In your humble blogger's formative years, smoldering fall Friday nights were not spent dropping cinder blocks from overpasses or trying with inevitably comic/poignant results to procure alcohol in a misguided attempt to prepare socially for higher education with the same intensity expected in other realms of college prep. Rather, with about the inflated sense of importance you might imagine, I spent those nights dodging sweaty teenagers - almost all slow, pimple-faced kids I then perceived as giants worthy of genuine awe - with one goal: get the new, dry ball to the umpire, and get the soggy one from the previous play out.
I was a good ball boy, and a serious one. I was not a water boy. I never carried so much as a cup of water for anybody. Not my job. And a little beneath me, frankly. I was directly involved: the purveyance of balls was essential to the offense, and I was dedicated to success. No official had to wait for the ball when it was my turn in the rotation; I was ahead of punts and quarter changes that took the ball to the opposite end of the field. The officials always knew on extra points and field goals, when I had to be on the track to catch the kick: the ball for the kickoff is waiting under the goalposts. Don't come looking for me, or embarrass me by wandering over to ask somebody else on the sideline for a ball. It's right there. I really cared. Sometimes the opposing defense would warn against a certain play in its huddle, and maybe I'd pass along the intelligence to coaches. I'd stay on the field during first down measurements, and personally signal "first down" when it came up past the sticks. When I dropped a ball in a driving rainstorm, and the undefeated team I served fumbled a pitch on the next play en route to a three-point loss, I carried the guilt for days - a long time to remember anything when you're eleven. I saw injuries, smelled smells, heard words my parents wouldn't let me hear on television. In Mississippi, legislation orders the chain gang on the visitor's sideline to be manned by the town drunks and/or idiots - preferably one of each on either end, with a slightly more competent redneck parent operating the down marker - and since our peripheral assignments both required us following the ball, and I was a pubescent kid standing next to enemy imbeciles who always went on cheering for the other team despite their quasi-official designation, it regularly became heated. I was once issued a warning by an offended side judge. It was great, overall.
In light of Orson's ode to Tennessee's waterboys, then, it's only appropriate that I recognize a pair of my ball-devoted brethren for their direct contribution to Virginia's 22-20 win Saturday at North Carolina:
Even our ballboys said that was good, you *&@$&#!"
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"At first, when I kicked it, and I looked up, I thought I saw it go over the bar," Gould said. "But then they said no good. I told [an assistant coach], 'I don't feel like I hit that one short.'
"Right as I said that, two managers who go down to retrieve the balls after we're done kicking came back and said, 'It was good, it was good,' " Gould said. "So from there, we passed the word on to Coach [Al] Groh, who ultimately challenged it, and it worked out for the team."
Replays showed that one of the officials under the goal posts apparently flinched as the ball headed toward the uprights and may not have seen the ball when it cleared the crossbar. Groh's challenge led to an eventual reversal, giving Virginia (2-1, 2-0 ACC) a 19-7 lead.
"I trust the opinion of the people, and they were that adamant about it," Groh said. "You've got to believe and trust what they have to offer, so obviously that worked out greatly for us as three points were pretty important."
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The Sabre wonders if "The Field Goal" had the potential to go down as one of the worst officiating blunders in college history if it had stood, and Virginia had gone on to lose, and if anybody outside of Virginia would have noticed a missed kick in the third quarter of a game between two of the three worst teams in the ACC. It allegedly has video of the kick here (I say "allegedly" because my computer is going through some serious personal issues at the moment, among them a sudden refusal to load even the smallest "plug-in," up to and including YouTube clips. Also my entire desktop has disappeared). Officals "clearly erred" on the call, according to ACC officiating supervisor Doug Rhoades in his detailed review of "a deviation from our standard practice of mechanics" by not just one but both officials under the crossbar:
"The proper mechanic is each official has the upright he is standing under. The ball has to entirely pass inside the imaginary line of the pipe. If any part of the ball is over the pipe, it's no good," Rhoads said.
"Now, as the ball is coming down, they have the crossbar to contend with. It's the back judge's responsibility for any play that hits the crossbar."
This time, Rhoads said, "It looks like it's almost going to strike him. He moves to avoid being hit, and when he does, he loses his concentration."
What should happen is the back judge and field judge look at each other, verbally assess whether the field goal was good or not, and make the call together, he said.
In this case, replays showed Valdez appeared to make a "no good" call and Overcash followed.
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And who was there to save the day for Virginia, possibly preventing an 0-3 start and reducing the burner under Groh's ass for a few days? The ball boys. I wonder if he knows their names? If you're not already treating your MVPs to some gooie brownie topping at Arch's, coach, now is the time to start.