The Latest from Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Founder of Rambling On, he has written hundreds of articles and hosted almost a hundred podcasts. He directs all of the content on Rambling On, created and maintains the website, and is social media content director. He is also copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota. Support Erik’s music on his music site or BandCamp, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

Hello all,

This is an intimate message from the Ritland Rambler himself, one Erik Ritland.

I’ve been writing blogs under some semblance of the Rambling On name since 2012. It started with a weekly run of several articles (in a newspaper type format) in January and February 2012. I quickly ran out of funding to keep it going, and after a second attempt in the summer I had to reconsider my direction.

Throughout 2013 I wrote a few blogs under the Music, Sports, and Sunday Ramble names. Finally in April 2014 I launched the latest version of Rambling On, a regular blog and podcast, that I’ve been running ever since.

After several seasons and incarnations, Rambling On is currently a Minnesota Sports page. Mostly, we just do Twitter. Check out the website and history.

I’ve archived my best articles from my early writing period and you can find them below.

Erik Ritland Archive Sites

Music Ramble
Longer articles about music of all kinds. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sports Ramble
Local and national sports coverage. Mainly baseball and football related but some commentary on hockey and basketball as well. Archived from 2012-2014.

Ritland Ramble
Erik’s former culture blog. Society, politics, current events, and more. Archived from 2012-2014.

Sunday Ramble
Religious commentary. Archived from 2012-2013.

Daily Ramble
Daily blogs covering sports, music, culture, and more from January 2014.

The Weekly Ritland
Short-lived site that linked to each article I had posted for that week. Archived September 2012.

Football Ramble
Commentary on the first few weeks of the 2012 football season. Another project that ran out of funding. Archived fall 2012.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. Founder of Rambling On, he has written hundreds of articles and hosted almost a hundred podcasts. He directs all of the content on Rambling On, created and maintains the website, and is social media content director. He is also copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota. Support Erik’s music on his music site or BandCamp, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

The Replacements: A Defense of Replacement Officials

Rambling On is a seriously fun blog and podcast covering sports, music, culture, and more. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.

Originally published in September 21, 2012 as part of Rambling On’s original Sports Ramble series.

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It’s popular to talk trash about the replacement officials in the NFL. Keeping in mind that I’m not the sort of guy who takes the other side just to get a rise out of people, I find it completely necessary to stick up for the replacement officials.

There are many bad calls each week in the NFL, even with the regular officials. I have never seen a football game with great officiating. While it is human to err the amount of mistakes regular referees make, and the games that they change the end result on, are many. For example, last year when the Vikings played the Lions Joe Webb blatantly got tackled by his facemask as the Vikings were threatening to score on the last play of the game and there was no call.

I only remember that one vividly because I was a Vikings fan at the time. But any person who has watched football…well, ever, knows that every game in NFL history has been marred by officiating in some way, some games more blatantly (and with more disastrous results) than others.

Bad officiating has marred many important games – even football’s most important game, the Super Bowl. In 2010 the NFL admitted that referees missed calls in both the AFC and NFC championship games. The most shocking part about these blown calls is that there were multiple late hit and rouging penalties that weren’t called (this was the year that New Orleans embarrassed the NFL and themselves by participating in what is now called bountygate).

This point is poignant because there are a lot of people who are saying that the replacement referees are somehow endangering the safety of the players. Well, the regular referees have done a good job of that in the past themselves – just ask Brett Favre.

As if AFC and NFC championship games weren’t bad enough to ruin, officials have gone on record admitting that their blown calls have effected the outcome of a Super Bowl. In 2006 the Seattle Seahawks had their only Super Bowl appearance marred by officiating that was so poor, and so slanted against the Seahawks, that officials from the game have admitted that they’ve lost sleep over it. I especially remember that Super Bowl because from the start I had a feeling that the referees would try to hand the game to the Steelers so Jerome Bettis could retire with a Super Bowl ring (stories about it were all over leading up to the game).

I know that highlighting a few poorly officiated games and blown calls doesn’t conclusively prove that regular NFL officials are awful. They aren’t. They often do an adequate job. But the regular referres aren’t perfect; as a matter of fact, they were far from perfect, and the replacement officials are doing just as good, if not better, than they were. If you still don’t believe me, read the brilliant Wall Street Journal audit of the replacement officials.

There have been complaints that the replacements have caused games to go longer; indeed, the WSJ article notes that games have increased in time by about 6 minutes per game, or a measly 1.5 minutes per quarter. This can be explained partially by the increase in booth reviews because coaches don’t trust the replacements (though the WSJ study shows that the calls made on the field are usually right).

The larger reason games are lasting longer, though, is because of all the time wasted by coaches and players berating the replacement officials. More often than not this tactic is simply a sad attempt to try and bully the replacements and throw them off. The griping that coaches and players do off the field is usually just sour grapes. Close to home Jared Allen and Percy Harvin have both complained about what they thought were blown calls that actually weren’t, but this is going on all over the league, both during games and after.

The most annoying part about this entire situation, by far, is the constant complaining by the players, coaches, and fans over something that really isn’t an issue at all. The replacement referees are doing the best they can and if you look at the numbers – as they say, numbers never lie – you’ll see that they’re actually doing a fine job. The main point is this: in every football game there are blown calls, replacement officials or not, and sometimes they impact even the outcome of the game. The only reason people are noticing and harping on replacement officials is because they’re new and it’s a story.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.

NFL Week One Picks

To be fair, I’m doing this partway through the first quarter, but you can’t really tell how a game is going to go so early on. And other than the Vikings game I haven’t been looking at any scores.

Lots of upsets here. I’ll comment on those. Picks are in bold.

New Orleans @ Atlanta

Minnesota @ St. Louis
This will be Zimmer’s chance to show he’s different than what the Vikings have seen the last few years. A typical Vikings team loses this, a winnable game, because of a 4th quarter collapse or blunder. This is Zimmer’s chance to begin making a name for himself.

Cleveland @ Pittsburgh

Jacksonville @ Philadelphia
Philadelphia is overrated but can they really lose to Jacksonville at home? They’re down 14-0 right now but I still don’t think so. Maybe I was onto something about Phili if they do lose.

Oakland @ NY Jets
So maybe my love of NWA is blinding me here. I just don’t think the Jets are that good.

Cincinati @ Baltimore
Baltimore begins their dominance of the AFC North here.

Buffalo @ Chicago
No brainer.

Washington @ Houston

Tennessee @ Kansas City
KC begins their quest to see if last year was a mirage. I think it was.

New England @ Miami
Now here’s an upset. I predicted that Miami could be a sleeper pick to do pretty well. They’ll make a statement here, as their defense will step up at home against a not-really-great Patriots offense.

Carolina @ Tampa Bay

San Fransisco @ Dallas

Indianapolis @ Denver

Hopefully I’ll do this every week and we’ll see how great of a football mind I actually am. I may or may not be just winging it so…yeah.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor find him on Facebook and Twitter.

A Vanilla Year: 2014 NFL Predictions

 

Surprises!    Competitiveness! Upsets!

If you like these things then the 2014 NFL season will probably disappoint you.

Never has the line between great, mediocre, and awful teams been so clearly divided. It’s so obvious that predictions are redundant practically to the degree of pointlessness.

But people actually read football articles so here’s Rambling On’s 2014 NFL predictions.

AFC

East
New England Patriots
New York Jets
Miami Dolphins
Buffalo Bills

With a healthy offense and bolstered defense the New England Patriots should have this division wrapped up easily. The Jets are overrated – Geno Smith still needs to prove himself – but they’ll still be competitive.

The team to watch in the East is the Dolphins. If Tannehill can improve and their defense can repeat their performance of last year then they could surprise some people.

North
Baltimore Ravens
Cincinnati Bengals
Pittsburgh Steelers
Cleveland Browns

2014 is probably the weakest the AFC North has been in a long time. Big Ben is old and the Steelers defense is suspect, the Browns are still years away from being competitive, and there’s little that jumps off the page to make you think that the Bengals will improve over last years okay team. Flacco will have a bounce-back year but it’ll be defense that propels the Ravens.

South
Indianapolis Colts
Houston Texans
Tennessee Titans
Jacksonville Jaguars

That I think a depleted Texans team will take second in the AFC South shows how weak the division is. Andrew Luck is good but he doesn’t have a whole lot of weapons. Houston, Tennessee, and Jacksonville are all rebuilding so they’re essentially irrelevant. Fun to pay attention to, though. If Mallett, Locker, or Bortles succeed the divisional race could get interesting.

West
Denver Broncos
San Diego Chargers
Oakland Raiders
Kansas City Chiefs

The Broncos have only bolstered their 2013 Super Bowl team, especially their suspect defense, so they’ll obviously be the team to beat. If they can be beaten it’ll be by an improved, surging Phillip Rivers-led Chargers. I picked the Raiders to finish ahead of the Chiefs because I love Al Davis (RIP), I am rooting for underdog Matt Schaub, and my favorite ’80s West Coast rappers all wore Raiders apparel (even if they were in LA at the time).

NFC

East
Philadelphia Eagles
Dallas Cowboys
New York Giants
Washington Redskins

Every team in the NFC East has an uphill battle. Tony Romo is underrated but the Cowboys can never seem to pull it together, Eli Manning has looked awful, and RGIII hasn’t looked much better. The Eagles are overrated – there’s no way they’ll be as good as people are saying with a young, unproven Foles at the helm – but they’ll still be good enough to win this division.

North
Detroit Lions
Chicago Bears
Green Bay Packers
Minnesota Vikings

Yes, you read that right. People are blindly choosing the Packers to do well when their defense is not very good at all (and by far the worst in the NFC North). The Bears and the Lions are both far more well-balanced, especially defensively. It’ll be a fun year for this division, though, as even the Vikings have the makings to be competitive.

On paper the Lions are one of the better teams in the league. They have a good running attack, an above-average quarterback, one of the best receiving cores in the game, and a solid defense. The bumps and bruises of a new coaching staff are the only thing that could hold them back.

South
New Orleans Saints
Atlanta Falcons
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Carolina Panthers

Like the NFC North I see the South as being pretty competitive. The Saints have one of their best teams in years but the rest of the division also has the potential to be competitive. It’s sketchy, though, as the Falcons have never seemed to be able to get it together, the Bucs are at the mercy of the performance of Josh McCown, and the Panthers, though improved, still need to prove that they can take it to the next level.

West
Seattle Seahawks
San Francisco 49ers
St. Louis Rams
Arizona Cardinals

Le sigh. I hate to admit it but the Seahawks are far and away the best team in the NFL. The 49ers have looked dreadful but they have the talent to work through their issues and bounce back. The Rams won’t hurt too much from the loss of Sam Bradford but they’ll have a tough time excelling in such a strong division.

AFC Wild Cards Jets, Chargers
AFC Championship Broncos vs. Patriots

NFC Wild Cards Falcons, 49ers
NFC Championship Seahawks vs. Saints

Super Bowl Seahawks vs. Broncos

See what I mean by vanilla? Same Super Bowl as last year! Also like last year the AFC and NFC Championship games are going to be far better than the Super Bowl. You might as well just hand it to the Seahawks. The only AFC team that could possibly beat them is the defensively strong San Diego Chargers but I don’t see them getting past the Patriots or Broncos.

Prediction Seahawks 34-Broncos 27

An apology to Cal Ripken, Jr.

Cal Ripken Jr. is one of the nicest, and best, people in baseball history. His major accomplishment, setting legendary Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played, proves his work ethic and dedication to the game.

Although he’d never want to admit it I get a lot of my negativity from my Dad. When Ripken set the record in 1996 my Dad wrote it off. “Eh, his record doesn’t count,” he’d say. “Did he play during the strike?” Instead of acknowledging Ripken’s amazing feat he didn’t see it as an accomplishment because of the previous year’s baseball strike. But the strike had nothing to do with Ripken and doesn’t at all diminish the dedication it takes to play so many games in a row.

My oldest nephew’s name is Cal. Although his parents deny it I know it was inspired by Cal Ripken Jr., one of my former brother-in-laws heroes. I’d always try to get him going by making fun of Ripken: “You know, his streak doesn’t count because of the strike, right?” It never worked. He’d just shake his head.

Today I watched most of MLB Network’s “My Most Memorable Game” series with Ripken talking about the game he broke Gehrig’s record. Watching it I was finally able to understand why he is so highly regarded in baseball. He has a great attitude and an obvious love for the game. He’s also very humble. He nearly cried several times when he talked about how much his Dad, Orioles’ legend Ripken Sr., meant to him.

Ripken is a good example of some of the most important lessons in life: persistence, perseverance, and love and respect for what you do. As a guy who usually can’t even make it to work on time his dedication is inspiring. It’s finally time that I give Cal Ripken Jr. his due.

And Ron, you done good naming your son after such a great man.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Hockey Day in Minnesota

I have the reputation for being too negative. This isn’t something I enjoy because in reality I am actually exceedingly joyful. There’s nothing I like more than being alive.

Something that comes close, though, is celebrating. Some people get off on ruining people’s celebrations. It’s like they think their negativity will somehow make it less special to the people who celebrate. Fortunately this is not the case.

I used to make fun of Hockey Day in Minnesota. It doesn’t really make sense because I actually do like hockey. It’s weird how this sort of negativity it works. There’s a weird feeling inside that wants to be against something just because you see people celebrating and enjoying themselves. It’s so shallow.

It’s nice to finally be over it. My favorite part of Hockey Day, even in the years I’d make fun of it, was always the outdoor high school games. There are two televised live. This morning saw Cloquet-Esko-Carlton beat Rochester Lourdes 4-1. The game, between two perennial Class A teams, was a lot closer than the score indicates. It was scoreless going into the third period and Lourdes even took the first lead before Cloquet took over.

As I write this Elk River, who is hosting Hockey Day this year, is about to take on Stillwater, another matchup of talented, classic tournament teams. Afterward the Gophers will take on Ohio State and then I’ll have the pleasure of working at Xcel as the Wild take on the Dallas Not-So-North Stars.

The coolest thing about Hockey Day is how damn happy it makes people. Fox Sports North is covering it locally and everyone they talk to and interview is contagiously happy. And that’s what it’s all about. Hockey is important to a lot of people in Minnesota and setting aside a day to honor it means a lot to them. Celebrating something you love lifts up your heart. And that’s never a bad thing.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

Vikings Quarterback Quandary

Rambling On is a seriously fun blog and podcast covering sports, music, culture, and more. Check us out on Twitter, Facebook, or at our website.

When the news broke of Christian Ponder’s “rib injury” a few weeks ago I immediately thought it was fake. It fit the narrative too well. The Vikings drafted Ponder, a marginal talent from the start, too high and latched onto him for too long. Giving up on him at this point would look stupid so they forced the narrative by faking the injury. This both spares his feelings and makes them look less stupid for sticking with him for so long.

When the Vikings announced that Josh Freeman suffered a concussion after his embarrassing debut I honestly started laughing out loud. What a joke the Vikings organization has become. This new debacle further convinces me that Ponder’s rib injury was fake.

There are plenty of reasons to fake Freeman’s injury. His poor performance proved that he needs more time to learn the playbook. Sure, the routine passes he missed had nothing to do with the playbook, but Freeman is a proven NFL talent. His poor performance last Monday seems logically more likely an aberration than an indicator of how he good/bad he actually is. Because he was learning everything too fast, and was put on the spot too soon, he got overwhelmed, and this likely caused his poor performance. At least to a degree.

The Vikings organization, then, would look stupid if they put a healthy Freeman on the bench because they made the incorrect decision to play him too early. It also gave them one last chance to see if Ponder had it in him to play decently. That he couldn’t, even though his NFL career is on life support, is telling.

The saddest part of Leslie Frazier’s press conference on Monday was how he dismissed the idea of starting Matt Cassel. Sure, they wasted all this time on Ponder so it might be worth giving him another look or two. They should probably see what they have in Josh Freeman since they spent $2 million on him as well. But come on, Cassel lead the team to its only victory! Shouldn’t he at least be in the mix?

If I were the Vikings – and honestly, I’d probably do a better job at running the organization at this point – I say you have to start Freeman if he’s healthy. Then again, if I were the Vikings I also would have released Christian Ponder instead of McCloud Bethel-Thompson when they signed Freeman, so that indicates my opinion of Ponder.

Bottom line: you spent $2 million on Freeman. You have to know at this point, if you’re the Vikings, that Ponder has no future. So the logical thing, then, is to start the quarterback who may have a chance to succeed.

*© Dan Cole. With love, Bearded Xcel Center Guy.

Erik Ritland is a writer and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He is also a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via email, or find him on Facebook and Twitter.