The Latest from Erik Ritland

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 was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor 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.

Speaking of, Rambling On is seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. I encourage you to check it out.

I’ve kept each of the former incarnations/incantations of my rambles up for the sake of archive. Enjoy them but be sure to check out the latest and greatest stuff at http://www.ramblingon.net.

Erik Ritland Archive Sites

Rambling On (original series)
The original run of seriously fun commentary on sports, music, culture, and more. Archived winter and summer 2012.

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.

Main Ramble
Articles about politics and culture from the original run of Rambling On in 2012. Archived fall 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. His blog and podcast Rambling On features commentary on music, sports, culture, and more. He was also Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Hometown Hustle and Curious North. Support Erik’s music via his Patreon account, reach him via emailor 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.

*                                                           *                                                             *

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.

Sports Ramble Archive

In Fall 2012, after completing the second run of Rambling On online magazines, I wrote a number of Sports Rambles. The lengthier pieces are showcased at the Ritland Rambler Redux page. They are featured here in their entirety (each containing some exclusive material).

Sports Ramble 10/14/12
An extensive piece of the one-dimensional qualities of most football fans, a recap of the 2012 MLB playoffs up to that point, and a preview of week 7 of the 2012 NFL season.

Sports Ramble 10/7/12
An article criticizing the new one-game playoff system in baseball, an analysis of the Major League Baseball playoffs up to that point, commentary on the Twins demoting most of their coaching staff, and a preview of week 6 of the 2012 NFL season

Sports Ramble 9/28/12
An article criticizing the saturation of the NFL in the media and culture, some thoughts on the departure of the Twins Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the Cy Young worth of R.A. Dickey, and a look ahead to the fourth week of the 2012 NFL season.

Sports Ramble, 9/21/12
Defending the replacement officials and a look ahead to week 3 of the 2012 NFL season.

Sports Ramble, 9/14/12
The wind down of the 2012 baseball season and a preview of week 2 of the 2012 NFL season.

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.

Randy Moss, the Seattle Seahawks, and Troublemakers

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 released 11/3/13 for the Rambling On Football Ramble.

*                                                           *                                                             *

My boy...

My boy…

You know who I hate? The Seattle Seahawks.

Okay, so I don’t care about them so much that they illicit hate in me, but you know what I mean.

The two most annoying things about them are their coach Pete Carroll and their fans. The former is a loud, annoying whiner and the latter are arrogant and unrealistic. You built a stadium whose dimensions make you sound really loud, we’re happy for ya. Architecture (and that you are always yelling for no reason) doesn’t make you the best fans in the NFL. Your team might be one of the best in the league but they’re still under-performing this year. And Russell Wilson isn’t all that impressive either.

Then there’s Percy Harvin. How acrimoniously he left the Vikings has received too little press. He milked injuries, wasn’t a team player, and treated the Vikings organization poorly and disrespectfully. Yet he hardly gets any heat for it.

It doesn’t make any sense that he isn’t called out for his negative actions as much as a troublemaker like, say, Randy Moss was. Moss was a better player and his antics were always hilarious and super cool. He only received so much criticism because he was upfront about his bad attitude. He didn’t hide it and tell people what they wanted to hear. He was real. Harvin is not only a phony but he’s also a bigger jerk. Why he’s gone by essentially unscathed by Vikings fans and Minnesota media is beyond me.

It’s worth noting, to me at least, that I promised a friend that I’d write an article about this idea of mine for some time. This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to doing that. So sorry, Evelyn.

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.

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

ndamukong-suh

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

Don’t Be an Asshole: The Ballad of Richard Sherman

sherman

Sherman looking particularly dignified.

If Richard Sherman’s controversial post-game interview didn’t make you laugh out loud you just don’t get it.

It’s all a lot simpler than the people arguing about it think it is. Richard Sherman is an asshole and proved it long before the interview incident. Regardless, most of the perspectives on what he did are pretty weak, from those defending him to those who are calling it disgraceful.

His character can easily by judged by watching this video of him mic’d up for the Seahawks game against the Vikings. Beginning around 1:35 all he does is mock and demean Cordarrell Patterson and especially mild-mannered Joe Webb, who fights back impressively. His comments aren’t usual trash talk, at least I’d hope, but are childish personal jabs. He tells Patterson that he’s weak and needs to ‘lift more’ and goes on and on about how bored he is covering Webb and repeatedly calls him a waste of his time.

The funniest part about that is earlier in the game Sherman got burned on a touchdown reception Christian Ponder threw to Jarius Wright. The reason he was covering Joe Webb, probably last on the Vikings’ wide receiver depth chart, is because he wasn’t good enough to cover their other receivers. When considering how mediocre the Vikings’ receiving core was this year that’s a pretty big insult.

The only reason this latest incident is getting so much attention is because it was in an interview after a big game. But disrespect is disrespect. What he said to Webb and Patterson was far worse than the ridiculous, humorous rant that he went on about how great he is.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Baltimore Ravens

God this guy is awesome. Whoever he is.

The entire context of the incident also needs to be considered. The Seahawks had just won a hard-fought game in dramatic fashion. Each side was doing a lot of trash talking. His emotions were high and how physical and arrogant the 49ers were added to this.

So in a moment of high emotion he did something stupid. Anybody who has ever done that – and that pretty much means every single person – has no business saying how disgraceful Sherman’s actions were. People will, though, because it’s easier to point out what’s wrong with others than it is to look at yourself.

Those defending Sherman are also missing the point. What he did still wasn’t right. If he wasn’t such an asshole in the first place, and if he was mature enough to keep his emotions in check, he wouldn’t have done something so stupid, period.

Finally, this entire thing is bringing up the argument about whether athletes are role models. I cringe to think there are kids who saw the interview and thought it was the coolest thing ever and that it shows how an athlete is supposed to act. At the same time it’s also a teaching tool. It’s especially easy when considering the Seahawks, because their quarterback Russell Wilson is probably the most upstanding man in football. There will always be Shermans and there will always be Wilsons, but it takes good role models in kid’s lives to teach them which is the better way.

As often happens, those on both sides are missing the point. Defenders of Sherman can’t even admit the obvious fact that what he did was wrong. Those who think what he did was disgraceful are hypocrites because they’ve all said and done stupid things when emotions are high. Most of them also get off on talking down to those who make mistakes because it makes them feel like they’re above that person.

What Sherman did, ultimately, is a teaching tool, both for kids and for adults. The lesson is simple: don’t be an asshole.

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.