“They Did What?!?!

That was our initial reaction when we heard the news that the Winthrop School Committee had voted last week to reject an offer by the Boston Red Sox organization to have the Revere-Winthrop Thanksgiving Day football game be played at Fenway Park on Thanksgiving Eve.

To our knowledge, this marks the first time that a School Committee anywhere, at any time has refused to play an athletic contest at Fenway.

On the other hand, after viewing the video of the entire School Committee meeting, we understand the concerns raised by many of the citizens who opposed playing the game at Fenway in their hope that the contest can be held at the newly renovated Miller Field, which reportedly may be ready to host the game, albeit with many aspects of the facility still under construction.

The chief objections to the Red Sox offer were as follows: The members of the senior class of the WHS football team (and cheerleaders), who have not played a home game in two years, deserved to play their final game in a Viking uniform before their home fans; traveling into Boston on the evening before Thanksgiving would be difficult for the fans; playing the game the night before Thanksgiving would disrupt the traditional night-before-the-holiday plans for some; and with tickets priced at $20 (though 25 percent of Winthrop’s ticket sales would go to Winthrop High), the cost of tickets, parking, etc. easily would exceed $100 per family.

Although these are all very good reasons in favor of playing the game in Winthrop, or even Revere, there are a number of reasons why we think the vote by the School Committee was ill-advised.

First and foremost, we do not believe that the School Committee should have become involved in this issue in the first place. School committees are not supposed to meddle in the business of the day-to-day operations of their school districts. The decision of whether it was in the best interests of the Winthrop players and students to play at Fenway should have been left solely to the sound discretion of the superintendent (and as an aside, we would note that acting Supt. Lisa Howard made a superb presentation of the facts of the situation), athletic director, and football coach.

The School Committee’s decision to call an emergency meeting at the behest of various interest groups turned this into the proverbial political football (no pun intended) and has set a terrible precedent, because now anyone who takes issue with a decision by the school administration will seek to have the School Committee intervene.

Second, and more important and germane to the issue at hand, it was made very clear to the School Committee that the Miller Field complex still will be under construction by Thanksgiving Day. Acting Town Manager Terry Delehanty stated in no uncertain terms that the town should not be placed in the position of rushing into a decision to “accept” the project from the contractor, even if on a provisional basis, because of the contractual and liability issues that might arise. And we should mention here that we fully will support Town Manager Delehanty (who is a lawyer) if he determines that it is not in the best interests of the town to “accept,” even provisionally, the project from the contractor. (And we also would note that Town Council President Russ Sanford, who sits as an ex officio member of the School Committee, was the lone vote in favor of the Fenway option for the that reason.)

We have no doubt that Vin Crossman, Jim Letterie, and the other members of the construction committee, who have done yeoman’s work (and that is an understatement) over the past two years, feel terrible that the Miller Field complex will not be completed, other than the turf field and stands, for the Revere game.

We also have no doubt that they are convinced that the turf field will be playable.

However, “Everything is good until it isn’t,”  as the saying goes, and there are just too many variables that could prevent the facility as a whole from being useable by a big crowd, not the least of which is a lengthy permitting process.

Further, we really don’t understand why the construction committee and others would even want to play a game in a facility that will have safety fencing around the incompleted areas of the complex. What rationale can there be for inaugurating, what promises to be a beautiful new complex, when it will be only in a semi-finished state before the largest crowd of the season?

We also are disappointed that our School Committee did not take into account the point-of-view of the Revere school district, which clearly wanted to play at Fenway and did all it could to accommodate Winthrop’s concerns. Although Revere and Winthrop may be rivals on the gridiron, in reality they are partners in the educational and athletic development of our student-athletes — but Revere’s input received no consideration in the discussion in the Winthrop School Committee’s hearing room.

None of the present student-athletes on the Revere and Winthrop grid teams ever have had — or ever will have again — the experience of playing on the grass at hallowed Fenway Park.

Affording our student-athletes such an opportunity should have been a proverbial no-brainer, in our estimation, as no doubt it was in the mind of House Speaker Bob DeLeo, who personally made an effort to make such a momentous event happen for his Winthrop and Revere constituents. In the final analysis, we understand that there are adults in the Winthrop community who put a lot of time and effort into the renovation of Miller Field (and by the way, Speaker DeLeo was instrumental in obtaining the funds from Massport for the project) and that they have some understandable pride in wanting to show off their hard work. It also is clear that some of the Winthrop players preferred to play at the new Miller Field if it is ready.

But given Miller Field’s up-in-the-air status (and contingency plans have been made with Revere officials to play the game at Harry Della Russo Stadium if Miller Field is not ready to be accepted by the Town of Winthrop in time for the game), the vote of the Winthrop School Committee exposes the town to issues of liability and has deprived both the Revere and Winthrop players and cheerleaders of a once-in-a-lifetime athletic experience that they would have been able to recall for their children and grandchildren for the rest of their lives.

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