We've been trying to think of a job which is analogous to being a basketball official.
Traffic cop? Maybe. Judge? Maybe, if it's Judge Judy. High school principal? Arguably.
It's a difficult position and it requires a certain type of personality.
The best thing one could say about Karl Hess is that he never cared what anyone thought.
That was abundantly clear this season when he finally returned to work a game at NC State and T'd up Mark Gottfried in the first four minutes.
But he was right in at least this sense: you have to call it as you see it or you might as well not bother.
Still, his fall, although possibly a long time coming, still seemed sudden and swift when ACC dumped him Friday.
If you aren't up to speed, Hess told a fan at the Wake-Louisville game that "[w]hen I'm older, I want to sit in your seat & watch your Egyptian ass ref a game."
As it happened, the fan was no ordinary fan but rather Mit Shah, a bigshot in the hotel business and a former trustee at Wake Forest.
But it wasn't just that. Hess had a long history of controversies and conflict.
Perhaps the best analogy for the job is nothing above but rather Kuroko stagehands from Kabuki theater.
They wear black and are supposed to be invisible.
Referees wear half-black at best but there are some similiarities. They are supposed to run the game efficiently while not making themselves the focal point.
Karl Hess is not the first ACC referee with an outsized personality. Lou Bello was one of the ACC's best-known refs from the conference's earlier days; he was so well liked that he ended up working on TV, probably not an option for Hess.
Dick "Froggy" Paparo was scorned by fans across the ACC and at Duke was regularly greeted with "you suck....Richard." Paparo had a large, gregarioius personality which did not endear him to many fans.
Lenny Wirtz was widely despised by ACC fans, many of whom saw him as being in Dean Smith's pocket (he wasn't: we refer you to the comments above about referee's personality traits) and indeed retired after a controversial situation involving what appeared to be conflicts of interest.
In the ACC's relentless move towards a toned-down, corporate image, those sorts of guys stood out.
Anyway, we can't say we'll miss Hess, but we feel a bit for him that his fate was decided by such a stupid comment. Who hasn't said something appalling about someone else?
But he already had a target on his back and should've had the sense to not stir things up.
That's not Hess's personality, however. He does like to stir things up. But no more.
By the way, we can't confirm this, but Hess's day job? We've aways heard marriage counselor - hilarious if true.
Needless to say, he won't be working any Saturday's slate of games, and most of them are pretty promising.
Georgia Tech visits Wake Forest and with the Deacs improving incredibly quickly, and the Yellow Jackets also highly competitive, it should be a good game. Neither team has won in the conference yet although both have played very well. That should be really interesting.
Clemson and Pitt...not as much. We're not expecting too much here.
Louisville at UNC should be a dandy, though. Both teams like to get up and down the court and both are due a good game. You know Rick Pitino will want Louisville to be at its best for the Card's debut in the Dean Dome as ACC members, but no more so than Ol' Roy Williams. Does UNC have an answer for Montrezl Harrell? Is Marcus Paige ready to break out?
By the way, why was it so serious for Hess to say what he said and okay for Pitino, after beating Savannah State senseless that "I don’t like to see any team struggle like that. I really don’t. We tried everything. I played four white guys and an Egyptian."
Honestly, Pitino insulted two groups in his comment and suggested that neither was athletically competent and fed into multiple stereotypes. Hess got fired; Pitino got applauded for his wit. Something is wrong with that.
Virginia and Notre Dame features one of the nation's best defenses against one of the most efficient offenses - and UVa's offense is also pretty solid. That could be excellent. We'll note that the 'Hoos have several guys who can defend Notre Dame's Jerian Grant.
Finally, BC visits Miami, which should be pretty fun. Miami has a lot more oomph than last year, while Jim Christian is doing a really nice job with his Eagles.
The nicest things about this season - unless you're a State fan chortling over Hess's demise - is that everyone is competitive. That's not to say things won't shake out; of course they will. But look at the bottom of the league. Wake is in last place and just gave two top five teams fits. Virginia Tech is showing enormous heart despite no bench and no real size inside. BC is clearly responding to superior coaching, and while Clemson is limited offensively, this team still took it to Louisville.
When the bottom plays that well, everyone benefits.