Everyone likes to win however, should we conveniently overlook the fine balance of right and wrong when caught in a tricky situation?
As a high school coach, I did all I could to help my boys win their games. I rooted as hard for victory as they did.
A dramatic incident, however, following a game in which I officiated as a referee, changed my perspective on victories and defeats. I was refereeing a league championship basketball game in New Rochelle, New York, between New Rochelle and Yonkers High.
New Rochelle was coached by Dan O’Brien, Yonkers by Les Beck. The gym was crowded to capacity, and the volume of noise made it impossible to hear. The game was well played and closely contested. Yonkers was leading by one point as I glanced at the clock and discovered there were but 30 seconds left to play.
Yonkers, in possession of the ball, passed off – shot – missed. New Rochelle recovered – pushed the ball up court – shot. The ball rolled tantalizingly around the rim and off. The fans shrieked.
New Rochelle, the home team, recovered the ball, and tapped it in for what looked like victory. The tumult was deafening. I glanced at the clock and saw that the game was over. I hadn’t heard the final buzzer because of the noise. I checked with the other official, but he could not help me.
Still seeking help in this bedlam, I approached the timekeeper, a young man of 17 or so. He said, “Mr. Covino, the buzzer went off as the ball rolled off the rim, before the final tap-in was made.”
I was in the unenviable position of having to tell Coach O’Brien the sad news. “Dan,” I said, “time ran out before the final basket was tapped in. Yonkers won the game.”
His face clouded over. The young timekeeper came up. He said, “I’m sorry, Dad. The time ran out before the final basket.”
Suddenly, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, Coach O’Brien’s face lit up. He said, “That’s okay, Joe. You did what you had to do. I’m proud of you.” Turning to me, he said, “Al, I want you to meet my son, Joe.”
The two of them then walked off the court together, the coach’s arm around his son’s shoulder.