The Wolfpacker

March 2012

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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Page 93 of 95

■ PACK PERSPECTIVE M Passion Is An Important Part Of College Basketball BY TIM PEELER y son Benjamin almost didn't live to see the end of his first NC State basketball game. He was born at Raleigh's Rex Hospital at 6:48 a.m. on March 13, 2004, which also happened to be semifinal Saturday of the ACC men's basketball tournament. The night before, I was at the Greensboro Coliseum covering NC State-Florida State game but drove back to my home in Cary to await the possible overdue arrival the next day. Thank- fully, Benjamin showed up early enough in the morning that we were back in the room in time for the 1:30 p.m. tipoff between the Pack and Maryland. I held my second son lovingly in my arms throughout the game, right up until when official Larry Rose called a technical foul on NC State's bench for not getting off the floor in time following a timeout. I was working for a newspaper at the time, so I had no root- ing interest in the game. I just wanted the official to make the proper decision — and that was hardly it. Still, Benjamin being the closest thing at hand at that exact moment, I wound up to throw him at the pixilated, hospital-grade television. Fortunately, my wife's epidural had worn off enough for her to jump up and save the baby. Mothering instinct, I suppose, supersedes basketball passion. We've all been there before: frustrated at officials for calls they have and haven't made. With a few notable exceptions, I never get caught up in officiating conspiracies. I've seen enough referees in enough games in enough places over the last quarter century to believe firmly that they don't go into a game with an agenda. Maybe it's because my dad was a referee for more than 25 years, calling junior high, high school and some small college games in the western part of North Carolina. After you watch someone come home dog tired after refereeing three middle-school girls' games just to earn $50 to take his family snow skiing every now and then, black-and-white stripes don't particularly make me see red. I also saw him threatened with a knife and verbally abused by fans from both sides who thought he was making calls to benefit the other team. Images like that seared into a young memory are hard to erase as an adult. All fans believe in the inherent inequity of officiating. And all fans have a rooting interest in every game. You see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. To me, that all comes with the passion and 94 ■ THE WOLFPACKER ketball. There was Dick Paparo, Teddy "TV" Valentine, Mike Wood, the aforementioned Rose and a dozen or so other men whose names no fan or sportswriter should have ever known, if they were truly serious about their jobs. For me, an official loses credibility — not to mention control of the game — when he injects his emotions into the contest. That, I believe, is what happened when two of NC State's all-time best basketball players, Chris Corchiani and Tom Gugliotta, were ejected from the RBC Center at the end of the Florida State game. Were they rowdy, sitting behind the scorers' table at the RBC Center? I would hope so. Corchiani later mentioned that he acted no differently than he normally does in his regular seats in the arena. From my perspective, it's always good NC State fans were shocked to see former stars Tom Gugliotta (above) and Chris Cor- chiani ejected from the RBC Center when the Pack played Florida State Feb. 18. PHOTO BY KEN MARTIN emotional involvement of cheering for your favorite team. I accept that officials make mistakes — as long as they admit it as well. I take Rick Hartzell's word that he screwed up the travel- ing call against Chris Corchiani in the 1989 NCAA East Region semifinal game against top-seeded and second-ranked Georgetown, on what should have been Alonzo Mourn- ing's fifth foul. He told both Corchiani and head coach Jim Valvano that after the fact, which didn't change the outcome of Val- vano's last NCAA Tournament game, but it did change my opinion of Hartzell. Sometimes the problem is that we see too many of those mistakes. Every game is tele- vised, every home court has instant replay, and every computer can easily access You- Tube. Games and the people that play them, coach them and officiate them are scrutinized to death. Fortunately, neither basketball nor baseball has succumbed to the flawed re- play used by both college and professional football. But absolute power can corrupt absolutely. We've all seen the worst side of officiating megalomania. There was Lou Bello, one of my all-time favorites after he gave up his whistle to become a local television and radio broadcaster, sliding across the floor to make sure everyone in the gym knew he made the call. There was Lenny Wirtz going nose-to- chin with all the big names in college bas- to see former players remain emotionally involved in the program they helped make great. Every now and then, you can catch a glimpse of Lou Pucillo cheering from his seats, or David Thompson and Tommy Bur- leson waving to the crowd, or Vann Williford shaking his head in disbelief. Does anyone who regularly attends col- lege basketball not get a bit of nostalgic thrill when they see their past heroes emotionally involved with their current ones? The question, I suppose, is whether they may have crossed whatever line the official drew in the sand? I don't know. I do know that Gugliotta was sitting beside his daughter and Corchiani was sitting beside his wife and daughter. I know Corchiani's wife a little, and my wife a lot, and if there are any similarities, both Corch and Gugliotta would have elbow-caused bruises in their ribs if either had been spewing profanity on the sidelines. They were being fans, as is their right. They just happened to be passionate fans that were within earshot. That doesn't forgive the fact that they were also fans whose jerseys are hanging from the rafters of the building they were ejected from. If that official talked candidly about it, I bet he would admit he let his emotions and desire to be in charge get the best of him. College basketball is a game of passion and emotion, for fans but not for officials. No one would want that removed from the sport, as long as it's within reason. I just can't think of a reasonable circum- stance when you can throw a baby at a televi- sion or a legend out of an arena. ■ You may contact Tim Peeler at

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