The proverbial — maybe even literal — mud-slinging was fast and furious.
When the Arizona Interscholastic Associated decided early Friday morning to postpone the football semifinals because of rain, so, too, began a flood of cyber-crying.
“We’ve wussified football.”
“It’s always about the money.”
“Why weren’t we consulted first?”
“Why weren’t these games situated to accommodate this?”
The conspiracies were in full swing. More than one person blamed AIA Executive Director Harold Slemmer, a former principal at Mountain Pointe, for purposefully delaying games because playing in slop would have been advantageous to Desert Ridge.
Others, including Desert Ridge, blamed it on the AIA’s pursuit of the almighty dollar.
In this case, it’s pretty hilarious stuff. People really think postponement, reorganization and moving all these games to Monday was anywhere in the AIA’s top 200 wishlist as it relates to the weekend?
This wasn’t about games being played in the rain — many will remember the 2007 semifinals played at McClintock, Chandler, Dobson and elsewhere in a sideways downpour for three hours.
This was, in fact, about player safety; about flooded fields and the dangers that go with it. Go check out a few of the high schools slated to host games (Highland, Gilbert, McClintock). On Friday afternoon, there was at least one foot (or more in spots) of standing water on at least one-third of their fields. That’s a real problem.
So why weren’t all games scheduled at schools with FieldTurf? Perhaps because the districts have a say in whether they choose to host such games (don’t know how much choice, but some).
Perhaps it’s because there are several logistical hurdles and near-impossibilities associated with changing a venue on a moment’s notice. Perhaps it’s because most Valley schools that have FieldTurf aren’t physically big enough (parking lots, stadium seating, locker rooms) to hold the two biggest-school (Div. I) semifinals.
The biggest criticism — one which holds a more weighted argument — is that these changes were, as the AIA noted, in the best interest of player safety.
Meanwhile, Div. II and III championship games are slated four days after the semifinals (Nov. 29), with Thanksgiving in between. Physically, that’s not in the best interest of teenagers.
That’s a fair argument. Then again, we don’t know the full extent to which accommodations and other logistical factors are in play here as it relates to just simply moving the games back a week.
The primary issues being big-sized venues’ availability elsewhere since U of A wasn’t an option on Nov. 30, plus trying to reschedule championship venues and logistics.
This was a mess for everyone. There’s a sliver’s chance this could have been avoided or contingencies put into place early in the week when the forecast called for significant rain.
This isn’t about being “tough” or some crackpot conspiracies in motion.
There’s a pretty good chance that any of 100 alternative ideas explored were kaiboshed. Otherwise, there’s a good chance said route would have been chosen.
So the kids will strap on the helmets Monday night, and everything will likely run as it almost always does in the semifinal and championship games. Everyone will be back on equal (if flawed) footing as champions will be crowned next weekend, as it always should be.
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.