Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

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.

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.

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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.

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.

An apology to Cal Ripken, Jr.

ripken 2Cal 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.

Erik Ritland Sports Ramble, 10/14/12

In this issue…

1. Baseball v. Football Why the baseball playoffs are infinitely more interesting than any regular season week in the NFL.
2. Baseball Playoff Recap Surprising teams, shocking comebacks, and historic games.
3. NFL Week 6 Preview

The Baseball Playoffs > Another Boring Week in the NFL
The best TV not enough people are watching

At noon central time today millions of rubes across America will tune in to watch “their team” play football. Some people’s team is the Cleveland Browns; others the Buffalo Bills. People will watch dull football games with abysmal teams or tune in to games that are completely lopsided and still somehow muster up the excitement to, like, yell at their TVs and sweat until their facepaint comes off.

It’s not that I don’t get it. Football, for many reasons, is mainstream America’s favorite sport. It’s “fast paced.” There’s lots of HITTING AND SMASHING! Millions of dollars have gone into successful advertising campaigns. The NFL has successfully manipulated TV on every level, radio on most levels, and has saturated the internet. That and, y’know, it’s a fun game and everything. I get it.

But what I don’t get is people who are such sheep that they pedestalize football and everything about it while always talking down to baseball or calling it boring. Maybe it isn’t baseball that is boring; maybe it’s the individual that doesn’t have the patience to understand the intricacies of baseball in our fast food, easy answer, zero attention span culture that are boring. Truthfully, football is often pretty boring, too. Most of the game is handoffs that don’t go anywhere, short completions, punts, field goals, and undramatic incompletions.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a big fan of both football and baseball. It’s just sad that so many Americans and mainstream sports fans have missed some of the best baseball in decades this week yet they’ll dutifully watch, say, the Chiefs play the Buccaneers today and think it’s great, even if the score is 35-3 Tampa Bay (which it probably will be).

There’s something to be said about being well-rounded. For example, being well-rounded is the opposite of being one-dimensional. Being well-rounded is good. Being one-dimensional is bad. A well-rounded person gains all sorts of unique, wide-ranging experiences and enjoys a variety of things. A one-dimensional person only likes particular things, is picky, and is stuck in their ways.

I’m not saying that all football fans are one-dimensional or that all baseball fans are well-rounded. There are all kinds on each side. It’s just important to be well-rounded either way.

MLB Playoff Recap

Where to start? Well, the underdog won in both of the wild-card games, the Cardinals knocking off the Braves and the Orioles beating last years AL champion and highly touted Texas Rangers. Of the four league division series that followed each of them came down to the very end, going the full five games. The favorite Cincinnati Reds took a quick two game lead on the often haphazard seeming San Francisco Giants who then surprisingly won the next three games to take the series. While the Tigers and Yankees were both heavy favorites their opponents, the Cinderella A’s and Orioles respectively, gave them a tough fight. Although it’s sad that their seasons came to an end watching them stay competitive and have heart to the end was inspiring.

The Cardinals celebrate coming back from a 6-0 deficit to defeat the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS.

Then there was the most improbable series in every way: the Cardinals and Nationals. Nobody picked the Cardinals to beat the Braves; fewer picked them to beat the Nationals. But they were able to pull it off by combining (mostly) solid pitching with timely hitting. Most exciting was game 5. The Nationals took an early 6-0 lead before the Cardinals started chipping away. Soon it was 6-3. Then 6-4. 6-5 turned into 7-5 going into the bottom of the 9th. St. Louis then improbably scored 4 runs off of Nationals’ star closer Drew Storen to take the game and the series. The look of dejection on the faces of the Nationals, especially Jason Werth, was almost pitiable. It was the 6th elimination game in a row that the Cardinals have won, tying their own record.

There were plenty of games in each series that were historic. On the same night that the A’s scored three runs off Jose Valverde in the bottom of the 9th to force a game five in that series Raul Ibanez hit both the game-tying and game-winning home run in their game against the Orioles. Then the next night the Orioles won dramatically in extra innings. Many games were decided by two runs or less, there were dominant pitching performances from legends CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander, memorable relief appearances by the Cardinals’ Lance Lynn and the Giants’ Tim Lincecum, and more October magic from Mr. Octobino Delmon Young.

All in all the playoffs have been everything a baseball fan could want and more. I don’t expect the rest of the baseball postseason to disappoint.

NFL Week 6 Preview

Surprisingly almost every game in the NFL should be worth watching this week. The Vikings try to keep their run going, the Packers try to stay contenders against the undefeated Texans, Romo and Flacco will face off in the never-lived-up-to-expectations bowl, Peyton Manning takes on Philip Rivers, the 49ers host the Giants, my Lions attempt to take out the lucky Philadelphia Eagles, and hopefully Andrew Luck and the Colts can beat the obnoxious Jets.

Quickly now, here are my picks:

Minnesota at Washington I’m going to continue picking against the Vikings until they lose. Hopefully I’m their good luck charm.
Green Bay at Houston The Packers know what’s on the line here. Bold prediction: if the Packers lose they will not make the playoffs.
St. Louis at Miami Who would have thought, at the beginning of the season, that this would be a good game by two competitive teams? Miami’s at home but the Rams are a slightly stronger team.
New England at Seattle This pick is probably more wishful thinking than steeped in reality but Seattle is one of my favorite Cinderella teams. The crowd in Seattle will get in to it, the Seattle defense will keep Brady running, and perhaps they’ll pull it out.

The rest…
Dallas at Baltimore
NY Giants at San Francisco
Denver at San Diego
Oakland at Atlanta
Cincinnati at Cleveland
Indianapolis at NY Jets
Detroit at Philadelphia
Kansas City at Tampa Bay
Buffalo at Arizona

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.

 

Baseball vs. Football

The best TV not enough people are watching

At noon central time today millions across America will watch “their team” play football. For some that’s the Cleveland Browns; for others, the Buffalo Bills. People will watch dull football games with bad teams or that are completely lopsided and still somehow muster up the excitement to yell at their TVs.

It’s not that I don’t get it. Football is, fittingly, mainstream America’s favorite sport. It’s “fast paced.” There’s lots of HITTING AND SMASHING! Millions of dollars have gone into successful advertising campaigns. The NFL has successfully manipulated TV on every level, radio on most levels, and has saturated the internet. That and, y’know, it’s a fun game and everything. I get it.

But what I don’t get is people who are such sheep that they pedestalize football and everything about it while always talking down baseball or calling it boring. Maybe it isn’t baseball that is boring, though. Maybe it’s the individuals that don’t have the patience to understand the intricacies of baseball in our fast food, easy answer, zero attention span culture that are boring. Truthfully, football is often pretty boring, too. Most of the game is handoffs that don’t go anywhere, short completions, punts, field goals, and undramatic incompletions.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a fan of both football and baseball. It’s just sad that so many Americans and mainstream sports fans are missing some of the best baseball in decades yet they’ll dutifully watch, say, the Chiefs play the Buccaneers today and think it’s great, even if the score is 35-3 Tampa Bay (which it probably will be).

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.

Amid this Fallout Saturation

Only 5 months until pitchers and catchers report.

This guy would probably not agree with my analysis.

I’m more tempted all the time to not have a football blog. Talk about an over-saturated market, man. I’m actually weary of football, at the moment at least. I even found it difficult to get myself to listen to the sports talk shows I steal all my takes from.

The debate about whether or not to build a new stadium for the Vikings seems sort of stupid as the season is happening. A fan base this large and dedicated obviously generates a lot of money. That it interests so many people is not a small deal, except to people who don’t care about it and want to selfishly assume their dislike onto everyone else. As if what they do in their free time is any less superfluous.

The enormity of football makes it pretty tiresome though. Diehards will disagree but it’s totally overkill. Especially if you actively consume sports media. The total domination of football coverage doesn’t subside all season. The baseball postseason and opening of the NBA and NHL seasons are either shoved to the side or ignored completely.

Even more ridiculous is that the sports media is over-saturated with NFL coverage even throughout the off-season. Combines, OTAs, training camps, the draft…the media exploits each for as much coverage as they can get, most of it completely pointless. Yet it’s always important enough to interrupt the seasons of all the other sports.

There is no remedy to this situation. As long as football is the biggest sport in America this over-the-top coverage won’t end anytime soon. I just hope I have the patience to continue writing about it as long as the thou-…hun-…few people who want to read my football takes exist.

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.