Mutant justice robs Discovery Canyon swimmers of deserved state title

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Photo - Discovery Canyon’s Tommy Rauchut swims to a second-place finish in the boys 100-yard butterfly Saturday, May 19, 2018, during the Class 4A  Colorado State Swimming Championships at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Discovery Canyon’s Tommy Rauchut swims to a second-place finish in the boys 100-yard butterfly Saturday, May 19, 2018, during the Class 4A Colorado State Swimming Championships at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Discovery Canyon High swimmers and coaches and parents were reminded of a harsh truth when the Thunder lost its absolute lock at a 4A state title because of a trifling technicality.

The harsh truth?

Rules, even meaningless ones, matter.

A swimmer for Discovery Canyon wore a tech suit with a logo twice the permitted size in the qualifying rounds of the 400 freestyle relays. A referee reported the violation, which prevented the Thunder from competing in the 400 freestyle finals. This prevention robbed DC of a state title.

I keep hearing this question from DC supporters:

What does this goofy ruling teach our children?

This disqualification, delivered by the aggressively vigilant CHSAA, reveals to our children these bothersome lessons about living and breathing in America, or anywhere else:

Life is unfair and jammed with silly regulations and you can moan about those frivolous rules but you better follow those restrictions or they might bite you and the bite can be savage and leave a mark that lasts until the end of your days.

When today’s energetic DC swimmers are winding down in life, creaky and 90, they will remain bitter and bewildered by the ruling that swiped their state title, but they will also look at this theft as a valuable, if painful, introduction into adulthood, a realm where genuine justice and sensible rulings are hard to find.

Not long after graduation from college, I was covering a high school basketball game at a tiny gym in Texas. One head coach was a college friend, a fun-loving type who had labored, despite his highly spacy ways, as a superb, frighteningly intense guard for a state title winner.    

My friend failed to pay close attention to filling out his official lineup for the scorer’s table. He was plotting an upset, and the details of matching jersey numbers with players escaped him. He put down the wrong jersey number for all 12 of his players.

In Texas, every wrong jersey number resulted in a technical foul. The opposing coach, a kind soul, encouraged officials to overlook my friend’s roster transgressions. The officials refused.

The opposing coach reluctantly sent a free throw shooter to the line for 12 technical foul shots. The shooter left my friend and his team down, 10-0, before the opening tip.

Guess what? My friend never again took a casual approach to filling out his lineup for the official scorer. He learned a precious lesson. What doesn’t seem to matter often matters, a lot.

Let me be clear: I wish CHSAA could have found a way to allow DC to swim in the finals for the 400 freestyle relay and claim a deserved state title. A stern warning would have been enough, right? The Thunder swimmer who wore the too-large logo would not have worn it again in the final after a warning. The punishment in no way fit the sin.

But . . .

Four other teams were paying close enough attention to check with CHSAA about the logos on their swimsuits. Those teams understood that violating the trifling, dumb restrictions that don’t truly matter can hurt as much as breaking the big laws that deeply matter.

The youthful swimmers at DC suffered a mutant form of justice that wasn’t justice. Pains me to say this, but that suffering served only as an introduction.