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Basalt: Game on

Jon MaletzAspen, CO Colorado
Jordan Curet/The Aspen Times
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BASALT As Basalt police officer Penny Paxton approached Mayor Leroy Duroux before the start of Friday’s girls basketball game, Duroux jokingly put his hands behind his back as if preparing to be handcuffed. The gesture generated smiles from both. Less than one week earlier, basketball official Jay Rickstrew had Duroux removed from a game in Carbondale between the Longhorns and rival Roaring Fork for making a hand gesture Rickstrew deemed offensive. The incident brought to the forefront a long-standing and contentious feud between Basalt and valley referees. Members of the Glenwood Springs Officials Association, concerned about safety and the actions of adult fans, decided Wednesday not to participate in Longhorns girls and boys games Friday or Saturday. As a result, the games were in danger of being canceled or even forfeited. The decision was retracted early Friday after an 11th hour deal was struck between school officials and the association. With new protocols in place, two games were played Friday night and all parties involved were eager to move forward.”I’ve lost a lot of sleep over this,” Duroux said. “Everybody who knows me and has seen me at games couldn’t believe it. I hope everybody learned from this, and I hope something positive comes out of it.”

Before tip-off of both the girls and boys game, Basalt Principal Jim Waddick, at the request of the officials, read a prepared statement. He asked fans to refrain from criticizing calls or making derogatory remarks. He made it clear offenders would be asked to leave the gym. He proceeded to thank the officials for their presence at the game; his words were met with healthy applause.In response to the agreement brokered Friday, the school also bolstered its police presence at the game. As many as three officers, compared to the usual one, were on hand. After Paxton left, patrol Sgt. Jose Chavira and patrol officer Jeni Newcomb – the only two officers on duty for the town – watched the remainder of the contests from an alcove near the locker rooms. “I’ve been working with the department for three years, and I’ve never had to escort anyone our or arrest anybody,” Chavira said. “I’ve never heard of any major issues. Officials really have nothing to worry about here.”Both games were played before a smaller and noticeably more subdued crowd than usual. Many assumed the games were called off and did not attend, Waddick said. And while the diminutive Olathe contingent repeatedly drowned out the Longhorns fans, things went off without incident. “We had to be quiet because we didn’t want to get in trouble this time,” said sophomore Carmel Mulcahy, who came dressed in a black and white referee jersey; she decided to leave her whistle at home. “None of this was necessary. If you were a ref, you have to expect parents to say things. You have to just let it roll off your back and keep reffing the game. Make calls and be confident in them.”Waddick said he struggled to understand how officials would feel threatened about working in Basalt, given the scarcity of documented incidents in the past. Still, he worked hard this past week to listen to concerns and understand their perspectives.

Officials did not wish to comment.”In most other places, things like this are part of sport,” Waddick said. “They made a request, and we did our best. We may never have the same perspective, but we wanted to work out all their concerns and move on.”Assistant Principal Tim Root agreed.”If you’re in this school and the community long enough, things like this come up that you have to address,” he said. “Everybody has a stake. Everybody has a different perception about an issue. We want to make sure everyone is comfortable and has a good experience.”While both sides may not see eye-to-eye on whether recent measures were ultimately necessary, everyone agreed a deal had to be struck in order to keep the student athletes from suffering.

Randy Hunt, head official for the Glenwood Springs pool of referees, told The Aspen Times earlier Friday that his crew will work Longhorns games for the remainder of the year.”This issue is all about the kids and I think that gets forgotten,” Waddick said. “Having to forfeit this game wouldn’t have been fair. It was up to the adults to come together and solve this problem.”Early returns were overwhelmingly positive.”The fans were on their best behavior tonight,” Waddick said. Jon Maletz’s e-mail address is jmaletz@aspentimes.com


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