2017-03-15 / Sports

First state tournaments a mixed bag

Girls B was great, Girls A not so great

Sometimes you try to be nice to nice people and it backfires. You can’t be a jerk and stop being gracious and understanding. I let a colleague use my pink South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) events pass and he lost it. He didn’t lose it on purpose, so you can’t let something like that turn you into a jerk that can’t be understanding or gracious.

There was a backup events pass, another colleague had it. I figured he isn’t using it; I can get it from him in time for the state tournaments. That didn’t pan out. He never returned my messages. No point in being mad about it. Maybe he lost his, too. You have to be understanding and gracious.

Off to the state tournaments I went, no events pass. But I had a press pass, and I worked for the number one weekly newspaper in the state, plus I had won Best Sports columnist of the year just months before, and I had met and talked with Wayne Carney, the Executive Director of the SDHSAA, one time at LNI, and he had given me his card, so how hard would it be to get into any venue?

The State B girls was being held in Huron, and 74 miles east, the State A Girls was being held in Brookings, at the exact same time. This is extremely inconsiderate to fans and media, but the SDHSAA has concerns we aren’t privy to, and as professionals they deserve our respect, they are not stupid; they had to weigh that inconvenience against the practical responsibility of hosting these tournaments, and they did what works best for all parties concerned. Sure, I can bellyache in private, but you have to be understanding and gracious about these things.

I selected the town of DeSmet, the Super Deluxe Inn and Suites, halfway between Huron and Brookings as my base of operations. It was a nice room, nice folks at the front desk, I recommend staying there. The weather was awful and getting worse, snow blowing hard across blacktop plows couldn’t keep clear.

The first game was at Huron, Timber Lake against top-seeded Warner. I was there to cover Timber Lake who has eleven enrolled tribal members on their roster. I had ignored this team during the year, not realizing they were a Lakota team, and I apologized to their Wasicu coach for the oversight, because I had received Facebook messages from Timber Lake folks informing me of my oversight. At any rate, he was minutes away from a tough game, had a lot on his mind, so he wasn’t especially friendly, but I had ignored his team, so maybe I deserved it, and you have to be gracious and understanding about these things.

Thing was, my press pass had gotten me into the State B no problem, but it went way beyond that. I was directed to a table, right at courtside, probably the best seat in the house for what I required it for, and was told this place is for Native Sun News, because all these folks were friendly and cooperative, and they were gracious and understanding.

Just fifteen seconds into the game, Warner is called for a foul on Timber Lake, and I admit I didn’t see a foul, and the Warner coach comes after the ref, he says how was that a foul, how could you make that call, and then he shouts: “You shouldn’t even be on the floor!” I see a half dozen bad calls every single high school game. He gets that worked up over the first call fifteen seconds into the game? That referee was a Lakota woman, that coach was bald-headed Wasicu, not hard to figure out why he reacted so over-the-top. She told me next day she hadn’t heard that remark, because he should have been teed up for making it. But she conducts herself in a calm, professional manner I much admire, I love the way she calls a game. I think she was just being gracious and understanding.

I had to rush like crazy over tricky roads to make the Little Wound game in Brookings. Unfortunately, my experience here would be diametric to my State B experience. I was told I could not come in; I had to check in at the media desk. At the media desk I met a nice lady named Betty, who could not let me in without an events pass. I stood for some time while she flagged down Wayne Carney himself, SDHSAA Executive Director, but I figured once he got there, he would be gracious and understanding, because men in his position know how important it is to keep a positive working relationship with the press and the public.

Except Wayne doesn’t understand anything of the sort. He wasn’t gracious, wasn’t friendly, wasn’t understanding, didn’t care what my situation was, made me pay ten bucks to get in and I had no access to the floor, to the press hospitality rooms. Fortunately, after his cold, unwelcoming visage departed down a hallway, Betty was nice enough to let me past her checkpoint, where I was able to sit courtside, and interview Lyle Lebeaux after the tough loss, and I had so wanted to get up in Wayne’s grill for being such a jerk, but I remembered that classy Lakota ref, she carried herself with as much dignity as that giant Dignity statue overlooking Chamberlain, and I bit my tongue.

Until now.

The next day I drove all the way to SDHSAA headquarters in Pierre, barely staying ahead of bad weather, just to pay $25 for another events pass which expires in a couple months. I knew if Wayne Carney was at the AA in Rapid City next week, it would be as unfriendly as the State A. I also know there will be no courtside table for Native Sun News there; I will have to scramble just to cover the game. Maybe I’ll get lucky and Wayne won’t be there, maybe the same folks who ran things in Huron will be there. They knew how to treat folks.

(Contact James Giago Davies at

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