Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t. That’s the position that Southington Athletic Director Greg Ferry found himself in as fans counted down the moments until Turkey Day kick-off. It’s the biggest high school sporting event of the year with a lot of moving parts. On a good day, it’s a tough event to coordinate. But throw in a forecast that called for record low temperatures that could lead to safety and health issues, and it’s a no-win situation.
Southington was the first town in the area to shift the date for their Thanksgiving kick-off, but it didn’t take long for most of the region to fall in line. Games were moved to Wednesday or Friday, but Ferry was the first to stick out his neck with the controversial call.
We were disappointed with the reaction by some of the Southington fans. It surprised us to hear the litany of complaints from the community. Ferry was bombarded by critics. “Aren’t we tough enough to handle a little cold?” We actually heard more than one of these complaints hurled from the stands. Ferry admitted to many more on his office phone.
We applaud his swift decision even though he knew that he’d hear the fallout. We also applaud his courage for showing up and facing the criticism at the game. That isn’t the way high school officials have always handled these sorts of calls.
How quickly fans forget that October snowstorm in 2011 when everyone—including the Observer—criticized town and school officials for letting our players, cheerleaders, and fans board a bus for a regular season game knowing full well that a storm was on its way.
Even the CIAC handled it better than us in 2011 when they canceled half of the cross country championship races when they saw the first snow flake. We found ourselves defending the CIAC (a position that we rarely take) for thinking about the safety of the athletes and fans over the importance of a state championship race. Everyone at that cross country race, from athletes to fans and officials, were safe at home when the dangerous weather hit. That wasn’t the case for Blue Knight football fans at Hall High School in West Hartford. Field conditions rapidly deteriorated. Officials were unable to see the yard markers or the field’s boundaries, but the game when on. There was even a half hour delay for thunder snow, but the game went on, and on, and on.
Buses and cars were hit by fallen limbs on the way home, navigating detours as travel became life-threatening on Connecticut’s roads.
At the time, Southington High School officials blamed the decision to play on Hall, but we pointed out that local officials could have asked for a postponement or even taken a forfeit if we thought it was dangerous to send our kids to the game. It was almost a slap in the face when Southington High School officials sent the buses to the game and didn’t even have the courage to show up themselves during that 2011 storm.
“My point is that we could have made a decision with safety as our top goal,” our sports writer wrote in a column. “Sure, a forfeit would have been unpopular. Sure, critics would have clamored, but at least we could have defended our position. How can we defend the one we made?”
Ferry made a tough call based on the forecast, and we will defend it no matter what criticism he faces. Sure, he could have ensured the safety of the players and cheerleaders on Thursday by bringing in heaters or taking other precautions. But how about the fans? As it was, there were at least two fans that needed medical attention on Wednesday night.
Instead of criticizing Ferry, we should be thanking him.
To comment on this story or to contact Southington Observer editor John Goralski, email him at JGoralski@SouthingtonObserver.com.
Forgot about that 2011 storm? Click here: SOUT_110411