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Sports Column | Bucky Dent: Perception for some is reality

Sports Column | Bucky Dent: Perception for some is reality

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In August 2011, I had this brilliant idea. I decided I’d spent a weekend in Rock Hill, S.C. and try to become a college softball umpire.

I had no illusions of jumping right into Division I games just like that; it doesn’t work that way. My intention was to have a good weekend and earn a spot in Division II or III, and perhaps work my way into DI ball in a few years. Didn’t happen, but it was still a good weekend.

While there, I met a fellow most of you know. Cory Hastings was (sort of still is) a young kid who presently coaches cross country at Massac County. He’s also a really good softball umpire, as I found out while spending time with him that weekend.

One of the things we did that weekend was listen to a lecture from the camp’s chief clinician, a woman named Betsy Kidd. The subject name of said lecture: “Perception is Reality.”

In that speech, it was reinforced that you should never spend too much time talking with one coach or another between innings, or even as you come on the field. It creates the perception for fans that you’re going to try to prop them up in key spots.

They also counseled us on looking sharp when we arrived at the field, giving us an image of two characters. There was Professional Pete, whose uniform looked pressed and clean, and then there was Sloppy Sam, who may have had chili stains on his shirt and wrinkles about the size of Texas in his pants.

Anyway, Betsy was right about that. Perception for some is reality, even if it’s not the truth. Which is where we get to the state’s most lopsided rivalry at the moment – Gov. J.B. Pritzker vs. the IHSA.

The Governor’s Office announced Tuesday that winter sports like basketball and wrestling would be put on hold because they were considered high-risk activities. Or to put it another way, forget the start of practice on Nov. 16 or the first game on Nov. 30. Neither of those things are happening.

This was something one could have seen happening about 30 miles before you get off the interstate. That six of the state’s 11 COVID-19 regions, including Southern Illinois and the metro-east, have incurred further mitigations as coronavirus rates rise above 8 percent, made this an inevitability.

The problem here is how Pritzker went about the announcement. For the second time in three months, he kneecapped the IHSA like Tonya Harding’s thugs did Nancy Kerrigan about a month before the 1994 Winter Olympics.

And what I mean by that is that Pritzker came off the top rope and dropped the atomic elbow on the IHSA’s plans for winter sports. You might recall that he did the same thing hours before the IHSA was to announce its ideas for conducting fall sports in late July, essentially rendering their meeting useless.

This is not to criticize Pritzker for using science and data to make his decisions. He’s been very consistent on that over the last 7 ½ months. And you’d rather see someone err on the side of caution in a pandemic.

But you can’t blame players, coaches and administrators around the state for feeling as though Pritzker dealt them the stick’s short end again. It's also not unfair to say that the lines of communication between Pritzker and the IHSA could stand to be much better.

If it looks like Pritzker has upstaged the IHSA in order to get his way, well, you know what they say.

Perception for some is reality.

Bucky Dent covers prep sports for the Southern Illinoisan and also votes on the Wooden Award. He can be reached at 618-351-5086 or at



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