THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
Newsday published an incredibly interesting article back in June that discussed the growing culture of hate that surrounds announcers in the world of sports. The article interviewed and discussed the topic with some of the biggest targets of the hate, such as Joe Buck, Beth Mowins, and Suzyn Waldman.
A lot of different theories were offered regarding this phenomenon, many of which were interesting in their examination and the changes within society that act as catalysts for such movements. Social media played a big role in the discussion, which makes sense in this age of instant gratification and demand to share your opinions. Other factors included the national broadcast vs. the local broadcast, color commentators who played for certain polarizing teams, and simple psychology and jealousy.
One interesting point that was made was the advent of technology that allows fans to choose their broadcast team in most circumstances, especially with local broadcasts (since national broadcasts usually don't provide multiple options due to their exclusivity). If you purchase the MLB.tv package, for example, you are given every audio and video feed of every game all season so long as you are not blacked out. So if you're not a fan of the home broadcast team on television, you can always switch over to the visiting radio feed while you go run some errands. Sometimes, having this choice gets fans to shut up because they don't have to listen to announcers they detest; other times, it fuels their fire even more by simple contrast.
Whatever the reason people may have to hate announcers, the biggest question that I raise is: who cares about your opinion? Why do people feel the reason make sure everyone knows their disdain for someone behind the microphone? And why do they feel the need to make sure the announcers know it as well? That would be like if random people came to your job and complained about how you do it. Eventually, you'd go crazy.
Look, there are even announcers for which I don't care. But I don't take the time to send a Tweet to those people to let them know they're terrible. If you can't escape what you deem to be awful announcing, just hit mute! Why spread the hate?
I'm not a Tim Tebow fan. Maybe I've said it before. We could dissect it for days, but we don't have that kind of time.
So when Tim Tebow was being "trolled" by the Charleston Riverdogs this past season, was it reason to laugh? Actually, no.
Earlier this season, when Tebow was with the Columbia Fireflies (the single A affiliate of the New York Mets) and the team visited the Riverdogs (the single A affiliate of the New York Yankees), the Riverdogs decided that their entire scoreboard should be dedicated to Tebow in a way that mocked his success to this point. Every Fireflies batter had their name removed from their picture and replaced with the phrase "NOT TIM TEBOW" while the backdrop of their picture was changed to Tebow's infamous crying face from his college football days.
Following some backlash, General Manager Dave Echols apologized solely for the possibility that the public relations stunt might have offended some people. There was no apology to Tebow or for anything that was done...just in the event that they might have rubbed people the wrong way.
Say what you want about Tebow and his minor league career, but nobody really deserves this type of classless behavior. You would even expect better from an organization directly affiliated with the New York Yankees, a team known for their class and professionalism.
Even Mets General Manager Sandy Alderson came out as calling the whole thing very "minor league," but noted Tebow would know how to rise above all this.
As for Tebow, he got the last laugh. Shortly after this event, even though his statistics may not have warranted it, Alderson promoted Tebow to High-A Port St. Lucie.
For some time, I've sang the praises of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. The moment in the 2016 playoffs between him and umpire Angel Hernandez brought tears to my eyes because it displayed an intensely private moment of humanity that allowed the public to witness the fact that there are some people on the big stage that understand the empathy needed to be a decent human being.
Unfortunately, that changed during the 2017 season.
Back in June, when the San Diego Padres were visiting the Chicago Cubs, there was double play where Rizzo tried to score from third on a sacrifice fly, only to be thrown out at the plate. On the play, Padres catcher Austin Hedges received the throw in front of the plate and in fair territory, giving Rizzo the lane to the plate in foul territory, which satisfies the rules stating that players cannot block any base without possession of the ball (or in the act of catching the ball). Unfortunately, Rizzo violated the concurrent rule that states that a runner may not deviate his path to the plate to initiate contact with a defensive player. Rizzo changed his path and slid feet first directly into Hedges in an attempt to dislodge the ball. Rizzo was called out on the play based solely on the fact that he was tagged well before he reached the plate.
After the game, during the various media sessions, Padres manager Andy Green went on record stating he knew Rizzo violated the rule. He didn't call Rizzo a dirty player by any stretch, but he said it was a clear illegal play. Cubs manager Joe Maddon, however, went on his usual soap box to say it was a clean baseball play. Rizzo pleaded ignorance, stating his interpretation of the rule, in discussion with umpires and other baseball personnel, would allow him to do what he did.
Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre stepped in and let Rizzo know that he violated the rule and would have been called out had Hedges not held onto the ball, but also stated he would not impose any other penalty, such as a fine or suspension.
If there's a silver lining to this story, it's that Rizzo deposited so many good deeds into the proverbial bank that, if he really was ignorant and thought this was an accident or a clean play, then it made sense that Torre would look at Rizzo's resume and decide no penalty was necessary.
But the more important moral to this story is that even those who we deem to be the next superstar who can do no wrong actually, in fact, can do wrong. The number of people we really can put up on that pedestal is much smaller than we think. I fully admit I fell for it: I invested into Rizzo thinking he was going to be a good role model. And it looks like I was wrong.
An article back in June published in the Washington Post by Nick Eilerson detailed the pandemic that is plaguing our youth, yet getting no attention: the shortage of sports officials.
Specifically, the article's focus makes the claim that the sole reason that the number of officials is dwindling is due to the verbal abuse officials take from players, coaches, parents, and fans. And it's very difficult to argue against any of it.
Without diving too deep into it, the statistics provided in the article show some serious issues based on the number of officials that quit officiating at various points throughout their tenures. The attrition rate from the first year of an official's career through his seventh is astounding. Equally as appalling is when the sexism card is played on female officials, which is also referenced in the article.
But there are a few points in the article that do not receive the credit they deserve.
First, a small portion of the article begins to examine how the school administrators are equally as guilty as any other party to cause this problem to expand. The administrators (and consequently, the coaches, followed by parents and players) care more about wins and losses and the pride the school must feel rather than their actual goal of providing a positive educational experience to the local youth.
We see this in media just as frequently, but we don't pay much attention to it for various reasons. Anytime we watch a television show or a movie that focuses on the importance of winning the big high school football game, we are seeing the archetype of the problem. In a nutshell, athletics in school (be it college, high school, or anything else) are meant to be a learning experience for kids/players, not a vehicle to achieve the superficial status that means nothing at the scholastic level. Simply stated, let the kids play; don't force them to choke because you want them to win a useless state championship.
There are a few other points that need emphasis as well. Mimicry of professionals as viewed from television provides more reasons for youth to imitate what they see from their idols. The number of travel leagues in each sport create both sociological and practical issues that divide people rather than unite them.
But another point to which I could relate is the fact that coaches, schools, and leagues can now dictate in certain circumstances which officials can work which games. In other words, a school can ban an official from working their games simply because they don't agree with a call that official may have made. What's worse is that the officiating organization allows this due to a lack of leverage in negotiations and a need to provide opportunities for officials to work.
The fact of the matter is that we have a problem regarding the number of officials, and that problem isn't going away anytime soon.
If you caught any part of the Women's College World Series this year, you might have caught this clip. During a game between UCLA and Texas A&M, a double steal led to an assistant coach bumping an umpire and receiving a two game suspension along with her ejection.
The play? It's the old "runners on 1st and 3rd" scenario where the runner on first base has to get caught in a rundown long enough for the runner at third to score. However, the defense didn't get a single out on the play. The runner on first got caught, the runner on third scored, and the runner from first ended up at third.
Lisa Fernandez, the UCLA first base coach, argued over a lack of an obstruction call. You know the rest of the story.
What's really crazy, though, is that the story doesn't stop after Fernandez gets ejected and suspended. UCLA head coach Kelly Inouye-Perez actually supported Fernandez and praised her, claiming she had no problem with what she did and discussed how it added to her team's chemistry.
Yeah, one of those...
Both coaches in question apparently forgot that they are actually educators who are responsible for these young ladies. And that's a crime.
Actually, that's a metaphoric crime. Assaulting an umpire may be an actual crime.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.