Snow: On school board, civilians outrank the generals

CorrespondentMarch 11, 2012 

When Wake schools superintendent Tony Tata was hired, I thought to myself, "It won't work."

Although I didn't deal often with generals during my tour in uniform, there were enough ego-inflated second lieutenants around to instill in me a lingering prejudice against commissioned officers.

I worried that someone used to giving orders for 28 years and having them carried out without question might have problems dealing with our free-thinking, duly elected school board.

So when Tata recently clashed with two board members, accusing them of ethics violations, I thought, "See? Once a general, always a general."

But, to my surprise, Tata has generally done a decent job that has included grappling with a politically divisive board during much of his tenure. Designing and selling a massive and complex new student assignment plan itself is no small challenge.

The superintendent needs to keep this in mind.

On retiring in 1991, Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf said: "Seven months ago, I could give a single command and 541,000 people would obey it. Today, I can't get a plumber to come to my house."

Tata, who has apologized for his remarks, must realize that when military and civilian powers disagree, the elected civilians outrank the generals.

Ribbing the refs

I always thought that ribbing the referee came with the price of a college-basketball ticket.

So I was surprised when ACC referee Karl Hess ejected a couple of former N.C. State basketball greats from the RBC for needling the refs during the Florida State game.

I had no idea that refs were so thin-skinned. I wonder how Hess has officiated Duke games without clearing half the arena of fans when the Crazies are doing their thing.

Although I've done my share of ribbing refs, I have to admire them. They not only have to deal with thousands of partisan fans screaming at them, but must also be skilled in detecting even the most subtle fouls or other violations. In addition, they must be in peak physical condition in order to race up and down the court with young men half their age.

Many of you surely remember the late Lou Bello, perhaps the ACC's most colorful referee.

The NCSU-Florida State incident prompted Ayden attorney Delyle Evans to share a couple of his favorite Bello anecdotes from the 1970s.

Once, with three seconds to go in a game and his team trailing by two points, a player was handed the ball by Bello, who remarked: "Here you are, son. Two free shots coming. If you miss either one, your team loses!"

The other story occurred during a Wake Forest-Duke game in the late 1950s, when Horace "Bones" McKinney coached at Wake Forest.

Bones had been complaining about Bello's calls most of the game. Late in the second half, Bello ran by the Wake Forest bench and blew his whistle, signaling another call against the Deacons.

Exasperated, Bones stood up and yelled, "Bello, you don't even know the score!"

Bello turned to the irate coach and responded, "Sure I do. We've got you by five!"

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Snow: 919-836-5636 or

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