Tag Archive | "Domenic Vadala"

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Short week

Posted on 08 November 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The Ravens played yesterday, and will proceed to play again on Thursday evening at Atlanta in the NFL Network’s first Thursday night telecast of the season. The way I see things, this is sort of a catch-22. On one hand, from here on out there’ll be football on Monday and Thursday nights, which is always entertaining to watch. However, I also see a huge issue with this from the perspective of players and coaches on both sides. Most teams understand that on occasion there’ll be a short week due to a Monday nighter. However that’s only really losing one day. In this case, the Ravens (and Falcons) played yesterday, which means that many players will be in for treatment today. I would suspect that both teams will forego the weekly “day off” for NFL players, which is traditionally Tuesday. In general, most teams have “walk-throughs” the day before games, however in this case I would suspect that on Wednesday both teams will have something between that and a normal practice.

In the Ravens’ case, they’ll have to travel on Wednesday evening in preparation for the game on Thursday. (I’m not sure how the Ravens are handling it, but I’ve seen teams in situations like this that will travel the morning before the game so that they can have a full practice at the actual stadium as opposed to a walk-through at their practice facility.) Obviously baseball has three-game series’ which makes teams play everyday, and basketball and hockey players sometimes have quick turn-arounds as well. However football is a bit different due to the physical nature of the sport. I’m not sure that it’s really fair to the players to have these Thursday nighters in that some guys need the entire week to get back into game shape. So in this case they have to turn around and play four days later…?

Ultimately, these leagues are about money, and the NFL knows that having Thursday night games adds to it’s bottom line. However with the above-stated point about it not being fair to players, I have to question if the fans are getting what they’re used to getting on Sundays. Some players who sustain concussions are in fact able to play the following week. However if that team had a game on Thursday as opposed to Sunday would he be allowed in the game? Survey says probably not. We’ll all watch the game because it’s the Ravens, and it’s the NFL. However if the NFL wants to protect it’s players so much, perhaps they should take a look at their scheduling techniques and decide if they’re doing more harm than good at times. As I stated above, in this case the Ravens have to travel. I would suggest that if the league wants to continue these Thursday nighters, they should try to make them “regional” games; Baltimore-Atlanta is probably a decent one in terms of mileage. However I wouldn’t see it fair for them to schedule the Ravens at the San Diego Chargers on a Thursday night, with the Ravens having to travel across the country.

On the flip side, many players and coaches have also said that these Thursday nighters are similar in nature to a second bye week. If you can make it over the hump of playing two games in half a week’s span, the players do get some time off. However my point is that I understand that the NFL wants to make money. However, if ultimately we see a 10-7 vanilla game, does that really help the product? Interestingly enough, while most NFL fans claim that they love their team playing in primetime, I would suspect that more tickets change hands for primetime games during the week (Monday or Thursday) than on Sunday afternoons. As a Washington Redskins season ticket holder, I’ll be attending next week’s Monday nighter against the Philadelphia Eagles; I’m also planning on working Monday and Tuesday. Many people sell or give away their tickets because they don’t want to take a vacation day, nor do they want to be up that late coming home. Needless to say, it’s a catch-22 one way or the other.

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Is quiet leadership a bad thing in today’s world?

Posted on 05 November 2010 by Domenic Vadala

As we know, sports can be a great motif for life in general. As a part of the oh-so-competitive corporate world, I’ve been told time and time again that it’s important to toot-your-own-horn when you do something good at work. If you don’t, they say, you’ll never be able to move up. I come from humble stock, and bragging about how great I am is just not something with which I’m comfortable. Having said that, I’ve seen less-than-qualified people be promoted over me, and I’ve even been threatened with my job for giving credit to others.

The purpose of this column is not to vent about my job. However if life mirrors sports, does the same theory or idea hold true? As a Washington Redskin fan, I hated Donovan McNabb for years. Not only did he play for the Eagles, but he had the uncanny ability to beat the Redskins whenver he needed to do so. However looking back on those games today (with McNabb now playing for the burgundy and gold), I can see that he played all of those games with the grace, class, and leadership that he exhibits now with the Redskins. He’s not an overly emotional player in that he never lets you see him sweat when he’s under duress. My point isn’t to bring up or discuss his benching last Sunday afternoon in Detroit, although I’ll say that I think it was a bad move. However that was only the latest instance in a long line of times where McNabb’s been embarrassed during his football career. He even refused to publically denounce T.O. when they were teammates and Owens saw fit to call him out. He was benched by Andy Reid in Baltimore a few years back at halftime, and he took his medicine without complaining. However each time his team wins or he makes a great play, he’s always up there saying how great of a route Chris Cooley or DeShawn Jackson ran on that play.

On the other hand, showboaters such as Michael Irving and Deion Sanders never seemed to struggle for respect. Both of them were great players without a doubt, however they never carried themselves with the humility or grace with which someone like McNabb does. Derek Jeter (as much as we hate him) is a quiet guy, but he plays for the Yankees so he’s essentially loud by association. Alex Rodriguez can be loud at times, and as we saw earlier this season he seemingly has no regard for the game’s unwritten rules (ask Dallas Braden). The league, media, and fans even swept Rodriguez’s steroid use under the rug. Yet a quiet type of guy like Rafael Palmeiro was villianized. (Granted Palmeiro lied to Congress, but on the field he was fairly mild-mannered.) So what am I trying to say here? To be honest, I’m really not sure myself. I guess what I’m trying to say is that for whatever reason, it’s easier for society to accept someone like a Michael Irving or Alex Rodriguez. The majority of society are emotional people; therefore they react and empathize with someone like that. When people see someone like Donovan McNabb or even Raffy, they immediately think that the guy has no moxie whatsoever. In fact, when they screw up people are potentially more likely to hold them accountable. McNabb was benched because he threw a horrible interception late in the game, or Palmeiro single-handedly ruined baseball with his steroid use. This, as opposed to Michael Irving may act like a thug and have a drug addiction but he’s a great receiver, or Alex Rodriguez took steroids, but so did everyone else.

What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong. Steroids are wrong no matter how you look at it, and regardless of who’s taking them. However I suppose what I’m saying is that people can accept the shortcomings of humanized athletes or public figures moreso than they can those of the quiet leaders. And I think that’s a horrible trend. We should all aim to be like Donovan McNabb, telling reporters how great his teammates are. Instead, as a society we’re more like Michael Irving, who never wasted an opprotunity to promote himself to the cameras or microphones. Nowadays NFL players are almost expected to do some kind of endzone dance when they score, whereas the true legends of the game such as Johnny Unitas simply walked off the field. Again, we all wish that we had that kind of class.

I don’t think for one moment that Donovan McNabb isn’t respected in the NFL, however I’ve heard that he wasn’t always liked by the fanbase in Philadelphia because of his professionalism. All jokes about that making sense for Philadelphia people aside, that’s a sad state of affairs. Is that why he was traded? I don’t know, however I would assume that had he perhaps spoken his worth from time to time, they might have thought twice about it. Instead, he motored along like a good soldier and propped people up around him. To me, that’s leadership much moreso than someone that steals the limelight on a continual basis. But yet, those are the people that seemingly make it in today’s society. What comes first, the chicken or the egg?

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Different sports, different systems

Posted on 31 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

I love football and basketball, but baseball’s always been my favorite sport. There’s something that’s always struck me about the Americaness and timeless nature of the game. So this column isn’t necessarily about which sport is better than the others, but moreso about the different systems that they provide us in terms of getting athletes ready for prime time. Football and basketball are by far the two biggest NCAA sports. As a country, we’re as engrossed with college football Saturdays as we are with NFL Sundays. The 50 million college bowl games are all covered with national attention, especially the BCS bowl games and national title game. The NCAA basketball tournament rivals only the Super Bowl in terms of national media attention. The college basketball regular season and conference tournaments are almost just as big.

All of this aside, college football and basketball currently act as proving grounds for the NFL and NBA. We’re currently seeing many young players in both sports that are drafted and are then in the starting lineup on Opening Day. While I personally don’t believe in starting a rookie in the first game, we see quarterbacks such as Joe Flacco today who have the necessary moxie to play right off the bat. John Wall of the Washington Wizards would also be in this category; Wall was drafted #1 overall this past off season. Why is this, and why is it a phenomenon we’re seeing only now? In the past ten years (in my opinion), college sports have become increasingly more professional. Coaches are true coaches as opposed to phys ed teachers who know a thing or two about football or basketball. Many players are ready to start in their leagues right off the bat, and that wasn’t always been the case.

So why isn’t this the case in baseball? Guys such as Brian Matusz, Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Nick Markakis, etc. all spent time in the minors prior to coming up to the show. As I infered, college baseball doesn’t get near the noteriety that football or basketball does. Furthermore, many major league players (ie-Cal Ripken Jr) don’t even go to college. The difference is that baseball has the minor league system, which effectively acts as the NCAA does for football and basketball. The Orioles’ most recent top draft choice, Manny Machado, is 17 years old. Odds are that he won’t go to college, but he’ll probably spend between 2-4 years in the minor leagues. Most college athletes spend that amount of time playing in college, so effectively it’s the same idea. In the case of a guy like Matt Wieters, he went to college, but he also spent less than two years in the minor leagues. It all depends upon the maturity of the player, however if college baseeball ever got to the level of basketball or football, I suspect that the minor leagues as we know them would fall by the wayside. I’m not suggesting that one way or the other is better, however the fact is that each system is what it is.

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Why do some teams never have to complain?

Posted on 25 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

I was in a bar watching football yesterday; the two games that I was primarily following were the Redskins/Bears and Ravens/Bills, and I saw the Ben Rothleisberger TD/fumble at the end of the Steeler game out of the corner of my eye. There were quite a few Steeler fans in the bar, and I actually heard one guy say that it was a fumble and that Miami probably recovered it…however the refs always officiate in Pittsburgh’s favor. Sure enough, referee (and Pittsburgh-area native) Gene Steratore ruled that it was a fumble, but he couldn’t figure out who recovered it so he gave the ball to the Steelers (fourth and goal at the one). Pittsburgh kicked a field goal and won the game.

That whole series of events rubbed me the wrong way. First off, that was a cowardly manner in which to officiate that play. (Replays showed that two Dolphin players were about to get the ball just as it disappeared, and a Miami player came out of the scrum with the ball…so basically since technically Steratore didn’t see a Miami player with possession of the ball, Pittsburgh got the benefit of the doubt.) However that comment by the fan is very telling. Am I the only one that notices that some teams never seem to have to complain about officials’ calls? I think that you could probably put the Yankees, Red Sox, Cowboys, Steelers, Duke, Carolina, and perhaps even a few others in that category. Let’s be frank…we’re only going to remember the bad or controversial calls in games. We all follow sports because we love it so much, however the one premise that all fans have is that the games themselves are fair. So think about it…umpire Rich Garcia awarded a home run to Derek Jeter in that infamous Oriole playoff game in 1996 when Jeffrey Maier clearly interfered with the play. That scene replayed itself in last week’s ALCS on a Robinson Canoe home run, in the identical part of the new Yankee Stadium. However when was the last time that a game was decided on a controversial play that left the Yankees bitter?

I’m not saying that teams who happen to be playing a team like the Yankees or the Steelers should get the benefit of the doubt. However I think that would most fans want is for the correct call to be made. In the Jeffrey Maier situation as well as in the Steeler game on Sunday, the correct call was not made. Granted that’s probably more of an opinion than a fact, however I would hesitate to say that it’s the opinion of most people. In fairness, I visited a few Steeler message boards to see what their fans had to say about the matter. Some of them said that a W is a W regardless of how it comes to be, and a few people even said that the Steelers were luck and the Dolphins got screwed. However many others took the stance that Miami had their chances to win the game, including on the subsequent drive after that play. That’s certainly a fair point to make, and without a doubt if you take care of your business previous to that point in the game the official isn’t in a situation where he has to make that decision. However that’s also their way of saying that they know they got away with one. Out of all of these responses, the one that bothered me the most was the guy who wrote that the Steelers were the ones that should have been complaining because Big Ben clearly crossed the plain of the goal line prior to the ball coming out. I don’t think that this was a joke posting in anyway, I think he was serious; he pointed to the fact that there could have been a “video error” on the play. Him and the guy in the bar with me who said that Pittsburgh always gets favorable officiating would get along great.

Here’s another example that hits closer to home: remember that monday nighter in 2007 when the Ravens played the Patriots? I seem to remember some favorable New England officiating in that game if my memory serves me, including an unsportsmanlike conduct foul when Ed Reed threw a flag into the stands. (I agree that should be a penalty, however the circumstances that prompted that incident were suspect.) Furthermore, wasn’t it against the Patriots last season that John Harbaugh got flagged for unsportsmanlike? I don’t know what percentage of football coaches get penalized like that, but I know it’s small. I want to believe that all games in all sports are fair, however the fact remains that in situations like this seemingly opponents of the same teams are the ones left complaining. And for the record, I also agree that in any of these situations if a team would only take care of it’s own business none of this would be an issue. However in the Miami example from yesterday, the momentum at that point of the game was with the Steelers. Steratore seemed very willing to go along with the momentum. Momentum was with the Yankees in that 1996 playoff game, and Garcia seemingly didn’t want to disrupt it. The Patriots had the momentum in that 2007 game against the Ravens, as well as in the game last year. Why not keep it going? So perhaps the point is that if you get momentum you’re going to get favorable calls from time to time. The Steelers are a good team (as much as it pains me to say that), and they’re going to have momentum in a lot of their games. But as good as they are, you can’t disregard the fact that they normally get calls like that down the stretch. And perhaps the worst part is that their fans know it.

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World Series 2010: what does it say about the Orioles?

Posted on 24 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

So the 2010 fall classic is now set…Giants vs. Rangers. I don’t think that anybody, least of all fans of the teams involved, would have picked this one at the beginning of the season. First off, I think it’s great for the game of baseball to have these two teams in the world series. The Philadelphia Phillies have been in it the past two years, and the New York Yankees…well, enough said. Certainly fans of those two teams are less than thrilled with the matchup in the world series, however not many people around the league are mourning too loudly for them.

The Orioles had the opprotunity to play both of these teams in 2010. They see the Rangers of course several times a year due to the fact that they’re al AL team. The inaugural series between the two teams in 2010 was a short two-game set deep in the heart of Texas. Unfortunately, Texas won both of them, although they were very different games. The Rangers beat the O’s 4-3 the first night, and 13-7 the second, hammering Brian Matusz’s injured moxie (at the time). In June the Orioles traveled out to San Francisco to play a three-game interleague set with the Giants. Ultimately, SF took two-of-three, however the one game that the Orioles won came behind a dominating performance by Jake Arrieta, my paisan. Arrieta held the would-be NL champs to one run over three hits, striking out three. Perhaps the most impressive aspect was that he only walked two batters over seven innings. (One of Arrieta’s struggles in the minors was walks.) While losing two-of-three isn’t a desired result, the one game that the Orioles won boded well for the future, as the future of the team definitely involves Jake Arrieta.

As the Orioles plugged along in the season, they found themselves back in Texas on the final weekend before the all-star break (this time for four games). Wouldn’t you know it, the Rangers decided to trade for Cliff Lee just before the series started, and they announced that he would start the Saturday night cap. Just the Orioles’ luck. The O’s went out and won the first two games of the series with the pen getting the win in both games (David Hernandez and Jason Berken). To top it off, not only was Cliff Lee going to make his inaugural Texas start against the Orioles, but the O’s had to call up Chris Tillman from the minors to start against Lee. However, the O’s took an immediate lead off of Corey Patterson’s first inning double, and Miguel Tejada’s RBI-single. Caesar Izturis followed up a Nick Markakis homer with one of his own (his annual home run), and Tillman was dominant. Ultimately, the O’s won 6-1 that night, and Jake Arrieta followed that up the next day by beating the Rangers 4-1 to complete a four-game sweep.

With this in mind, I’m sure that Texas wanted a degree of revenge when they came to the yard in August. If you can call a series split revenge, then I suppose they got it. But not before the Orioles beat Cliff Lee around again, with Brad Bergesen beating him 8-6 on that Saturday afternoon before a national television audience on FOX. The fact that the Orioles faced both world series teams means relatively little. However, they battled with both of these teams; they didn’t always come out on top, but they battled. The fact is that in all sports, only one team celebrates at the end of the season. So teams like the Orioles are in the same boat with the Yankees and Phillies. For what it’s worth, I’m pulling for Texas. Ron Washington is a former Oriole, and I felt that he was unecessarily pulled through the mud this year when news of his drug and alcohol addictions were made public. I can respect a person that knows he has a problem, and is doing everything in his power to fix it; I don’t feel that you should have to attest to your mistakes years after they’re made. However if the Giants win, I won’t feel too badly as former Oriole Aubrey Huff plays for San Francisco. With that said, if Texas wins it all this year it’ll be due in large part to Cliff Lee. And when they think back to Lee’s first game with them, they’ll have no choice but to remember the weekend where they wer swept by those Baltimore Orioles!

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NFL: NO FAIR LEAGUE

Posted on 19 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The NFL announced today that players would be fined and suspended starting this weekend for head shots. First off, it seems that the NFL is an extremely reactionary league in that a few players got laid out on Sunday (including Todd Heap), and suddenly they’re concerned about safety. However, the league specifically said that there were no guidelines for this policy. Um, okay…thanks for the heads-up, I guess.

On Sunday night I attended the Redskins/Colts game at FedEx Field, prior to which the Redskins announced 62 former players to the crowd. As I cheered for the ones that I remembered from my own childhood, I couldn’t help but think that many of them would have been considered dirty players by today’s standards. They might as well take Sam Huff, Dick Butkis, and Lawrence Taylor (arguably the best defensive player in my lifetime) out of the hall of fame. Not to mention the Jack Lamberts, Jack Hams, and Ronnie Lott’s of the world. All of those guys would be on Roger Goodel’s hit list today, as would Alvin Walton, Monte Coleman, Dexter Manley, and Charles Mann (some of my favorite Redskins as a kid).

I’m not suggesting that the league shouldn’t try to protect players from injury. Furthermore, I would agree that a player that purposely tries to injure people has no place in football. However the problem with the NFL is that they can’t see the gray area between a rough play that occurs in the spirit of the game, and a dirty play. The Philadelphia Eagles had a guy in the late 1980′s and early ’90′s named Andre Waters, who earned the nickname “dirty Waters.” In my opinion, Waters was a dirty player because he purposely would try to knock people out of games. (It was his tackle of the L.A. Rams’ Jim Everett in 1988 which led to quarterbacks not being allowed to be hit below the waist while in the pocket.) However there’s a big difference between Waters and a guy like Haloti Ngata, who is a very clean player in my opinion.

I suppose that my point is that there’s going to be no distinction made between clean and dirty; if a hit involves a helmet, the guy will get suspended. Ultimately what’s going to happen is that guys are going to start missing tackles for fear of being suspended. Furthermore, do we honestly believe that guys like Ray Lewis won’t be given a closer look than others? Lewis is a hard hitter, a great tackler, and a great cover guy…but he’s not a dirty player. The fact is that the league won’t lose fans as a result of these regulations, but I have to wonder if they’re afraid of losing money. Is it possible that major NFL sponsors were going to pull their advertising for fear of being affiliated with such an organization where people routinely get injured. All organizations are paranoid about ticking off or losing sponsors, ad I would assume that the NFL is no exception. And here’s another thing; would Congress have gotten involved? They seem intent on involving themselves in baseball with regard to steroids, so who’s to say that they wouldn’t try to regulate how the NFL deals with head-to-head contact.

Ultimately, you can say that they should put dresses on these players, or any sort of cliche, however the fact remains that you can’t sterilize football and still have it be football. I would suspect that 95% of the players in the NFL aren’t out there to purposely hurt people. The fact remains that people do get injured. Maybe the NFL should concentrate on it’s looming labor issues as opposed to worrying about something like this, because otherwise we won’t even be able to argue about these issues next year at this time

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Are they going to destroy all of our heros?

Posted on 15 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

I liked Brett Favre for most of his career, and I still think he’s one of the greatest quarterbacks in history. However I soured on him in recent years when he forced us to go through this will he or won’t he play charade. Step up, make a decision, and stand behind it like a man. However now he has himself in some deeper water than just fence-sitting on whether or not he’s going to play. We all know what’s going on, so I’m not going to re-hash the entire story. But as the title suggests, are they really going to take down every hero we’ve ever had in America…?

…first off, who’s they? The media? The law? The government? Perhaps a bit everything mixed together. There’s no question that we now live in a different world than we did even a decade ago. IF Brett Favre did what he’s being acussed of doing, it was wrong. Not only was it inappropriate for an employee of the New York Jets to do what he did (to a fellow employee), but it was wrong more importantly by his wife. I firmly believe in the institution of marriage, and if I were lucky enough at this stage of my life to have someone with whom I wanted to spend the rest of my days, I can guarantee that I would never cheat on her. (As a single guy that struggles to meet women, I deeply resent people that find someone and then stray.) With that said, I don’t think that what Favre is acussed of doing is unlike things that have happened in any other professional locker room since the beginning of professional sports. Everytime an athlete such as Favre or Tiger Woods is found with his hand in the cookie jar, the powers-that-be seem to take an attitude of we got the dirty fool. We then seem to act as if the person involved is the worst human being on the planet; the hidden message is often that this guy is the only one to have done something like this. Again, are they going to destroy all of our heros?

We’d all be lying to ourselves if we thought that the athletes/celebrities that were caught doing this kind of thing were the only ones to have ever done it. However when someone is caught doing this, we also see media and in some cases the law working almost endlessly to “cover” the story. In some cases the translation of that is that they work endlessly to rip the person to shreds. Again, I have little to no sympathy for any person that cheats on his wife. However I also recognize that one spouse being unfaithful is a situation that should be handled by and between the couple and not in the media. I suppose that if you live in the public eye and you get caught doing something inappropriate you have to expect a certain amount of media scrutiny. However…are they really going to destroy all of our heros?

In my opinion this trend began in 1998-’99 when President Bill Clinton got caught with Monica Lewinsky. That situation seemingly changed all of the rules with regard to how this kind of thing was handled by the media, as well as the law. Without getting specific, enemies of one man (President Clinton) used technicalities in the law to turn cheating on your wife into a federal case. And the media played right along. Many other Presidents had done the exact same thing, but the media granted an executive priviledge so to speak, and never reported it. However once even the President’s sex life was fair game, that changed things for the rest of us as well. And again, if you’re in the group with Tiger Woods and Brett Favre and you live your life in the public eye, you can expect that you’ll have every part of your life scrutinized.

I don’t want to go overboard with this, because I also recognize that the media and the law have a job to do. And I’m not even saying that the law shouldn’t be involved when athletes/public figures screw up. If they do something that’s blatantly illegal, they need to be prosecuted. But we’re not talking about a crime in the case of Brett Favre. And incidentally, I’m not necessarily talking about “mainstream media” such as ESPN, MASN, CNN, CBS, etc. I’m talkng about outlets such as Deadspin, TMZ, etc; the modern day paparazzi. At the end of the day we end up with a “hero” like Brett Favre or Tiger Woods who’s been dragged through the mud to the point that we almost forget all of the good things that he’s done in his sports career. To use a more local example, people have almost ceased to remember what a great basketball player Gilbert Arenas can be due to his off-the-court problems. Furthermore, it’s almost as if his numerous charitable acts in the area were forgotten…because he brought a weapon into a locker room. (I’m not saying that what he did was right, but let’s be fair…)

Ultimately, any person (athletes or otherwise) that makes a mistake should have to attest for it. However I would say that you shouldn’t have to attest for it in an overwhelming manner and in public at that. Did Tiger Woods really need to come before TV cameras and appologize for cheating on his wife? The way I see things he owed a major appology to his wife (and obviously they’re now divorced), but not to the public. The same is true for Brett Favre, IF he did what he’s accused of doing. Cheater or not, Favre should still be considered one of the greatest QB’s of all time. He’s a guy that presumably made a mistake, and will have to attest to it with his wife. And that’s the only person with whom he should attest to it. However again, are they going to destroy all of our heros?

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Why is officiating so bad across the board?

Posted on 09 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

The first round of the baseball playoffs has brought more controversy with regard to officiating. Ron Gardenhire of the Twins and Joe Maddon of the Rays became the first managers to be thrown out of playoff games on the same day in MLB history. (For the record, I think that this is partially due to the fact that most umpires recognize that the playoffs are the playoffs, and they probably don’t have as quick of a hook on guys.) We’ve all seen the plays that resulted in the ejections, so they’re not really worth re-hashing. (Although I will say that I disagreed with Joe Maddon about the check swing; I felt the guy checked it in time, however it was certainly close and worth questioning.) However this also illustrates the fact that in the past year (in my opinion) officiating has gone downhill.

There were various times this past season where I felt that the other team got the benefit of the doubt against the Orioles. There were even times when replays backed up the fact that the umpires made a bad call in the favor of other teams. I can accept that bad calls will happen; the issue I have is when a league takes a stance such as what MLB has said in the past in that instant replay isn’t an option. (I personally believe that come opening day 2011 we’ll have an instant replay system in MLB.) I like how college football reviews it’s plays with the “eye-in-the-sky” system. Every play is reviewed, and if the official in the box sees something he doesn’t like, he buzzes down to the ref and they look at it again. That’s how baseball should do it. I recognize that you can’t review balls and strikes, however anything on the base paths or in the field of play should be fair game. I have to assume that game officials have a certain amount of pride as well, and that they don’t want to blow the calls. So why not give them a tool to use so that they can get the calls right?

And I’m not just picking on umpires in baseball here; I think that officiating across the board in all sports has deteriorated. This past summer FIFA came under immense scrutiny for how their officials called World Cup matches. Team USA almost got cheated out of advancing to the second round due to a horrible call involving a goal in a game. And things seem to almost get worse in the NFL on a weekly basis. We all know that there’s holding on every play, however the fact is that some teams get called for things, and some don’t. I often wonder if reputation doesn’t play into some of that as well. The Oakland Raiders have long been thought of as one of the dirtiest teams in the NFL. So do the refs not read the newspapers and watch television over the course of the week? They know that based on history and the present; so are they looking for things more so than they would with other teams. (For the record, I’m not defending the Raiders because I hate them, but I’m just raising a question.)

With that said, I also have to question if the Ravens aren’t over-scrutinized a bit. The Ravens seem to collect their fair share of flags for late hits and roughing the passer; so now I’ve noticed that if a guy is dancing along the sidelines and someone sneezes on him they’re throwing flags on the Ravens. Consequently if a guy like Peyton Manning grounds the football and he’s near the tackle box, a ref might reason that he had to have been out of the tackle box.

Overall, I recognize that officiating is a thankless job. I go to a lot of sporting events over the course of the year, and I always boo the refs or umps when they come out. It’s kind of like a tradition to me, although I don’t condone what Cleveland fans did by throwing beer bottles on the refs years back. Whenever there’s a bad call that affects a game people always try to play it off by saying, “…hey, it’s just a game.” Yeah, it is just a game; however in these games people get cut and fired based on wins and losses. That one blown call might push a coach over the edge of losing his job, or a player in terms of getting cut. I know that there’s accountability on the part of the officials for the calls that they blow, however it’s not done publically. When a coach gets fired it’s very public. Ultimately in a tough economy, companies are expecting more out of their employees. I wish that we could ask for more out of the zebras and the blues as well.

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Do teams take on the personality of their fan bases?

Posted on 04 October 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Let me preface this by saying that not every team or fan base falls into this argument. However each city and each team in every sport is known for something in a sense. My question is whether or not these two things go hand-in-hand to a certain degree. First off, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. As an example, Pittsburgh is a tough old blue collar town. As much as we may dislike them, does that not describe the Pittsburgh Steelers or the Pittsburgh Penguins? (I suppose that the Pirates wouldn’t fall into that category though). The Steelers have always had tought teams composed of guys that “brought their lunch pails to work” everyday. So in that sense perhaps the team(s) take on the persona or moxie of the people. (Notice that I’m using the term fan base as opposed to community; with sports being much more national than in the past, your main fan base might not necessarily be isolated to the local area.)

On the other hand, take a look at the San Francisco 49ers. California is an extremely laid back kind of place. Over the past few seasons, the 49ers have almost played so relaxed that they didn’t seem to realize they were competing. Even when they were winning the Super Bowls they never seemed to play with the fear of God in their eyes. We all remember the story of Montana eyeing John Candy in the stands at the Super Bowl. The New York Yankees are another one; New Yorkers as we know can be fairly arrogant if they want to be, but they generally pack a pretty mean punch. The Yankees seemingly carry a quiet arrogance about them (which generally ticks the rest of us off), and they back it up on the field. Go up the road to Boston…they were lovable losers for so long, and suddenly they win a few world series’. If you say something bad about the Red Sox their fans almost seem to get militant in defending them. The team seems to play with a chip on their shoulder to the point that if you look at them wrong they’re ready to come out with their dukes up. New Orleans is a party town…the Saints didn’t really seem to stop celebrating their Super Bowl victory until the 2010 season kicked off.

Again, these attributes can be both good and bad. How can you go wrong by celebrating like the Saints? By doing so I think you run the risk of becoming the Boston Red Sox who seem to treat every home run like one might a world series win. (Yes Kevin Youkilis I’m talking to you who likes to tackle guys in the dugout to celebrate homers.) I suppose that what I’m saying is that even if you’ve never been there before, act like you have. To keep with the Boton motif, we all know that the fans there can be brutal in that they expect nothing less than success. How many times has Bill Belichek been (justifiably) criticized for running up the score on someone? The Red Sox seem to enjoy doing the same thing when they get a lead. I agree with Belichek in that it’s not his job to stop his offense, but there’s a right way to win and a wrong way. The same could be said to the Steelers, who didn’t seem to want to take out their starters with a 30+ point lead in the fourth quarter.

Here’s a sensitive one for me personally: the Washington Redskins. I’ve been a Skins fan my entire life, an I’m a season ticket holder. But I do see some less-than-desirable qualities in my fellow fans. While the Redskins are noted for having loyal fans, I routinely see people bringing their friends to games who happen to root for the team the Redskins are playing that day. I also routinely hear “down in front!” when you so much as get up to get a soda during the game. Unfortunately many people see Redskin games as entertainment rather than as NFL games I suppose. Furthermore, I’ve had people at games tell me that the fans shouldn’t make noise when the other team’s on offense because not only is it unsportsmanlike, but it makes it all the more sweeter for that other team if they win. Um…excuse me?! (I’ve also seen fans buy beer for opposing fans because for some reason if you come all the way from wherever to see your team play on the road you deserve a free beer.) Two weeks ago the Skins had a 17 point lead on the Houston Texans in the 4th quarter…and lost. Granted this sort of contradicts what I said about Boston fans (with regard to running up the score), but while you don’t need to rub salt in the wound you don’t want to totally take your foot off the gas either. However if there are fans that act as I just described, couldn’t you argue that the Redskins take on that persona?

So do Baltimore’s teams take on the persona of the fan base? I would say that similar to the Steelers, the Ravens tap into that blue collar nature of the city (although Baltimore is a much more afluent place than Pittsburgh). Baltimore also likes to party…Orioles Magic anyone? All of these arguments are matters of opinion, however I think it’s an interesting concept. As I said, this isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just a thing. Take it or leave it.

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Is Alfredo Simon jeapordizing Opening Day 2011?

Posted on 29 September 2010 by Domenic Vadala

Oriole manager Buck Showalter was fined an undisclosed amount and suspended for one game (Monday night in Tampa) as a result of the supposed intentional hitting incident involving Jose Bautista on Sunday in Toronto. Alfredo Simon was fined and suspended for three games, which is all currently under appeal. As I said, Showalter served his suspension (his was not able to be appealed). While a player is appealing a suspension, he’s allowed to play and remain with the team.

First off, I disagree with the punishments as handed down by MLB. I have a real issue with the fact that the Orioles are being held to the coals in this situation. Remember a few weeks ago when the Yankees and Tigers had a beaning incident and both benches were warned?…a NY pitcher still went on to hit another Tiger, and magically he wasn’t tossed. So this creates an impression now that the league is trying to make an example out of a team that’s out of contention. Furthermore, the suspension was handed down as the Orioles made their way to Tampa to face the Rays, a team that just clinched a playoff birth (against the Orioles). Hmmm…the league wouldn’t be trying to make the O’s play short-handed so as to give an added boost to a playoff team by chance would they? (For those who say that Simon isn’t an integral part of every Oriole game, I would also submit that a suspension forces a team to play short-handed; they can’t call up another player to take his roster spot.)

But that aside, the suspension is what it is. (I would also mention that Shawn Marcum, the Toronto pitcher involved, got fined for his part in the fiasco, although he wasn’t suspended.) As I said, Simon is appealing the suspension; the season in ending on Sunday. If the league doesn’t hand down a decision before Friday and the suspension remains in tact, it will carry over into 2011. So that would mean that the Orioles would go into Opening Day with the potential of having to play a man short on the roster (assuming that Simon is on the team of course). If the league really wanted to screw the Orioles over, they could render their decision after the weekend, which would require Simon to sit out for the entire opening series (assuming the suspension is upheld).

Ideally, the decision is rendered before this could become an issue, which would allow Simon to serve whatever part of his suspension is in tact right now. It’s a small point, however I would hate to see the O’s get off to a poor start next season because they have to play short-handed due to a petty issue that carried over from 2010. Being a bit of a maverick myself, I support every player’s right to appeal any fine or suspension. However I just hope that this doesn’t somehow come back to bit the Orioles in the rear come next season. I suppose my point is that I’m sort of wondering aloud what kind of moxie one small decision like this could bring upon the entire team. Odds are that even if Simon’s supension carries into 2011, it won’t make a huge difference, however you never really know until the time comes.

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