Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: High school football, UMass basketball and more to ponder while the turkey cooks this Thanksgiving

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The turkey is probably in the oven. The sweet potatoes are cooking.

So while we wait for dinner to be served, here are some Thanksgiving thoughts.

On this day, we should give thanks to all of the men and women who serve as officials for our high school and youth sports.

The numbers are decreasing gradually for many reasons. In the Berkshires, most are of an age where they start to think about hanging up the whistles. Elsewhere, we read about verbal and even physical assaults on officials. Incidents like those are chasing those folks away from the business.

If we don't have officials, how are your children's games going to be played?

It is really difficult to imagine a Wahconah-Hoosac football game or a Drury-Greylock basketball game with fewer officials than what might be required to properly adjudicate the game.

Here's a suggestion: If you were an athlete and want to stay involved, go take the test to be an official in the sport of your choice. The athletes can use you.

And we all will thank you.

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When I was at Mohegan Sun Arena this weekend, I had this thought about the University of Massachusetts men's basketball team: The two games there did not really matter.

You say, what do you mean they don't matter? Doesn't every game matter?

They all do in one way. But for Matt McCall's young troops, losing to Virginia and St. John's this past weekend is not as big a deal as what the Minutemen will do over the next two weeks. In fact, I think these next two weeks can be the most important weeks of the season for UMass.

Between now and the Christmas break, UMass will play home games against South Carolina, Yale and Maine, while playing on the road at Rutgers and Harvard.

If UMass comes out of that run with a record below .500, it could be tough for the Minutemen to recover from once they begin play in an Atlantic 10 Conference which appears to be much stronger than previously anticipated.

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It is not going to be an easy road for UMass. Rutgers, Friday afternoon's opponent, is 5-1 and beat Stephen F. Austin. That's the same Stephen F. Austin that just knocked off Duke in overtime — in Cameron Indoor Stadium.

South Carolina, which visits the Mullins Center on Dec. 4, just got beaten by Boston University, so who knows how good Frank Martin's team really is.

So pay attention to these upcoming games. They could go a long way to determining how much momentum McCall's team takes into conference play, and where the Minutemen might end up come March.

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While we in The Berkshires get to watch, most of Massachusetts has worked itself into a football frenzy for Thanksgiving.

Thousands of students, parents and alumni will visit high school campuses for annual Thanksgiving morning games. The vast majority of games are traditional rivalries, with some spanning a century of play.

We, however, are on the outside looking in.

Imagine if the Hoosac Valley-Wahconah football game that was played the week after both teams were eliminated from the Western Massachusetts playoffs, had instead been moved to Thanksgiving morning in either Dalton or Cheshire? The crowd at that game was outstanding, but I can only imagine how tough it might be to park at Hoosac if the game were played there on Thanksgiving morning.

The current high school football system is designed to get teams playing at Gillette Stadium in early December, we know that. For the teams that either don't make the playoffs or are knocked out in the first round, those non-playoff games can sometimes be a drag. Some schools in Western Mass. chose not to play a second non-playoff game. Let's give those coaches and players something to play for.

We also know that since the implementation of the state playoff system, Berkshire County teams — by and large — don't play each other as often. Some of those historic rivalries haven't been played in a while.

How about this? Next year, set up an old-fashioned Berkshire County rivalry game for Thanksgiving morning?

If Lee, for example, does not make the tournament, schedule the Wildcats against Monument Mountain on Thanksgiving morning. If Pittsfield plays Taconic in the regular season, have them go again on Thanksgiving morning at BCC. Give trophies. Make it an event.

Then we can all eat turkey with all the fixings.

Howard Herman can be reached at hherman@berkshireeagle.com, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.


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