspection, Empathy and Atonement.

Even during these clamorous times, there remains a “risk-reward” consideration whenever someone is on the verge of publicly issuing an artful grievance. One of the risks could be losing one’s job if the grievance offends one’s employer, or forces the employer to act prudently if perceived that other employees’ safety and privacy have been compromised due to the contretemps.

Your reputation may also take a belated hit if a personal or organizational “take down” posted back in 2018 doesn’t age well if the language and/or imagery used in the assault has been universally downgraded to racist, sexist, crude and/or disrespectful.

Nonetheless, I find today that more people are being rewarded for their wanton spread of abhorrent ignorance and cognitive dissonance while screaming for vengeance. The most obnoxious ones tend to accumulate the most followers on Twitter … or whatever it’s called these days … with some of the more ambitious producing Podcasts with substantial audiences.

Amping up the asinine has not only become a King Maker but a Money Maker as well. If the residual effect of all this is fewer sport officials willing to possibly jeopardize their livelihoods in a climate that has gotten so adult-adolescent angrier and more violent, then maybe artificial intelligence should eventually be incorporated into officiating sporting events.

But now the grievance du jour is the foreboding encroachment of AI. One group in particular, Pause AI, gravely warns of the need to eliminate AI before the human race becomes extinct.

Well, high school sport officials are becoming extinct, and that may prove to be more human-related than AI-related.

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