Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Asked and Answered: Your MIAA Sports Mailbag, 11/7

St. John's (Shrewsbury) is the school I get asked about most... For some reason.
By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Whenever somebody finds out that I (sorta) cover sports for a living, they always have a bunch of questions.

After I tell them that I cover high school and college, don't know Tom Brady, and can't get them any tickets, they usually start asking me the same four or five questions that are filling my mentions on Twitter and inbox on Gmail. Those usual questions change with the season and circumstance, but here we are with the MIAA football playoffs in full swing, and I find myself getting asked four questions all the time.

But no more, because now every time I notice similar questions from you, our fine readers, I am going to do a mailbag and explain my feelings on the biggest MIAA sports issues of the day.

Now, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy novel questions, so if you have something you would like to see answered in a future mailbag, hit me up on Twitter @HerewegoJoe, or via email at jparello86@gmail.com.

Off we go.

Ed. Note- All questions are actually just me condensing numerous similar questions from multiple readers into one (semi) coherent thought.

Q1. So Joe, I know you're a CMass guy, but shouldn't St. John's (Shrewsbury) play in Eastern Mass? They should have to join the Catholic Conference, right? I mean, they have more kids than a bunch of D1 schools, so there's no way they should be playing in D3 Central. Shouldn't the Pioneers, and maybe other larger CMass schools, play in D1 or D2 if their numbers are that large?

A1. Whoa buddy, you've been holding onto that one for a while, haven't you. In all seriousness, St. John's (Shrewsbury) has probably been the one school I've been asked about most this year, and it's obvious why.

The Pioneers have looked like the class of not only Central Mass or D3 Central, but of the entire state in Division 3. Also, the MIAA lists the all boys school's enrollment at 966, giving them significantly more boys than D1 North power Central Catholic (651), and recent Catholic Conference juggernaut Xaverian. St. John's is generally within a couple hundred boys of the largest public schools across the state as well, with a few exceptions (Brockton has 2,142 boys?!?!)

All that said, this is a Central Mass school, that generally draws kids from Central Mass and mostly plays a Central Mass schedule. They should play in the largest division of Central Mass.

I mean, we ain't sending Everett to New Jersey just because they're beating everybody in Massachusetts, right?

Now, you could argue that CMass should play in Division 1 or 2, and based on school size, I could see your point, but haven't the games kinda already shown that the CMass schools are where they're supposed to be?

Since the state-wide football tournament began in 2013, Central Mass has won only one state title in its highest division (Nashoba in D2 back in 2015), and St. John's has only been to Gillette once, losing to Mansfield in the inaugural D2 state title game in 2013.

Basically what I'm saying is, if CMass teams only win one state title every four years, and St. John's hasn't done it yet, we may be trying to fix two problems that don't exist.

Also, where was this outcry last year when St. John's lost to Wachusett in the regular season and Shrewsbury in the playoffs? Yes, this year's Pioneer team may be the best team in D3 (we don't know yet), and they could probably play with the top teams in the state up a division or two (their win against Catholic Memorial is looking better by the week), but this is one year. Let's see if St. John's strings together a few titles before we send them east, or force CMass to play up a level.

Q2. What about this girl from Lunenberg who won the boys Central Mass golf tournament? They should have given her the trophy and let her move on to states, right?

A2. Uh, obviously. I don't know how much more I need to expand on that, it's just so self-evident. The fact that a rule preventing girls from winning boys' tournaments existed in the first place is a bit odd, but the fact that it appears to be a relatively recent rule confounds me.

Emily Nash, who was somehow not mentioned by name in the MIAA's bizarre response to this incident, was the best golfer in D3 Central, and had to participate in the boys' tournament because her school does not offer girls' golf.

Why on Earth that would somehow make her ineligible to win the tournament she was eligible to participate in… Yeah, I just don't get this rule. Now, rules are rules, so I kinda get the bind the MIAA was in, but somebody there should have just said, "guys, this rule doesn't make any sense. We're not opening a can of worms here if we honor the win that she earned. We should use the incident as a reason to immediately get rid of this rule."

The MIAA would then meet at The Legion of Doom and secretly vote on a new rule, just after they install a few puppet governments in South America, rig the next presidential election, and drive gas prices up to enrich their sinister cabal!

But it should be pointed out that Emily Nash, who seems very down to Earth and didn't make a big deal about this at all, is getting the last laugh. She will now go down as the most famous high school sectional golf tournament winner in Massachusetts (and probably US) history, and gets to play in a ProAm with Annika Sorenstam.

Q3. Speaking of the MIAA, how do you cover that cartel? They're like the Illuminati! I read an article in The Herald that said they were all secretive and rich and…

A3. Ok, I'm gonna stop you right there. I too read this article in The Herald, and boy was it something. Let's be clear: The MIAA is not some secret society that is funneling millions of dollars from all their gangbusters events at Foley Stadium in Worcester.

They're former school and athletic administrators, and sometimes they make mistakes, or don't fully take into consideration the feelings of many of their member schools, and occasionally handle public relations nightmares terribly.

But guess what? This happens in literally every state. I grew up in Florida, went to college in Indiana, and have friends from many other states. Do you think any of them, many of whom were stellar athletes in their day, have ever said a kind word about their home state's high school athletics governing body? Of course not.

The fact is, the MIAA can't please everybody, and lately they've really been stepping in it, but can we stop pretending they're a secretive cartel? The MIAA is a non-profit, and many of their records are public. One person makes over $175,000, and two others earn six figures.

Those numbers are less like the mafia, and more like that one restaurant you swear is a mafia stronghold, but actually just sells really good lasagna.

Q4. Speaking of the MIAA (again), could they screw up these football playoffs anymore? Now everybody gets a trophy, and losing teams get in, while Thanksgiving has lost all meaning? All this just so we can crown state champions?

A4. First of all, I'm not a Massachusetts native, so I probably have different feelings about Thanksgiving games than a lot of other people around these parts, and my feelings are this-

If you're rivalry is special, and I mean truly special, it will still matter, even if the game is an exhibition. Xaverian vs St. John's Prep still matters. Leominster vs Fitchburg still matters, and a bunch of other Turkey Day rivalries across the state still matter.

But, if you're on your seventh Thanksgiving opponent in the last 15 years, or you're playing an opponent you really haven't hated since the 90s, then sorry to break it to you, but the format changing in 2013 isn't what took the magic away from your Turkey Day.

I'm willing to sacrifice a few "meh" rivalries if it will give us true state champions, and like I said, the great rivalries still matter to those towns and schools.

I mean, how did this state go so long without crowning statewide champions in football anyway? States far larger have found ways to crown state champs, and the MIAA already did it with every other sport. Honestly, it's a little embarrassing it took this long.

As for the "everybody gets a trophy" point, I get that. Eight divisions is too many, no doubt about it. My home state of Florida, where some individual teams have over a dozen future Division 1 players and the population is three times as large as Massachusetts, only has eight divisions.

Massachusetts really should have about four, but I thought the old format of six was a nice sweet spot. Smaller schools had a chance to win a title, and all six games were played at Gillette Stadium.

Now, with eight divisions, many of the playoff brackets are watered down with below-.500 teams and two state championship games have to be sent off to other venues.

All that said, it's still better than the old system of crowning champions in three different regions across six divisions. Honestly, give me anything other than that again. Yes, crowning state champions is worth shaking some things up, and in 20 years we'll all be wondering how Massachusetts made it into the 21st century still playing for only regional titles.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

If the MIAA wants a true state champion, then the Divisions should be determined state-wide. If you have 936-odd boys in your HS, and can "reclassify" them and draw from 30 towns, you should not be playing in Division 3. Period. Because the school is in Shrewsbury, they are given an artificial advantage, and get to play against far smaller schools if they make it to the state semifinals or beyond? But if they are located 25 miles east they do not? How does that make sense? Frankly, I'm shocked that a coach worth his salt would agree to that...at least CM petitioned to step up and play D1, but not SJP. Sad example of MIAA ineptitude and lobbying.