The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

January 7, 2014

A Don McCormack column: Officially, a real pain in the whistle

Paying another visit to the frigid variety store...

Chaotic situation

As you might expect, athletic directors across Northeast Ohio are going to have to plenty of work to do as they attempt to shoehorn winter-sports contests postponed by the wrath of Mother Nature and her dastardly pal, Mr. Freeze.

However, it won’t be only the athletic directors who are going to be in scramble mode.

Consider, if you will, those individuals who assign officials for contests, which range from the junior-high level to the varsity level.

Phil Garcia, profiled in our centerpiece in Tuesday’s sports section, is a perfect example.

So, Phil, how do does it feel to know what lurks ahead just around the next bend in terms of scheduling officials?

“It’s going to truly be a nightmare,” the 58-year-old, 41-year veteran of officiating said. “Honestly, it’s going to be chaos attempting to get it worked out.”

Garcia handles assignments for seven schools in the Premier Athletic Conference, Conneaut, Edgewood, St. John, Grand River Academy and junior-high contests for Jefferson.

“We have only a certain number of officials and, especially on Saturdays when there are so many games added, it really creates a logjam, of sorts,” he said. “We’re going to have men and women doubling up on Saturdays in that they will work both afternoon and evening games.”

That isn’t easy on any official, correct?

“Definitely not,” Garcia said. “But it is what it is — it’s wintertime in Northeast Ohio.

“We should be used to this, by now.”

Modern technology certainly helps to alleviate some of the organizational problems and, hopefully, prevent snafus.

“Having everything on the computer certainly is a blessing,” he said.

Which begs the question, how did those who blazed the trail as assigners handle situations such as this “back in the day?”

“You know, that’s a great question... I have no idea!” Garcia, who has been an assigner since 1994, said. “Back then, there was no Internet, no email and no cell phones.

“Everything was on paper in terms of contracts and if officials could not be reached, it had to be just awful, a major headache, for the guys who assigned games.”

Which offers Garcia some perspective of the tools of his trade that are available in this day and age.

“Absolutely!” he said. “Thank goodness for websites, email and cell phones. I could not imagine even attempting to tackle a situation such as this without all of them.”

So, what happens if the powers goes out?

“I don’t want to even think about that,” he said through what sounded like a laugh, though it may have been a shudder.

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