Shawn Singleton

On Nov. 12, I found myself freezing to death somewhere between Weldon Spring and Defiance.

This could be the perfect example of how horror movies begin, and those who were with me at Francis Howell High School probably thought the same thing, as Troy Buchanan was losing to the home team in the Class 6 District 2 championship game.

Winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour with temperatures in the 30s in Missouri do not mix well with an African-American man from the South Carolina coast. What made the experience even more miserable, however, were the inordinate number of penalty flags thrown by the officials during the game.

When it takes two hours to play the first half of a high school football game because of flag-happy refs, something’s wrong. When it occurs in a championship game, it borders on the criminal.

Trojan fans had already felt the cold sting of poor officiating against Francis Howell. Six weeks earlier, a phantom pass interference call in the end zone with 20 seconds remaining led to a Vikings win in Troy.

Different crew, but it appeared to be the same story. A miracle catch from Nathan Ryan was called back due to a holding penalty. On the next play, Ryan is clearly grabbed while trying to pull down another deep pass.

This time, no yellow laundry was lying on the field turf, which led to an irate coach Ryan Nesbitt on the sidelines.

Though Ryan would later get revenge, for himself – and for an entire town and fan base – with a diving catch in the end zone as time expired to rip the district title from Francis Howell, officiating throughout the contest nearly cost the Trojans once again.

As for me, I couldn’t feel any parts of my body while doing post-game interviews, or anything else. Four hours in this weather left me not wanting to do anything but go home, and get some sleep.

While Troy Buchanan fans drove back to Lincoln County happy, I found myself fuming. I had to stand in the cold for four hours unnecessarily because egotistical officials decided to once again inject themselves into the contest.

NO ONE PAYS TO SEE THE REFS!!! This is sacrosanct.

This has become an unfortunate trend at every level, from high school to the pros, in every sport. Officials, umpires and referees becoming the story of a game, instead of the game itself.

The NFL has been widely criticized this season because of consistently inconsistent officiating, especially when it comes to “taunting” penalties. Apparently, you can’t scream “I’M BAAAACK!” after scoring your first TD in your first game back with the team that drafted you without getting hit with a 15-yard penalty.

Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers found that out.

Also, you can’t sack a quarterback, do a really cool roundhouse kick, stare at the opposing sidelines without saying a word without getting hip-checked by an official, then get flagged for “taunting.”

That happened to Chicago linebacker Cassius Marsh against Pittsburgh. Tony Corrente’s flag on contact he clearly initiated was a game-turning call, as the Steelers turned their outrageous fortune into a score – and eventually – a victory.

The fact we even know Corrente’s name raises a problem. Officials are supposed to be anonymous, an unknown part of the game whose only job is to make sure games are played fairly and evenly.

Nobody wants to know who he or she is. They aren’t part of the game action.

If we know an official’s name, chances are he (expletive-deleted) up!

Here in the St. Louis Metro, the name Don Denkinger will almost never be said with glowing praise after his blown call in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series led to a Kansas City comeback win. 

Thanks to Phil Luckett, coin tosses have become a must-see part of pro football, because he screwed up one in overtime between Pittsburgh and Detroit, costing the Steelers a win.

Game 6 of the 2002 NBA Western Conference Finals between Los Angeles and Sacramento is considered by many to the “most rigged game in history,” due to the one-sided officiating that went in favor of the Lakers, who were facing elimination. Tim Donaghy, a disgraced NBA referee who was later sentenced to 15 months in prison for betting on games and point shaving for organized crime, later testified in an affidavit two of his fellow referees intentionally blew the game to force a Game 7.

I have many more historical examples, but not enough time.

By the way, Gabe Morales, way to end a postseason series! Wilmer Flores clearly didn’t swing.

I shouldn’t even know your name!

NO ONE PAYS TO SEE THE REFS!!! Once again, this is sacrosanct.

One day, maybe Hollywood will create a reality TV show about umpires and officials, where they’re actually the stars. 

Until then…stay in the background.