published Thursday, December 26th, 2013

Wiedmer: Three sports decisions worthy of return

In jolly ol' England, they call today "Boxing Day." But in this country we revere Dec. 26 as Return Day, that morning after when we gather the peculiar gifts our friends and relatives found much more appealing for us than we thought them to be.

(Which reminds me ... Thanks, Cousin Boo, for including that receipt from the Flying J truck shop for Vanilla Ice Christmas Classics Vol. III.)

Sorry. Where were we? Oh, yeah. Return Day. This being a sports section and with a nod to the three wise men, here are three moments from the past year that I'm sure these sports figures wish they could box up and take back. Or better yet, had been wise enough to never attempt.

No. 3: The final 30 seconds of Game 6 of the NBA Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and the defending champion Miami Heat. Up four with less than 30 seconds to play on Miami's court, the Spurs appeared ready to win their fifth overall and deny the Heatles a repeat. Criticisms of LeBron James were already floating through cyberspace when San Antonio -- the league's third best free throw percentage team on the season -- missed twice in those final 30 seconds, twice failed to corral Miami missed 3-pointers and wound up losing the game in overtime when both James and Ray Allen canned desperation 3s to force OT.

Both the missed free throws and rebound failures were bad, but not fouling James before his second 3-point attempt -- the Spurs were up three at the time -- was unforgivable and uncharacteristic of a coach as sharp as the Spurs' Gregg Popovich.

No. 2: In any other year, Alabama coach Nick Saban's decision to attempt a 57-yard field goal with one second to play in a tie game at Auburn -- a decision that led to a 100-yard, game-winning return by AU's Chris Davis -- would have hands-down-no-questions-asked-zero-arguments been the No. 1 returned item in American sports.

And for anyone not familiar with Marion County football, it probably still is. But more on that in a minute.

But because we live in the Tennessee Valley and within reach of an aerosol paint can of Marion County's football complex, Nick Too-Quick is only No. 2 on our list.

Still, it just goes to show that everybody is human. No doubt frustrated by regular kicker Cade Foster's game-long struggles, Saban let the concern of not being able to score an OT touchdown overwhelm him. He decided to let freshman kicker and Calhoun High graduate Adam Griffith attempt a 57-yarder without accounting for the possibility of Auburn setting up a return if he missed.

Thus did the Tide have too many lead-legged blockers on the field to chase down Davis when Griffith missed. Thus did Bama's SEC West crown fall to the Tigers. Thus did the Tide's very realistic dream of three straight national championships disappear in the blink of an eye.

To be fair, even Auburn didn't instantly think return. And Davis almost stepped out of bounds. But it's also safe to say there's not a head football coach at any level of the sport that regrets a coaching move in 2013 more than Saban regrets that one.

No. 1: Like we said, anywhere but here, Saban's at the front of the return line.

But we are here so there's no question that former Marion County coach Mac McCurry would like to take back his assistants' decision to vandalize their own football buildings as a way to fire up the Warriors for their game with bitter rival South Pittsburgh as the most regretted decision of this, and possibly any season.

These Einsteins attempted to make this look like someone from South Pitt did this, right down to the orange spray paint. Instead, they were actually caught on film purchasing the cans of spray paint.

It is certainly fair at this point to ask how unbelievably inept these coaches were for even thinking they might need some cheap motivational ploy to fire their players up for the Pirates. As we have often written, this may be the most intense rivalry in Southern football, even more so than Alabama-Auburn.

These players don't need extra motivation. They need a warm bath and hot tea to ratchet them down to merely crazed before kickoff.

Moreover, what ever happened to the coach as role model. Even if you think it might work, and you wouldn't get caught, would you ever want an adult to teach your child such behavior?

Finally, these clowns losing their jobs wasn't enough, though it was a pretty good start. Someone should have demanded that every adult involved publicly apologize to the South Pittsburg community inside the Pirates' gym. After that, whatever money it cost to repair the Marion County facilities should also be donated to South Pittsburg High, as well as the donation of man hours to SPHS to match the hours it took to clean up MCHS. It could be mowing grass, cleaning windows, taking out the trash, but something.

Maybe that will never happen, but it's also doubtful either side will attempt anything this colossally stupid again. Because as any wise man would tell you, the only thing better than being able to take something back is never allowing it to happen.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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