Hypothetically speaking, let’s say the New Mexico Activities Association doesn’t have a vested interest in which teams play for the upcoming Class AAA state football championship.
The NMAA, hypothetically speaking, suspends Silver’s Dakota Bencomo for the second-seeded Colts’ quarterfinal game against Albuquerque Academy. This, after viewing the vicious and unnecessary hits he delivered on Horsemen running back Salomon Martinez — chiefly the times he alligator rolled over Martinez’s ankles on St. Michael’s go-ahead touchdown and, on another play, used the cast on his arm to club the Horsemen running back like a baby seal.
Also, because the NMAA interprets and enforces its rulebook to the letter of the law, it finds St. Michael’s head coach Joey Fernandez to be in violation of Rule 7.7.3. In a sweeping show of sportsmanship, equality and all that good stuff, the state’s high school sports governing body suspends Fernandez a game for pointed comments he made about the Bencomo twins.
Without their best player, the Colts lose in the quarterfinals, like they have four of the past six seasons. St. Michael’s, minus Fernandez, uses its coach’s suspension as a rallying cry to get past Hope Christian.
Suddenly, the money-printing, headline-grabbing rematch of the year is off, us journalists are forced to pen some unintelligible, humdrum story about another St. Michael’s romp-and-stomp of whoever it meets in the finals, and the NMAA loses out on the considerable gate it stood to make off Horsemen-Colts II.
Economic suicide. Journalistic pesticide.
So what did the NMAA do instead? It sat on its hands until it couldn’t anymore and then did the financially responsible — and ethically reckless — thing by washing its hands of the entire flap. Guilty conscience absolved. Pocketbook protected.
The NMAA, without explaining its rationale, announced it wouldn’t impose sanctions against either school. Nevermind it took it three weeks to arrive at the decision. Busy with the state soccer and volleyball tournaments, the organization had the perfect excuse not to act swiftly.
But it passed off its lack of swiftness for scrupulousness, saying that it needed adequate time to sort through every minute of that film, thoroughly interview all parties involved and come to an unprejudiced and just verdict.
What it saw, or didn’t see, won’t be disclosed because the NMAA doesn’t explain its decisions, and as a private institution, isn’t required to abide by the same level of transparency a public institution must.
Make no mistake. This was a case where there was clear-cut culpability. It’s hard to interpret intent on game film, but you could decipher a pattern of ruffian play just by the sheer number of Bencomo’s acts. If not that, Fernandez clearly violated language in the handbook that outlaws defaming opponents.
So what did the NMAA do? It invoked paper justice — the type that’s tinged green.