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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Honoring Pink Whistles On Memorial Day

Tomorrow, our great country celebrates Memorial Day. While there will be lots of recreating, grilling and family time, its true meaning, as it should be is to honor the men and women of this country's military who have lost their lives protecting us and the freedoms we so all cherish. Quite frankly, everyday we should honor these great heros along with our ACTIVE men and women in the military. YOU ARE REAL HEROS, EACH AND EVERY ONE.

In this column today besides the above, which is more important than any sport or sporting event ever will be, I would like to honor a group of 143 men and women, who you will more than likely never recognize on the street, you might never hear any of their names and they will not be getting any public ceremonies.

Those 143 people are members of the Pacific Northwest Football Association, which covers the greater Seattle metro area and on most Friday nights in the fall are out officiating high school football games for a paltry $50.00 per game.

In case you have not heard this story, last fall, the men and women of this association decided to give back to their community and as well help the ongoing fight against breast cancer. They used pink whistles as recognition of the fight against breast cancer for one night's worth of games and also donated their game checks for the night,  to this worthy cause. To their credit,  they raised thousands of dollars.

Great, well done, awesome and there is nothing greater than giving back and donating money to a worthy cause..

But, as much as there needs to be a happy ending here, there is NOT, as of this writing. Apparently, the PNFA did not get clearance ahead of time or approval  on  this move with the Washington Officials Association, which is the umbrella group for 150 officials' associations,  covering all high school sports in the state of Washington.

The WOA's executive director is Todd Stordahl and it is composed of an 11 member board. Mr. Stordahl apparently felt the need for a power play and got a little miffed he was not consulted prior to the PNFA's decision to use pink whistles or he was left out of the final process.  (For the record, no dress code rule was violated by the group using pink or did their actions in the least affect the outcome or  disrupted the playing of any football game.)

After an initial dust up things calmed down and it appeared the WOA realized that common sense would prevail and the right thing would be done, nothing would come of this and the officials would not be penalized as was being talked about,  for trying to help a worthy cause,  as was feared after this became an issue. FAIR ENOUGH.

While everyone except Mr. Stordahl thought this was over and despite a little public relations cloud still hanging on, it would be done. WRONG. Last week, he decided, despite what has been an international outcry, he would punish the PNFA, by limiting their play-off assignments for the next two years and putting the entire association on probation. (A word of warning from myself to all the 143 members of the PNFA, please do not donate any time at your local food bank, do not help find an Alzheimer's patient who is missing and do not contribute to any charitable causes, unless you consult with Mr. Stordahl first, or you could be fired.)

It is fair to give Mr. Stordahl's reasons for punishing the PNFA. He has said that only one person could make the decision to use the pink whistles (that being him) and he thought it sent a bad example for kids to break the rules. Mr. Stordahl, everyone is the world and probably on the moon and planets beyond are responding the same way. What rules were broken and yes it does set a bad example for kids, but your the bad example, telling kids it is not ok to give back and even on occasion challenge authority.

Ok, let's solve this. Mr. Stordahl, get in closed room with the PNFA, first of all tell them your sorry for all of this, but in the future you would like to be consulted and PNFA, do the same and tell the WOA in the future, we will tell you in advance of our charitable work.

Is it going to happen? My guess at this point is no, so here is even a better solution. Mr. Stordahl, you need to resign and your entire board needs to resign. You are a total embarrassment to all high school athletics, you and your board have as well embarrassed the great state of Washington and more importantly you have shocked every single person that has been touched by cancer or have suffered from this horrible thing we call cancer,  in mine and lots of others' opinion.

For the record, this situation has touched me personally in slightly different way than most. First of all I officiated high school sports, one sport for 25 years (in a different state than Washington). Many of the men and women I officiated with are now my lifelong friends and I know first hand how much officials in any sport care about the job they do and how much they care about people, this should never be debatable. Secondly and equally important, I work part-time in the cancer unit of a major hospital. I see first hand, how positive the patients remain on a daily basis while fighting cancer and what great treatment they receive from a dedicated group of people whose compassion for these patients shines every minute. It is a true HONOR to work with both these patients and super employees.

We all know the true meaning of Memorial Day and to me,  the message is never FORGET. I also am not going to EVER forget the men and women of the Pacific Northwest Football Association, for doing the right thing and standing up for what is the right thing in the fight against breast cancer. PNFA, you have done yourself proud.

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