THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
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.
Referee Magazine publishes a supplement to the NCAA Baseball Rules prior to each season. The 2017 supplement began with a cover story titled "Respect and Integrity." It was their way to enforce the importance of reducing the number of conflicts within the sport.
The cover included a graphic that discussed the number of ejection/suspension reports submitted during the 2016 season. Of note from that graphic:
So where do we start?
How about with the 693 reports??? That means that 693 times in an environment that is supposed to be promoting the educational experience of the student-athlete did a report have to be filed regarding a disqualification and pending suspension. If that happened in a nursery school, the local town would be quarantined.
Beyond the graphic, the article discussed how umpires and coaches need to work together to make sure the integrity of the game is met. However, the graphic discussing the submitted reports shows that this is not necessarily the case. If there was a handful of issues reported, it would be different. But preaching this type of relationship when the statistics show differently reeks of the NCAA only paying this idea lip service.
And by the way, it's Referee Magazine that is publishing this article. How many coaches and players read this?
The fact of the matter is that collegiate athletics still don't understand that they aren't the pros.
Back in March, an interesting incident happened that appeared to be five years in the making.
Following a college softball game between Florida and Auburn, Auburn shortstop Haley Fagan got into a shoving/screaming match with Florida coach Tim Walton during the handshake line. Apparently, as Fagan led the line for her team, when she reached the end of the Florida line to see Walton, she put her hand down to not shake his hand, resulting in Walton's hand slap going into Fagan's shoulder. When Fagan turned around, she then shoved Walton in the back to return the favor. This eventually turned into some screaming where Fagan, not Walton, had to be restrained.
There is some history here. In 2012, Walton had to dismiss three players from his team prior to the start of their NCAA tournament. Two of them were Fagan's sisters, Sami and Kasey. Apparently, it all stemmed from an altercation where specifics were not discussed. However, Kevin Fagan, the father of all three girls and former defensive lineman for the San Francisco 49ers, spoke up back in 2012 about the issue and stated his girls would be transferring.
Ironically, Kasey Fagan and the third girl dismissed, Cheyenne Coyle, are both graduate assistants for Auburn.
Walton issued an apology shortly after the incident with Haley Fagan, stating it was never his intent to touch her in what was conceived to be a poor intent, but to just shake her hand as per the custom. He even took responsibility and said he should have been more aware of what was happening. Nothing was said from Fagan, Auburn, or the SEC around the same time.
There are a million potential factors at play here, all of which are based solely on the mere possibility of them occurring, not so much on any hard evidence. It's tough to formulate opinions and garner suggestions when you're working only with connecting the dots of potential situations, especially when you're not a detective working to solve a case for the Special Victims Unit. But it doesn't take a genius to see the writing on the wall at the same time.
The Fagan family has some grudges that will slowly turn into demons if they are not resolved. I'm not sure if Walton has those demons. He seems like he tried his best in all these situations.
The next question is whether or not this type of culture is rampant in that part of the country...
Back in February, an article and news story from the local news from Toledo summed up the plight of youth and high school athletics in a manner that couldn't be more perfect.
The thesis of the article submits that it is the parents who are the biggest culprit in destroying the institution of athletics for our youth, which is the absolute truth. In fact, the only time this isn't the case is when you get a coach who has none of his/her children on the team he/she coaches, yet still is an absolute nightmare.
Why are the parents the problem? It's three fold:
The principle of this argument is very similar to that of a post we featured many moons ago when we transferred our material from our old blog. Officials want to focus "between the lines," that is, on the playing action and not on the dugouts and stands. When players, coaches, and fans berate officials, they take the focus of the official off the game and onto the unnecessary words and actions of people who do nothing but distract officials from doing their best job. It seems the same principle applies to players who want to focus on the game, not their parents pressuring them.
All in all, it's real simple: shut up. Be nice. Treat others how you would want to be treated.
Daniel Webster College is shutting down its Division III men's basketball program. However, the final game for the team was marred by a brawl that resulted in three arrests.
Marquise Caudill, a guard for Daniel Webster's team, was arrested after assaulting an opponent by punching him and stomping on him while he was on the ground. He further threatened an officer working security detail who tried to stop him.
His teammate, Antwaun Boyd, was also arrested for inciting the crowd that surrounded the officer who was trying to stop the fight.
A spectator, 43-year-old Elizabeth Morris, was also arrested for attempting to hold back the same officer from making the arrest.
Apparently, the officer in question requested backup and received the help of 25 other officers to attempt to restore order.
Sometimes, there are just no words for these types of situations. You just shake your head and ask, "What were these people thinking?" Or perhaps they weren't...
February 2 is Groundhog's Day, and it may be a pretty dumb holiday. In fact, there are a lot of dumb holidays on our calendar...New Year's Eve/Day comes to mind.
But February 1 is actually an even dumber day in America It's National Signing Day.
This is the day when all the star high school football players reveal which colleges they will attend in order to further their career as a football player. High school kids have "reveal" events that they post on social media; they have press conferences; they basically are thrown into the spotlight with a production that is about as mature as trying to figure out the most unique way to ask a girl to the prom.
Someone is going to have to explain to me why we need this in our society.
I have constantly ripped those who use the exploitation of youth sports to further their goals. I've been critical of events like the Little League World Series and why it needs to be broadcast nationally on ESPN. This is just another example of the unnecessary junk we broadcast...and America eats it up.
It's bad enough that we are harming our youth and forcing them into adulthood with the big reveal of where they sign their letter of intent. Their egos have already ballooned to the size of Montana. They miss out on some of the joys of childhood and teenage years before adulthood hits them in the face with a biggest dose of reality they've experienced. And as a culture, we can't get enough of everything related to college sports. We are now dipping into high school sports on a national level and watching kids who may not even be legal adults yet commit to joining the college team to which we might pledge our allegiance.
Before you know it, we will be celebrating where 8th grade kids decide to go to high school...and then we'll be celebrating 6th grade kids deciding which sports they want to play...and then we'll be celebrating toddlers as they announce which elementary school they will attend...and then we'll be analyzing the decision of parents to conceive a child...and then we'll be dissecting whether or not two people in a marriage will work...
But with all that garbage being such a strong focus, National Signing Day also has one additional unique aspect to it that creates such a false sense of reality that it's time to burst the bubble. The kids who are destined to go to college to play football, as well as their families and friends, are encompassed in a fake reality that this one special person who is announcing his collegiate intent will be the savior they all need to escape the doldrums of the average middle-class life. It's as if their lives were nothing at all until they found this potential celebrity they could worship and pray that he returns with millions of dollars to divide among everyone in his entourage. Both the kid and all around him use it as a day to bask in the glory of their opportunity to show the world that it's their turn to get a moment in the sun. The ideas of personal responsibility and controlling your own destiny have become forgotten in the wake six degrees of separation from a kid who isn't even a celebrity...yet.
No wonder our culture is so messed up.
Back in January, an incident of unsportsmanlike conduct that occurred in a Division I basketball game rose to a level of ridiculousness that questions whether a coach even has a soul.
The background: during the 2015-16 season, New Mexico assistant coach Terrence Rencher was trash-talking during a game between New Mexico and Colorado State. The comments were directed at Colorado State forward Emmanuel Omogbo for unknown reasons.
Fast-forward to 2017 when the two teams met again. Rencher picked up right where he left off, aiming derogatory and racially charged language at Omogbo during pregame warmups. During the game, a skirmish erupted after a clean play was interpreted as dirty, especially since the game itself was somewhat tense and chippy. Rencher and New Mexico assistant coach Chris Harriman were both ejected from the game for leaving the bench area during the skirmish. (Harriman later apologized to Colorado State head coach Larry Eustachy for the incident.)
Following the game, Omogbo and Eustachy were walking from the arena to their cars and happened to pass by the New Mexico team bus where Rencher was standing. Rencher picked up where he had left off, this time adding to his repertoire by rubbing the loss in Omogbo's face, which caused Omogbo to lose his temper and require restraint from Eustachy.
Following the departure of Omogbo and Eustachy to prevent things from escalating, Eustachy's wife, Lana, stepped in and reminded Rencher of the hardship Omogbo has experienced last year when his parents and two other family members were killed in a house fire.
What did Rencher do? He laughed.
New Mexico head coach Craig Neal was asked about the incident, in which he defended Rencher via text message, claiming he did nothing wrong.
For the record, Rencher has a Bachelor's in Education with a focus on youth and community studies. Rencher and his wife have two daughters. Apparently, these credentials and the thought of having others treat his kids this way were not enough to stop him from acting in a way that only Satan would approve.
Maybe "again" isn't fair. However, more often than not, these stories find themselves coming from the archives of youth, high school, or collegiate sports (or whatever you would consider anything that does not include the term "professional").
It's no secret I hold collegiate athletics in very low regard based on the way our society blindly devours the infinite issues they constantly feed us. If you need another reason for this, examine the College Football Championship that took place at the beginning of January between Alabama and Clemson.
In short, this was a rematch of the same two teams from one year prior. Alabama won last year, and they were looking to repeat and post an undefeated season. They had also won four out of the last eight championships in the sport.
But this year, Clemson stunned them and walked away with a 35-31 victory in the final minute of the game.
Now, Clemson is no saint either. Coach Dabo Swinney has done some pretty ridiculous things this year too. But the point of this story is to call out Alabama for saying it was the fault of the officials they lost this game, rather than their ability to outplay their opponent.
Defensive back Hootie Jones went on record and was reported as the point-person regarding Alabama's opinion that the officials blew the game for them. The ridiculous drivel he spewed was met with nothing more than normal, rational people chalking it up to him (and all of Alabama) being a sore loser.
Credit goes to Kevin Scarbinsky of Alabama.com for writing an article that stood up for morals: Scarbinsky called out anyone who agreed with Jones and who actually thinks the officials were responsible for the loss. And if you happen to scroll through the comments of that article, you'll note that there are a lot of people in this world that need their head examined.
The fact of the matter is that officials rarely, if ever, cost a team a victory. For every one call that could subjectively have gone a different way, there are a plethora of events that truly affected the outcome of the game, which amount to whether or not the teams actually executed on the field of play. For every questionable pass interference non-call, there was a false start that could have been avoided. For every pitch just slightly outside the strike zone, there was a batter who couldn't move a runner over to score on a sacrifice fly.
The sign of a good sport is never blaming anyone else for a loss except yourself, even when you might think the game was taken from you due to a bad call. You have the ability to overcome any obstacle, to train harder, to practice longer, and to be better than you were that day. Make that known to the media and the public, rather than showing your immaturity.
In my days of being a professor and being in charge of athletic bands, one of the more unfortunate sights was attending a women's basketball game at home during the regular season. It was unfortunate because the crowds were never that large, and thus, the level of excitement was lacking.
Now, I've gone on record as having problems with collegiate athletics, the NCAA, and many similar things, and I stand by those comments. That being said, with the love our country has for college basketball, it was sad that only the men got the fans. Some of the most entertaining games I attended were women's games. And if you take the college aspect out of it, it would have been nice to see more support for the ladies in any form. It shouldn't be a gender issue.
But then, incidents like the one between UNLV and Utah State in early January occur, and you see that other parts of the country do take women's college basketball seriously...perhaps too seriously.
During the game in question, a fight broke out between two players that led to eight total ejections. It was during the third quarter when UNLV's Katie Powell and Utah State's Antoina Robinson got into it. Not only were those two ejected, but three other members from each team were ejected for leaving the bench, totalling four ejections per team.
According to the post-game interviews, Powell went on record claiming that Robinson was playing dirty all game. When one of Powell's teammates was fouled, she had finally decided to tell Robinson to tone it down, which led to Robinson instigating the fight. If you get a chance, watch the video since it tells it all.
I'm not making excuses for any of the ejected players, but there are a few things to take from this fight...
First, unless there was something else unreported, this fight is clearly Robinson's fault. I don't know this lady, but the fact that she would play dirty, then follow up with a fight shows what type of character she has. She should be ashamed of herself.
That's not to excuse Powell, who probably could have handled things better. But if you are looking to dissect the incident, place the blame on Robinson, not Powell.
Further, it's tough to criticize the ejected players for leaving the bench. UNLV coach Kathy Olivier said it best post-game when she said she never taught her players not to leave the bench in such incidents because she thought they simply wouldn't occur. Olivier took blame for that, but she should be lauded. To accept the responsibility of something that should have been a non-factor is admirable; to hope that these situations would never arise is worthy of a tip-of-the-cap for optimism. I'm sure there is an ensuing counterargument that says Olivier should have taught this to her players, but the big picture says otherwise.
Finally, the big goat in all of this is Utah State. In researching the incident, UNLV made their players and coach available for comment regarding the incident. UNLV's web site (for their women's basketball team) even included the unfortunate incident in their game wrap-up. In short, they didn't hide from it.
Utah State, however, did.
There was no mention of any interview with any Utah State personnel. What's worse is that Utah State's corresponding web site did not even remotely infer the incident occurred in their story about the game. It was as if it never happened.
Journalistic failure? Or embarrassed school? You decide.
As if college football wasn't insane enough with its money grabbing disorganization and exploitation of student athletes, we have yet another example to remind us of the absurdity of giving any credence to collegiate athletics.
Did you happen to read the stories surrounding the Russell Athletic Bowl between Miami and West Virginia? Regardless, let me answer some questions you might have.
First and foremost, yes...the Russell Athletic Bowl is a thing.
It's as useful as the ficticious PapaJohns.com Bowl about which Carl sings during his rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" on the Aqua Teen Hunger Force holiday album, "Have Yourself a Meaty Little Christmas." The lyrics properly describe the onslaught of each of these bowl games and how they are never competitive or worthy of our viewership: "Florida State leads by 28...so why is Rutgers attempting a field goal? It's 4th an 17! You gotta go for it, then you get the on-side kick!"
These bowl games that the FBS division of the NCAA provide us multiply each year. If you're not familiar with sports and need an analogy of what this is like, this is the equivalent of Disney acquiring LucasFilm and churning out a new Star Wars film each year. Everybody and their mother new that the canon of Star Wars was just fine how it was, but the chance to make more money with a new trilogy and anthology films was too tempting.
Secondly, yes...I am a nerd.
Okay, back to the topic on hand.
Prior to the Russell Athletic Bowl, there was a children's charity event that hosted both teams. Unfortunately, members of both teams began to get chippy with each other, culminating with a threat to put a player's draft stock in jeopardy, inferring intentional injury on the field during the game. It never dawned on those present to consider the fact that the event was meant to be entertainment for children for charitable purposes. It never occurred to them that the purpose of the event was bigger than football. It just doesn't enter the minds of these athletes and their adult superiors that they are the priviledged ones who have the opportunity to do things like play sports with the potential future of continuing at the professional level.
During the game, another incident occurred in one of the bathrooms at the stadium. A fan of each team got into a heated argument. The West Virginia fan, who, and this is not a joke, only has one leg, threated to urinate on the Miami fan, which resulted in the Miami fan punching the West Virginia fan in the face. A chase ensued between the two, followed by the one-legged West Virginia fan screaming at the Miami fan about how he, and I'm paraphrasing, used to have sexual relations with similar people while in prison.
Wow. Anybody else need another beer?
If you're looking for the full description, just search for it...the search results will give you everything you need.
I sound like a broken record when I analyze these events because they are becoming more and more frequent and the solution is the same simple answer. How many more of these things do we need to report and expose as ugly marks on our society? What else needs to be done to get people to grow up and respect each other, regardless of their team/fan association?
This is where I would offer the usual solutions to these problems, so use your imagination to figure out what goes here and what you can do to prevent these incidents from occurring in the future. Here's a hint: the solution is obvious.
Baseball player, umpire, coach, fan; professional musician; founder, President & CEO of The OSIP Foundation, Inc.