On Jan. 25 of this year, a father of a Missoula Hellgate basketball player made a fool out of himself in a big, big way.
With his son’s team leading by nearly 40 points in the fourth quarter, the dad went bananas when his son fouled out on charge call. The dad screamed swearwords at the referee who called the foul, and he cursed repeatedly as he threatened to fight multiple people in the crowd before being escorted out of the Richardson Gym in Butte.
Hellgate went on to beat Butte High 81-46.
Butte High players, coaches and fans were not embarrassed by point difference, and they were not overly mad.
They basically said, “Wow, Hellgate is one of the best teams we’ve seen. And that dad is a Hall of Fame-caliber moron.”
Hellgate’s average margin of victory was 27.3 points per game in boys’ basketball in the 2019-20 season. In two games against Butte High, the Knights won by a total of 83 points.
The Knights beat the Bulldogs 89-41 in Missoula four weeks after the fan meltdown in Butte.
Even though their decision to keep their starters in most of the game in the 48-point win over Butte High was puzzling to say the least, we never publicly questioned Hellgate coach Jeff Hays.
Rather, we respect the coach whose teams went 44-2 over the last two seasons. We figure he knows what he is doing.
That his teams won so big while showing the mercy one would expect from a Cobra Kai fighter does not make the coach a bad guy. That the fans enjoyed those savage beatings make them bad people, either.
When he is not watching his offspring play games, the swearing and threatening fan is probably an alright guy, too.
What it does mean, however, is that Hellgate fans do not get to cry “running it up” when it comes to any sport for the next 25 years.
Doing that after such a lopsided run in basketball would truly be embarrassing for Knights everywhere.
Fast forward to earlier this month when a Hellgate fan publicly called out Missoula Sentinel coach Dane Oliver for running up the score in a 64-0 win over the Knights.
An anonymous fan going by the name “3rd Quarter WaGriz” called the coach a very bad name. Then he blasted him because he “refused to pull starters until 4th quarter despite being up 50-0 at the half.”
The tweet went on.
“Gotta keep those elite Spartan families happy instead of developing his youngest players.”
Without even getting into the whole pot-and-the-kettle argument, this tweet just might go down as the dumbest of 2020.
It is an awful tweet even if it was sent out by somebody who is not a complete and total coward hiding behind a screen name.
Elite Spartan families? What could that possibly mean? Missoula Sentinel is a public school that, thanks to a crazy open-district policy, every student in Missoula could go to.
It’s Missoula Sentinel, not the Baird School. Whoo-ah.
Sentinel has been accused of recruiting football players to go the school. I even kidded Oliver after his school was found to be in violation of the Montana High School Association recruiting policy and fined $100 because a superstar running back transferred to Sentinel from Flint Creek.
The thing is, a lot of aspiring football players want to go to Sentinel because Oliver has established a program that is one of the best in the Class AA.
Players who play for Oliver get good looks from college coaches, and they get to play deep into the fall.
When the Spartans reach the semifinals this year — and they will — it will be for the third time in four years. Oliver did not build that powerhouse program without developing his younger players.
He also is not out to embarrass other teams. Multiple sources have confirmed that the Spartans, who have to All-State-caliber quarterbacks, inserted second- and third-string players into the game pretty early.
It just so happens that those players are pretty good, too.
Even if the Spartans did play their starters a little too long, nobody should fault them for doing that in 2020. We are, in case you did not remember, playing a season on the egg shells of a pandemic, and the plug could be pulled on it all at any second.
So, letting the seniors play as much as possible is not a felonious offense.
Missoula Sentinel has been beating everybody by lopsided scores. Through the first six games, the unbeaten Spartans have been winning by an average of 44.5 points. They just beat previously unbeaten Helena High 48-0.
Sentinel came to Butte a few weeks ago and beat the defending Western AA champion Bulldogs 52-7.
Many Butte fans yelled about the fact that one of the great Sentinel quarterbacks transferred in from Wenatchee, Washington. Some just heckled Oliver for his recruiting prowess, but others seemed overly angry about it.
Still, the Butte fans did not run to Twitter and start name calling and poo pooing because the score was lopsided.
Rather, Butte fans thought, “Wow, Sentinel is one of the best teams we’ve seen. And that Hellgate dad is a Hall of Fame-caliber moron.”
Oliver really is one of the good guys in the Montana high school football.
Sure, he has an advantage because he has a program for which players around Missoula — and the Pacific Northwest — want to play. But Oliver created the program and that advantage. The other two Class AA schools in Missoula had the means to do the same thing, but did not. At least not in football.
Oliver built an envious program in football, just like Hays did in basketball at Hellgate.
The saddest thing about the tweet about Oliver was not that it makes Oliver look bad. It does not.
Rather, it turned a coach with perhaps the best team in the state into a sympathetic figure. That is no easy task.
The worst thing is that tweet is insulting to Hellgate and the players and coaches who have worked so hard at reviving a program that fell so far that it could only play a junior varsity schedule a few years ago.
Coach Mick Morris has done a good job building that program back up. Despite the big loss, the program at Hellgate is once again pointing up. Who knows, maybe in a few years Hellgate will be the “football school” in Missoula.
Losing by such a lopsided score to such a great team does not bring shame to the Hellgate players. In fact, that score would not even jump off the screen after the Spartans beat Kalispell Flathead by 40, Helena Capital by 35, Butte High by 45 and Missoula Big Sky by 35.
The big chicken taking to twitter, however, highlighted the score as the cowardly tweet made its way around Montana. It was that tweeter who embarrassed the Knights, not the Spartans.
So, it would be a good idea for whoever sent that tweet to remain in the gutless shadows of anonymity.
If his identity comes to light, he will be forced to join that Hellgate basketball dad in the Moron Hall of Fame.
— Bill Foley, a charter member of the Moron Hall of Fame, writes a column that usually appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74 1 comment