Friday, March 30, 2007

Tom Verducci's lucky day

Recently, Sports Illustrated writer Tom Verducci was granted permission by MLB to umpire one spring training baseball game for an opportunity to experience the pressure, the difficulty and the thanklessness of risking life, limb and public humiliation in front of thousands of people conditioned to dislike you.

Unlike his female counterpart that was mentioned below - it seemed like he had a little more excitment to deal with.

Some highlights:

He claims he missed a balk call from Curt Schilling, but it was no big deal because the whole crew missed it.

He got into a mild argument with Boston rightfielder J.D. Drew (who had no clue he was pleading his case to a sportswriter until Tom told him the next day). (The whole arguement is detailed in the article)

His #1 priority was to remember to get out of the way during infield pop flys so that Miguel Tejada (who would be looking up at the ball) would not plow into him.

Other than that - there wasn't much to get worked up about. He worked each base for 3 innings. His stint at third went by rather quickly because of good pitching by Schilling and O's pitcher Erik Bedard. There were no "did he go" moments with him at third which is always a tough call for an ump to make.

For the privilege of having to be perfect, umpires spend about 200 days a year on the road, hear the same lousy jokes in every ballpark about their eyesight or familial heritage, and routinely get second-guessed by critics watching repeated superslow, frame-by-frame replays in high definition from multiple camera angles. Yet major league umpiring jobs (of which there are 68) open up these days about as infrequently as those on the Supreme Court. What kind of person would love a job in which you get noticed only for your mistakes?

There is no doubt that umps are proud to be umps. But, part of the reason jobs do not frequently open is because it's their job, their career, as mentioned 200 days on the road a year. Just as a sports reporter thrives on the perfect story, or a writer thrives on a perfect story... these guys (and soon girls) thrive on making the right call. What must really get them going is to go back to view the replay and confirm that their split second, could go either way, judgement call was the right call... and fans and announcers actually agreed. Making the right call is what they live for - some of them take it a little more serious than others, take Tim Timmons take on umpiring for example:

"Umpiring is a gift," says ump Tim Timmons, 39, "like the hitter who has the skill to hit that 90-mph slider or the pitcher who can do things with a baseball no human being should be able to do. Those are real gifts, and so is umpiring. You can't teach instincts."

A gift? Like... from God? Although I don't agree with Tim's assessment that it is a gift - I do appreciate his pridefulness on being an umpire. I believe it takes practice, and with enough of it, anybody or their brother could be an umpire.

As for our buddy Tom, I'm actually glad he took the time, effort and practice it took to get this gig. It was pretty cool to read his take on the game from the umpires point of view. It's good for the sport to give the umpires a little publicity. They are frequently ridiculed and mocked by fans who have no clue about what goes on out there during the games. Will fans change? Highly unlikely! But we at least have a little glimpse of what it is like to be out there on the field, with all the pressure of making the right call. However, there is no doubt - we'll always be better than they are.

P.S. - I don't know about you, but I couldn't really tell the difference between Tom Verducci (who not surprisingly is the skinny one in the above picture) and Ria Cortesio.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Female ump aims for future gig in the majors


"Ria Cortesio became the first female umpire to work a major league exhibition game since Pam Postema in 1989 when she made calls on the bases Thursday as the Chicago Cubs beat an Arizona Diamondbacks split squad 7-4."

According to the article it was a pretty uneventful day for Cortesio who one day hopes to be the first female to umpire a regular season major league baseball game. There were only 3 umps so she had a lot of ground to cover in the infield. Unfortunatly for us, there were no bad calls that caused any bases to be thrown, or any spit throwing managers to argue with her. I just have to wonder what would happen if she made a bad call, how would managers and/or players react to her?

And is it just me, or does she look like every other male umpire in the league? Except maybe a few hundred pounds lighter?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Robert Horry must really be getting OLD!

This has nothing to do with officiating, but a buddy of mine showed me this, and I thought it was pretty funny. Take a look at Robert Horry's stat line from last night:

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Kellogg and Gumble's Traveling Circus

Was it a travel? If you watched any of CBS's Post-Game show last night or this afternoon's Road to the Final 4, you'd know that Clark Kellogg and Greg Gumble sure think so.

"No," Green said when asked about a possible traveling violation. "There were a lot of guys in there. I probably got pushed. They didn't call it. The play was good, and that's all I can say."

Seth Green was asked about it in an interview at

S.D.: Immediately, I thought travel, but with each viewing I was less and less sure. I'd never blame a referee on that call in that situation in the Sweet 16. It's hard to fathom someone stepping in during that situation. At the end, I think it was technically a travel.

My thoughts? Well, almost total opposite from Seth Green. Immediately, I thought it was an amazing shot, if anything, I thought maybe Green was fouled. But then during the post game show, CBS was showing slow motion shots, and blowing it up and enlarging it to point out the possible travel. After further review, I think there is no doubt his pivot foot moved. Was he pushed? Perhaps. Was it a good no-call? I can't argue with the officials, I think it could have gone either way, and it would have been justified either way. Vandy fans, I'm sure, would disagree.

Meanwhile, over at, Kevin Hench has had enough. He breaks down ALL the bad calls so far this weekend. Seems like the refs have sure created controversy while creating quite possibly the greatest Elite 8 field we have ever seen. I personally think Mench is just trying to create controversy - I read through his list, and they are not nearly as bad as he makes them out to be. For example:

No. 1 Florida 65, No. 5 Butler 57
In one of the early games on Friday, defending champ and 1-seed Florida took on valiant Butler. The Bulldogs led the Gators by as many as nine and were still tied 54-54 with 2:40 to play when 6-foot-10 Florida big man Al Horford began backing down the smaller Brandon Crone. Horford backed and backed and bashed and bashed Crone all the way under the basket before finally eliciting a whistle as he laid the ball in. Foul. ON CRONE!!! Yeesh. Despite getting knocked to the floor by the massive Horford, Crone was whistled for his fifth foul and, after the three-point play, Butler never tied it up again.

No. 1 North Carolina 74, No. 5 USC 64
In the Friday nightcap, top seed North Carolina was down 16 points when a couple of touch fouls sent USC big man Taj Gibson to the bench. Seriously, why do you guys have to blow your whistle when the man supposedly being fouled has caught the ball in the post anyway and no advantage has been gained by this alleged foul? Play on!

But when it came to the small change, ticky-tack stuff against Gibson, the refs saved their best for last. The Trojans had the ball down six with 48.5 seconds left when Gibson set a screen at the 3-point line. And yes he moved on the screen. After the man he was picking ran into him! Despite Billy Packer's contention that this was an easy and uncontroversial call, Tim Floyd had every right to be apoplectic on this whistle that essentially ended the USC season.

See the rest of his breakdown here.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Wierd Al Would Be Proud

Growing up in Central Pennsylvania, it's not uncommon for me to have an Amish sighting. It's routine that I see horse and buggies riding up and down the road, and generally the Amish people are quiet, nice, and mind their own business. This fellow, however, might be spending some time away from the farm for a few weeks. Via

Referees halted a penalty-plagued ice hockey match that included a team of Plain adults Monday night when an Amish player allegedly pummeled a member of the officiating crew. Police in East Hempfield Township, called to the Regency Sportsrink on Ambassador Circle at 10:45 p.m., cited Emanuel Dienner, 20, with harassment after the on-ice brouhaha.

Dienner, allegedly punched referee Keith Allen more than a half-dozen times in the midst of a goal-line scuffle with 14 seconds left in a lopsided championship game.

The fight ended only when a player from the opposing team pulled Dienner off the ref.

Dienner was playing on a team made up of all Mennonites and Amish called the Phantoms, league officials told the New Era. He and some teammates became frustrated as the penalties for roughing and hooking — not to mention the score — mounted against them.

"The Amish can get upset at times," said Allen, 46, of Ephrata.

The five-year referee suffered a bruised nose and was nursing pain in his neck this morning. He was wearing a helmet and partial visor at the time and declined medical treatment.

"They were just frustrated," said the ref. "It was a championship game and they were losing. There were fans ejected."

Fans were ejected! Players punching the referees! What is this... European Soccer!?! Those darn Amish kids, they really need to learn to control their tempers!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bad Call in Memphis/A&M Game?

I'm sure many Texas A&M fans will be up in arms over the call in the game this evening between the Aggies and the Memphis Tigers. With 3.1 seconds left - the Aggies were inbounding the ball from underneath the Memphis basket, and an errant pass was deflected out of bounds by a Memphis player. During the play, no time went off the clock. That sent the officials to the scorers table to review the play. During the timeout, Bill Raftery was actually praising the officials for the excellent game they had been calling up to that point. Me personally, I was doing the play-by-play over the phone to my buddy who was in the unfortunate situation of being in his car during these critical moments. As I'm watching the replay - I was telling him that it didn't appear that the ball had touched the sideline and therefore bounced in bounds before it then landed out of bounds. As far as I knew, the clock shouldn't stop until the ball actually lands out of bounds, not necessarily when it crosses the plane. The refs (even though it took them a while) finally made a decision and decided to take a full 1.1 seconds off the clock giving Texas A&M then only 2.0 seconds to get the ball in bounds and throw up a desperation half court heave. Was it the right call? I think so, although I think they could have made the clock read 2.9 seconds and still had the same result with none of the controversy. Both Raftery and play by play man Verne Lunquist were confused by the call, and describing the ball landing in bounds before going out of bounds wasn't brought up until Greg Gumble brought it up during the post game show. Seth Davis even thought it was questionable and would cause controversy. My opinion is that considering the clock operator thought it immediately went out of bounds, and to the naked eye it appeared that it immediately went out of bounds and even on replay, it was close, the refs should have just taken 2 or 3 tenths of a second off the clock. But you can't fault them for making an accurate call either.

MLB Discriminates Against Mute Umpires


"Major League Baseball fans might get to eavesdrop on players and managers arguing calls this season as Fox and ESPN put microphones on umpires during telecasts for the first time.

One umpire from each crew will wear a microphone that he can turn on and off during the game at his discretion. The networks said they won't air live audio from the microphones.

Both networks said they would be selective in the audio they choose to use and umpires can turn off the microphones if a player or manager is arguing a ruling. The networks said they may decide to air contested calls on delay if considered suitable."

Wait a second, the umpire can turn his mic off if he's in an argument. So, it's like this...

Uh oh, here comes Lou again, I better turn this thing off - this could get pretty nasty. I'd hate for the fans to be able to hear the sound of his spit splatting off my face.

Honestly, isn't that what we want to hear the most? The arguing? I'm sure we will though as most umps will forget their mic is on, and the whole conversation will be picked up. Hopefully ESPN and FOX will not be afraid to air those converasations.

The networks will evaluate the audio during games and package it with replays.

"We don't want to offend or embarrass anybody, including ourselves," said Tim Scanlan, ESPN's senior coordinating producer. "If it's meaningful and takes the viewer closer to the game, we'll do it."

I'm sure it won't be long until some umpires regret having that mic turned on. Like when they actually admit to blowing a call:

Oh, the joy of being an angry fan

Bill Poehler, writer for the statesman journal says that officials are not getting paid enough to take this sort of abuse. The abuse he is referring to, you ask? While he was at a recent series of high school basketball tournament, he witnessed fans saying horrible things like:

I hate you, baldy.

Go back home.

You need a towel to wipe your eyes?

Give your pay back.

That's terrible.

Knock it off.

That's terrible.

Get out of here.

He goes onto say:

It's always funny when someone sitting 100 feet away from the play thinks that they can see the outcome of the play better than the official 10 feet away.

Unless you're Superman, you can't.

The next time you think, maybe I'll yell, "Get in the game, blue," stop for a minute.

How would you like to get paid to go to a public event and constantly be screamed at?

It's not fun.

Listen Bill, I respect your sympathy for officials. Maybe you used to be a referee, maybe you hang out with them after work at your favorite pub, maybe you have a long list of refs complaining to you about these types of fans. However, in my humble opinion - yelling at the officials is part of the joys of being a passionate fan. We crave the right call, an accurate call, especially when rooting for our school, our team, or in some cases, a son or daughter's team to win. It's all part of our competitive nature. I agree, there are lines that can be crossed, and those lines would be yelling profanities, running onto the court or field to take matters into your own hands, or making threatning statements during or even after the game. To say things like you mentioned above is ok, and unless the ref has serious image problems, should be able to handle that type of abuse no matter how much money he or she is being paid.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Worst Calls of All Time

In honor of Greg Oden's superslam over the weekend, Complain in Vain is in the process of compiling the Worst Calls of All Time. (well... since 1986) This is a good list so far - they are up to #8 on their list. While I don't agree with all, I think it's a good start, and at least a good way to get a nice debate going. Take a look at their list and chime in on their comments with your own.

Oh and by the way - welcome all TBL readers! Hope you enjoy what you see... please visit anytime. Feel free to email me with your tips/comments/suggestions at

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

NFL Overtime Rules

In this week's Monday Morning QB, Peter King takes some time to discuss some possible rule changes that owners and gm's will discuss in their upcoming meetings. I think we would all agree that even though facts might not support our argument, the NFL Overtime Rules could use a little tweaking.

PK seems to agree with that himself. He goes onto say:

I've never been a big fan of the NFL's current overtime system. Even though only 29 percent of all overtime games have been won on the first possession of extra time, that's 29 percent too often for me. NFL teams have only 16 regular-season games a year, and those games are too important for something as vital as first possession of the ball to be determined by a coin flip. The rule is madness. Both teams should have at least one crack at the ball in overtime.

So, as I read this, I'm thinking the NFL must be considering doing something drastic. Maybe they are possibly thinking of instituting College football's rule that guarentees both teams will get the ball. Right? WRONG! The change the NFL is thinking of implementing:

pushing the kickoff from the 30- to the 35-yard line.


Seriously though, I understand the concept. Apparently, the NFL wants more touchbacks during OT to prevent the team starting out with the ball the advantage of say starting at their own 40 or 50 yard line. I admit, makes sense. But I think the NFL should take this a step further. I know, I know, the facts don't dispute there's a problem, but the NFL OT system lacks one important ingredient: Excitement!

The NFL is the one sport where both teams in OT are potentially not given an equal shot. Imagine if baseball extra innings were sudden death! Imagine if an NBA overtime game was over when the first team scores a bucket. Imagine a tennis match that ends with an ace on the first serve during the tie-break. Imagine the Masters tied at the end of 72 holes and then Tiger hits his ball in first and the match is over before his opponent is even allowed the chance to drop his own birdie putt. It'd be an outrage, so why is the NFL allowed to get away with this?

I say if they're going to tweak the rules - I mean, c'mon, let's tweak them. Here are some possible options:

1) Model college's rule, but back them up say 20 or 30 yards to start. (PK says, "The NFL won't do that because the argument against the college overtime rule is that it makes a mockery of the game, eliminating the special-teams aspect.")

Ok... well then how about...

2) Playing a complete extra period - 15 minutes of non-sudden death. Winner at the end wins the game. I like this idea, but I don't think this is the solution as there are problems with this argument as well - what happens if and when their tied at the end of the first OT. This would cause OT times to really drag out. But imagine the intensity of a playoff game going into 1 maybe 2 OT sessions - isn't it exciting when NHL, or college and pro basketball games go 2 or 3 OT longs? Could this work in the NFL?

3) Have a "kick-out" - like soccer's shootout - Take the players off the field and have them kick 40 yard field goals to determine the winner. Just like soccer, a player can only kick once - how cool would this be? Start with the kickers, then the punters, then your former high school kickers, soon offensive linemen would be attempting 40 yard field goals to send their team to the playoffs. This rule could be implemented with option number 2. Play one OT period - 15 minutes - non sudden death, if we're still tied - we have a "kick-out"

4) Kick the ball from the same spot, but just guarentee both teams at least 1 possession. Even this rule is better than the current rule in my opinion.

Those are my options and I am no expert on the situation, just a guy with an opinion. I think College Football's OT system is hands down way better and that's why I say the NFL should consider making a bigger change than simply moving the ball up 5 yards on the kickoff.

PK concludes his article by saying "I'd take any change in the overtime rules, as long as it moves us closer to a fair chance for both teams to get the ball in the extra period. Discussing a tweak is a start. It's not the solution, but here's hoping that the coaches and club officials on the competition committee can, at a minimum, convince their brethren to take this first step at making overtime games more equitable."

I actually agree with him..... and hey, even that's a start.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Stop, Flop, and Roll

I know this has been discussed over at the fanhouse, and even SI mentioned this in their rumors and rants section. But, I'm actually happy to see this. It sounds like the NBA is seriously considering the possibility of giving officials the option of charging "flop" offenders with a technical foul.


"The NBA is considering giving referees the option of whistling players for technical fouls if they deem that a player has flopped in an attempt to get a call. FIBA, the governing body of all international basketball, already gives such latitude to its referees. Other sports such as soccer and the NHL already allow their referees to penalize players for purposefully falling in an attempt to deceive the game officals."

One idea behind this potential rule change is to stop players from preventing what would be spectacular plays by jumping underneath them to draw a foul. In recent years, players have discovered (and I'm sure coaches have begun coaching) the art of drawing the charge. More and more, blocking fouls are not called, and charging is called when a player falls to his back after taking a little bit of a shove. Yeah, there are arguments either way, and I'm sure there are legitimate cases when a charge is rightfully called. The NBA needs dazzling plays to keep its popluarity and quite honestly, (and I understand the need for the rule) but I hate the charging foul. Imagine if Jordan would have been called for a charge in what Marv Albert famously coined as a "spectacular move". Nowadays, those types of plays are being prevented by floppers and the refs that agree with their antics.

The article also speaks about this:

"The NBA gained popularity decades ago because of the dazzling plays at the rim when players aggressively attacked the rim and finished with high-wire theatrics. But more and more these days, it seems as if players seem hesitant to drive down the lane because of defenders running under them and falling to the floor as if a runaway locomotive has hit them. In the split second that a referee must make a call, the decision often goes in favor of the stationary defender -- something that almost deters players from driving down the lane."

I agree with the NBA that if a player tries to purposely draw a foul by falling over "by accident", well - that player deserved to be punished in some way. I guess a technical foul is a good way to start. We'll have to see how this rule comes in to play, as mentioned at the fanhouse, I'll believe it when I see it.

Since we're talking about floppers, let's give respect to the man who reminded me most of my fishing days. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the greatest flopper of all time: