Michael Lough

Michael A. Lough: Reaction to tournament issues right and wrong, but action remains top issue

Two weeks have passed since "goalgate," with the second week being thankfully much quieter than the first.

There was angst, hand-wringing, exaggeration, knee-jerk reaction, lack of context and consternation.

The goal situation was a little like bad officiating. You hate it, wish it wasn't happening, completely forget that humans less perfect than you are trying their best and hope it's equal for both sides.

Like a tie in Major League Baseball's all-star game and the absurd reaction to it, something has to happen once for it to be addressed. That said, misaligning the goals is a brutal mistake.

It wasn't intentional laziness, a conspiracy, anti-basketball or whatever felt good to say, but yes, it was fairly inexcusable, more so on the part of the Macon Coliseum -- and by extension, local political servants who have failed for more than a decade to take care of the Coliseum.

It was exacerbated, in perception, by a poorly executed message and then a lack of comment. Of the bricks laid during the weekend, none left a bigger mark than the GHSA with its initial response. That's no surprise, since communication with the public and/or media has never, ever been a GHSA strength.

The point was read as, "Eh, we don't want to take up any more time," which hints that they just didn't want to spend the time. It should have been, "We won't sleep for a good while because of this, but we believed that under the regrettable circumstances, the fairest thing is for all teams to have played under the same dimensions. It wouldn't have been fair to the teams that already played to watch other teams compete under the corrected alignment. But there is nothing that's not painful about this situation, and we're sick about it."

Nothing fixes the goals or changes results, but wise words can ease the pain a little bit. The pain was not eased.

Veterans is one team that will argue forever, as a perimeter-shooting team and one that gets to the free-throw line. But the Warhawks missed scores of shots that had nothing to do with the misaligned goals. Other teams left doors to defeat open, as well.

Still, it's easy to see the situation getting into a player's head for free throws, because the action has stopped and there's time to think. The free-throw line is where the biggest impact could be argued.

Let's also note a few things: The shooting mechanics of high schoolers in general is flawed. Many starters are sub-6o-percent free-throw shooters. Shooting in an arena has an impact. And it's a safe bet that championship shooting numbers everywhere are lower than normal.

Don't forget that Wayne County, Veterans' quarterfinal opponent, started off 1-for-21 at Fort Valley State a few weeks ago. None of that excuses the misplaced goals, but context is never bad.

The most fair thing was, yes, to keep the goals the same, as awkward as that seems.

That Coliseum officials had nothing to say almost all week is bad. That Coliseum officials didn't have a statement within about three days is disconcerting. No response is troubling. Management of most of the Centreplex is up for bid. We unpaid consultants remain available for whoever takes over.

There was other piling on, to a point.

The court is older than it should be and due to be replaced, but it wasn't an issue. Every portable court in the land will be less perfect than a permanent court.

Old complaints regarded the speaker system -- hearing Charlie Brown's teacher -- and the lighting. I'm sure a building rewiring is necessary (which might help the cell phone connection problems that remain unexplained by the Coliseum).

These, along with gutting and re-doing the restrooms and at least some concession stands, are longstanding issues for the building and those in charge of the building's finances (and parking fees). The list of needed cosmetic touches is long.

An idea for some of the needed painting: commission local art students, high school and college, for murals depicting Middle Georgia's most notable athletes and musicians. After all, the building has hosted scores of athletes and musicians, and we've had some good ones grow up around here. Make the trip to the concession stands a little trip down Memory Lane.

There was grousing about basketball being a stepchild in Georgia. That's somewhat true, and coaches are in part to blame for any lack of priority and attention, a discussion for another time.

A safe bet is that if the tournament does return to the Coliseum, we can be pretty sure that many details -- it's mindboggling to consider proper placement of the baskets a detail -- will be fixed, and perhaps we'll see other items that make for a better tournament experience all the way around.

But it's up to the city and county, citizens and commission, to start executing their part of that process.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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