In the words of Dan Akroyd's immortal SNL character Leonard Pinth-Garnell tonight's high school football game was "Perfectly awful, exquisitly terrible, couldn't be worse." I covered my first football game as a working journalist in the fall of 1974. It was a low-tech, cable offering from Sunflower Cable in Lawrence, Kansas featuring Central Junior High and West Junior High. It was excruciating, a 6-0 final in a game I believe Central won.
Just as bad was the technology we used to record the game, a two camera set up with a bang box and one mic fed into a reel-to-reel video tape recorder. God bless Rich Bailey for trotting me out there with him. I'm not sure what was worse, the game or my color commentary. But that video taped abortion clinic was finally surpassed tonight in Fort Myers.
Fast forward to tonight, Friday September 17 and I think I covered a game that surpassed that 1974 classic in all its hideousness. It pitted two small Christian high schools. Temple Christian from Jacksonville had made the horrendous bus ride to Fort Myers to play Florida Christian Institute. The game started promisingly enough, a couple of turnovers leading to quick scores and a 6-6 tie at the end of the first quarter.
Then the game turned into this debauchery of botched snaps, moronic officiating, and kids who seemed utterly lost on a football field. Two plays stand out in this game. First was a 27 yard field goal attempt by Temple Christian in the 3rd quarter that would have given them the lead and probably the game. It sailed right down the middle of the upright but the referee called it wide right. I could see the official directly under the goal post shaking his head but apparently he couldn't overrule the call even though he was stationed directly beneath the right goal post. He later said it was his job to judge if it was over or under the bar. It only got better in the third quarter with penalty after penalty and dropped pass after dropped pass. It took 50 minutes to play.
The coup-de-gras came in the 4th quarter, another 50 minute gem, when on a 4th and 14 from Florida Christian's 16 Temple decided to punt and play field position. The punt went off (all of six yards) but the punter was run into, not roughed. The flag went up and I thought good call. Then the referee placed the ball at the 30 where the ball had landed and called Florida Christian's offense out on the field. I was apoplectic, Temple's coach could barely contain himself. It should have been a 5 yard penalty and given it was 4th and 22 at the time of the kick Temple would certainly punt again. It took almost 10 minutes to hort out the play and the dimwits masquerading as officials finally had Temple repunt from its 36 rather than give them the 5 yard penalty.
The game was an officiating travesty with 25 penalties in all 4 fumbles and two interceptions. It ended up in overtime with Florida Christian scoring first and Temple Christian fumbling on a first and goal from the five. A fitting end to an horrific game. 50 dollars for three and a half hours of torture.