"You Gotta Be Kidding!"
by Mickey Charles CEO, sportsnetwork.com
Hatboro, PA (Sports Network) --
There is little doubt in my mind these days that sports is out of control and that the players, rich beyond belief as they are, with all sorts of influence on the decisions of the teams, leagues and sports in which they are involved, have about as much clout with the outcome of a game as an April shower does on increasing the water levels of the ocean.
Is there any "down" played in the NFL that does not come complete with a choice of penalties? The only reason that the referees do not whistle a stoppage of play and begin to pace off the yardage is that they are too old and out of shape to blow the whistle on a continuing basis. Compound that with a pre-determined time limit to play the game, commercial breaks, potentially destroying and undressing the game completely and not giving a hoot about reality and you have the NFL at its best.
Some people feel that if the NFL hired full-time officials, there might be less missed calls during the game.
That is the result of hiring part-time arbiters and letting them dictate the flow and ebb of the games. Mediators with authority who are as qualified physically to keep up with million -dollar athletes at the peak of their careers as you and I are to climb Mt. Everest this afternoon without equipment or guides. Or, perhaps, swim the English Channel in a blinding rainstorm. A torrential downpour of yellow flags would be the end result if the games were called with any degree of accuracy, if the tails did their jobs with effectiveness.
The old joke of the NHL, that you went to a boxing match and a hockey game broke out, has more substance to it than smiles. Nothing is going to change but we have a sport where duking it out is the order of the day. There is no other sport that comes to mind where this is intentionally allowable. None. The nature of the game is that players run into other players, they bounce them off the boards, they hit them on the fly trying to impale them on their hockey sticks, inadvertently and by accident, of course. Their skates should be in the ads for Gillette blades.
But, the game has always been out of control and will remain that way in the foreseeable future because the higher authorities of the sport see the fighting as an integral part of the action on the ice. They sincerely believe it to be part and parcel of the game. Excuse me! Endorsement of manifest mayhem, flaunting fighting and cheering for the gloves to come off, condoning more hostilities than were witnessed on D-Day and Pearl Harbor combined cannot be a substitute for a sport that is supposed to have a combination of grace and strength at its foundation. The tails in this case, the whistle blowers on ice skates, are mandated to let the games go on in the midst of confrontations, collisions and combat.
The NBA has evolved into two sets of rules: one for the stars and another for those that are the wannabe stars. A game of finesse has turned into the WWF. The bigger and more talented you are, regardless of size, the more transgressions you are permitted and, with players of the stature, for example, of Shaquille physically, the greater a target you are for physical violence. Hey, what the heck, is the theme of the NBA, they can take it. In order for a call of palming to be made you would have to run the length of the court without a single dribble. There are more jay walking calls on the streets of NYC than there are whistles blown for violating the rules with a walking penalty. Goal tending has no direction and is influenced solely by the whim and fancy of the zebras that could not differentiate upward from downward flight with an engineering degree in aerospace technology.
Do you think that the NBA wanted Toronto playing Milwaukee? Hearts would have stopped if Vince Carter had made that last shot with two seconds left. Did you bother to tally the foul calls made against the Raptors versus those made against the Sixers? Iverson makes a move towards the hoop, sneezes on the way and the whistle blows. Dikembe throws one of those elbows into the chest and out the back of a Raptor and no one even bothers to call the medics. Wait until next year when the rules allow even more contact. Welcome to the hoops version of the XFL.
Which brings us, of course, to what is no longer America's sport, baseball. Interest here has fallen off as much as it has for the NBA and the umpires have become traditional in some respects and outrageous in others. Stealing second base or seeing the start of a double play is an exercise out of Hollywood. In the first instance, a caught throw from the catcher and a sweeping gloved hand that even looks close is cause to call the future Willie Sutton out. The fact that he was in before the tag makes no difference at all. A move worthy of Nuryev by the shortstop or second baseman is all that is needed for the arm to go up.
Over the years, the umpires have been highly criticized for their calls on the field.
Breaking up a double play is no longer a hard slide into second. It is the MLB version of Kamikaze pilots looking for a target to hit no matter where that target might be. Getting to second base safely might not ever have entered anyone's mind. And, it has been legal for years. Incredible!
Then there is the invisible strike zone with the consistency of the current stock market. The top of the strike zone is midway between the top of the shoulders and the top of the belt. The latter is determined, by the way, when the player is ready to swing at the pitch, not when he is waiting for it. And the bottom of the strike zone is beneath the kneecap. Got it? Strikeouts per game have increased and walks have decreased. When you talk about a pitch being over the plate, give me a break. Anything a foot or so outside the plate is being called a strike these days. And that is insanely commented upon by announcers who use such commentary as "Just missed the outside corner." Bless television replays for truth and accuracy.
Baseball wants to cut down on offense and shorten the length of games. Plain, pure and simple. The umpires, the tails here, are wagging in so many different directions that a pound could not keep them under control. Every mutt is a different pedigree. Confusion about what is a strike and what is not is running wild from park to park, team to team, umpire to umpire. Pitchers have to vary with every game. The heck with the book interpretation. Anything close is a strike. Make that anything is a strike, potentially. Every umpire is different and that means every strike zone will vary as well. Makes for a fun night at the plate all around.
The dogs of sports are no longer barking as they have done for years. Instead, the tails that possess the whistles are leading the way, from the rear. Does anything in sports ever change for the better lately? You gotta be kidding!