Editorial: Since when did judges become football referees?

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C’mon, Fenwick High School, remember what your folks always said: It’s only a game.

Yes, your football team suffered a heartbreaking loss. Yes, you should have won. The refs made a really bad call.

But to file suit in Circuit Court? Seriously? So much for accepting defeat — even undeserved defeat — with grace. So much for teaching good sportsmanship, which is what high school sports are supposed to do.

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Bad decisions and calls by officials are a part of all sports, even a call as terrible as the one on Saturday that robbed Fenwick of a trip to the big state championship game. Teams and players move on. Life can be unfair. Lesson learned.

Here’s what happened: In a semifinal game Saturday against Plainfield North High School, Fenwick had it in the bag, 10 to 7, as time was running out. But on the final play of the fourth quarter, even as the clock expired, Fenwick’s quarterback threw the ball downfield. The refs called a penalty, intentional grounding, and handed the ball over to Plainfield North for one last play — which everybody now agrees was a violation of the rules. Plainfield kicked a game-tying field goal and went on to win in overtime.

Fenwick appealed first to the Illinois High School Association. But the IHSA, while acknowledging the refs screwed up, said there was nothing they could do. They cited an IHSA rule that “decisions of game officials shall be final.”

So now Fenwick hopes to appeal to a higher ref: a Cook County Circuit Court judge. A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday morning.

Here’s hoping the judge explains the facts of sporting life to Fenwick’s lawyers: Refs and umpires, who are human, make bad calls all the time. For all anybody knows, Fenwick also benefited Saturday from a few questionable calls that cut their way. But ultimately the rulings of the refs must stand, even when they rule wrongly, or there is no end to it.

It is only a game.

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