Matt Heinrichs

Matt Heinrichs has been the Sports Editor of the Dickinson County News since January 2014. Since joining the DCN, he has won more Iowa Newspaper Association Better Newspaper Contest awards than any journalist in the state, with 50 awards in more than a dozen categories. Matt is an avid outdoorsman. He enjoys hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, cycling and kayaking. He also enjoys spending time with his family and his better half, Tessa. Be sure to follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram (@mattheinrix).

I could be wrong…

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

I'm often wrong.

Occasionally, I rely too much on my admittedly faulty memory, and I end up getting the facts wrong in a story.

Comb through this section, and you will surely find a misspelled or dropped word.

I've definitely botched my fair share of names. (Sorry, MACkenzie Vos)

Like everyone, I'm far from flawless.

The key is admitting we make mistakes, doing our best to correct the mistakes we made and trying not to repeat them.

If I get the facts wrong in a story, I will do everything in my power to get it corrected. I've even held the presses at midnight after a thoughtful reader messaged me on Facebook. On that night, we got it corrected both online and in print, and most folks were none the wiser.

If there are grammatical errors in a story, I cringe, then I correct them online.

If I misspell a name once, I burn it to memory. If I misspell the same name twice, it goes on a sticky note on my computer monitor. If I misspell the name a third time, your name is too difficult to spell and you should really think about changing it.

Just kidding.

The point is, I think a lot of people struggle to admit that they've made a mistake. They form opinions and establish positions and, even when presented with solid evidence to the contrary, refuse to budge.

This brings me to Week 6 of the football season.

In a homecoming win over West Bend-Mallard, Harris-Lake Park's senior quarterback Bryce Perkins was called for two unsportsmanlike penalties and ejected from the contest.

I was on the Harris-Lake Park sideline for both of the penalties, and I spoke with Bryce immediately after he was ejected.

I asked him about the first penalty. He admitted he was in the wrong and should have been flagged.

I spoke with his coach Lane Gunderson the following Monday, and Coach Gunderson told me that Perkins had used — let's call it colorful language — while questioning a call made in the end zone. He wasn't speaking to the official who made the call, but that official heard what was said and threw a flag.

No one questioned that call. Nor should they have.

The second penalty, however, left everyone scratching their heads.

With the Wolves on defense, Perkins engaged a blocker on the backside of a play near the Harris-Lake Park sideline. The two athletes wrestled for leverage and went to the ground just as the whistle blew. After the whistle, both players stood up and went back to their respective huddles.

To me, it looked like a couple of guys playing aggressively to the whistle.

To the back judge, it looked like something more. Both players were called for unsportsmanlike conduct. Perkins was ejected.

I asked Perkins if he said anything to the West Bend-Mallard player after the play. He said he hadn't. I asked him if he said anything to the referee. Again, he said no.

Coach Gunderson said Perkins was ejected for starting a fight, according to the official's report of the incident. After reviewing tape of the play, he was left wondering if a penalty should have been called at all.

"I'm just beside myself because I don't think a penalty should have been called on the play, let alone an unsportsmanlike [conduct]," he said. "I don't see it. You can look at it on the film and you see the guy's coming out and he's trying to spear Bryce right under his chin. Bryce throws him down, the guy goes to get back up and Bryce shoves him down again. He isn't leading with his helmet, swinging at him or kicking at him, or doing anything malicious. He's just making sure he's not going to get back up and get blocked by him again. I'm just sick about it."

Before our Monday conversation, Coach Gunderson said he went through the proper channels to appeal the decision — which would have caused Perkins to miss the following game as well — and sent footage of the play in question. He was told that the official who made the call was going to be contacted.

In a text message the following day, Coach Gunderson told me that the decision was upheld.

"The state said it is a judgment call so there is nothing we can do," he said.

And therein lies the problem.

Even when presented with evidence to the contrary, the decision to uphold a call and suspend a player for an additional game lies solely on the opinion of the official who made the call in the first place.

That seems like a rather ineffective process to me.

All of these games are recorded. There is ample footage. There is no way an official should be able to suspend a player from an additional game without being subject to some sort of review or appeals process.

In this instance, the official had already had a call questioned by Perkins. Surely that didn't sit well.

The second penalty occurred 5 yards off of the line of scrimmage and away from the play.

There is no way the back judge could have seen everything that happened in the exchange. Considering both players walked back to their huddles immediately after the whistle, he definitely didn't see enough to warrant an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

A decision like that just can't be left up to a "judgment call."

What incentive does he have to overturn the call that he'd originally made? Why on earth would he admit he was wrong?

I would argue because doing the right thing outweighs being right.

But I could be wrong...

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