Hypocritical players should not blame the replacement referees

To the countless fans or players who are blaming the referees for last night’s end result in Seattle: Don’t. Blame the people who put them there. The commissioner and the owners would be a good place to start distributing the blame.

The referees are replacements who were hurried into the spotlight by the NFL, and as difficult as it may be for many to believe, they are actually doing the best they possibly can. Since the preseason they have been the target of all criticism — regardless of their performance on the field — while the previous referees have been made out to be a group of flawless robots who would never missed a call on the field. Every single time there is an alleged blown call, fans are quick to point out that the regular referees would not have made that call. How do they know that? The regular referees never had these many eyes on them, and the difference is that these fans are not just watching the replacement referees but they are looking for any possible reason to call them out.

Humans are not perfect. As a certified baseball umpire myself, I know what it feels like to be on the officiating side of the game, to have ignorant fans in my face when they have no idea what the rule book actually says. Regardless of the sport, officials are invisible when everything is going smoothly. When something goes wrong, everyone says it is their fault.

If humans are not perfect, neither are referees. It’s not like referees have never been involved in a controversy before. Jerome Bettis and the coin flip on Thanksgiving. Tom Brady’s fumble/incomplete pass/whatever you want to call it, now known as the Tuck Rule, on that snowy, whiteout playoff game against Oakland. Even Ed Hochuli, who has a great reputation as a well-respected, veteran referee, admitted to blowing a call during a game between the Chargers and Broncos in 2008. People were in such complete shock that he would actually blow a call. He’s human. Not a robot.

What I found to be most surprising in the aftermath of last night’s debacle in Seattle was how some players were still placing the blame on the referees. T.J. Lang, a member of the Packers offensive line which gave up eight sacks in the first half alone, said via Twitter that his team was (expletive) by the refs” and that the NFL can ” Fine me and use the money to pay the regular refs”

Another Packers offensive lineman, Josh Sitton, said after the game, “That was (expletive). This is getting ridiculous!”

Lang was already out of line to be putting the blame on the referees, and both of them obviously should not have used such foul language. Maybe their offensive line shouldn’t have given up eight sacks in the first half. Maybe that wouldn’t have put themselves in a position to lose on a last second play. And surely, these players shouldn’t have opened their mouth after the game. If the NFL players think the replacement referees are ruining the integrity of the game, their use of foul language on a public website demonstrates poor sportspersonship and makes it hypocritical to even open their mouths. Failing to set an example for all of their young followers is what really ruins the integrity of the game.

I agree that the replacement referees have probably made more mistakes than we hoped for, and I agree that the new referees need to come back. But let us put the blame on the people who are responsible for putting them there, not the replacements. If the players are going to be so immature that they cannot set an example for others, I don’t see how they have a right to complain.

Out of all the tweets emerging from last night’s disaster, I think we should all agree that Deion Sanders said it best:

“I feel sorry for these refs I really do. They’re doing the best they (can) but that ain’t good enough please bring back the real thing. #truth”

With Nicks ruled out, it could be Barden’s time to shine

Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz both combined to have a monstrous game last week in Big Blue’s come from behind win over the Buccaneers, but if you didn’t watch the game you probably had no idea that Nicks played through what appeared to be a painful injury that occurred during the game. Nicks had just finished recovering from off-season surgery on his foot when the FOX Sports video crew caught him getting stepped on during a play, but he shrugged it off and continued to torch the Tampa defense.

Now, with the Giants in the middle of a short week of rest as they prepare to face the Panthers tonight, it seems Nicks’ foot is still bothering him. The Giants have downgraded him from questionable to out, and with Domenik Hixon also banged up, the door has opened for former Cal Poly All American Ramses Barden.

 Barden has one catch in the two games so far this season, and my gut feeling is that the team REALLY wants him to succeed. Remember, the Giants moved up several spots in the 2009 draft in order to take Barden in the third round. With such limited action in his regular season career so far, the timing for this opportunity could not be better for the 6’6.5″ wideout. He was the tallest receiver in his draft class, and with the shorter but speedy Victor Cruz lined up alongside him, it could make for an interesting tandem in tonight’s showdown in Charlotte.

While Barden will have his chance, this game may also provide an opportunity for other receivers buried in the depth chart. The recently drafted Reuben Randle left LSU after his junior season to join in the NFL draft, and we should keep our eye out for him on the field. Eli Manning has shown us time and time again that he knows how to spread the ball around, and I think that’s just what he’ll try to do tonight. 

Dissecting the controversial ending of the Giants/Bucs game

As if it wasn’t already a wild, record-breaking fourth quarter comeback for Big Blue in their week two matchup against the Buccaneers, things got even more interesting at the end. With just seconds remaining in the game after the Giants rallied to take a 41-34 lead, their offense simply decided to knee the ball — this is common sense in any football game.

But with it being a one-score game, the Buccaneers coaching staff told their defensive players to play the snap as if it was a regular play. Who cares, they thought, that kneeing the ball always indicates that the team is conceding the play and peacefully running out the clock. Let’s . . . dive at their knees?

While it wasn’t a big deal that the players were told to play to the last second — that is fine, as pointless as it was in this case, though — the thing I have an issue with is how the Buccaneers defense dove at the knees of the offensive lineman across from them. This was clearly a cheap shot, and even the Buccaneers defensive players said after the game that they would not have done this if they weren’t ordered to by the coaches.

What with all of the coverage and bad press this play caused, the question has to be raised of whether this Buccaneers play call was even worth it. This goes without even mentioning the dirty way in which it was carried out, which was definitely not worth it and should be reviewed by the National Football League.

If Schiano was asked whether he would want players on opposing team diving at the knees of his players on pointless, late game plays, I can assume his answer would be no. A bad mistake by a rookie NFL head coach came back to bite him, and boy, talk about a bad time and place. With his hometown New Jersey crowd sitting behind him, this couldn’t be the way he pictured it to turn out.

How Twitter makes it tricky to be a reporter

When I asked Pete Rose last year whether the game of baseball has changed since he retired, he told me the only thing that has changed about the game is the press. Whether the rest of the game has changed could be up for debate, I think we can all agree with the Hit King about the press.

“You can find out everything that happened in a game that same night, and now I don’t want to read about it tomorrow morning,” he told me.

But to be more specific, I’d like to talk about one of the ways in which Twitter has affected the everyday job of a sports writer.

As information continues to become more instantaneous, the question of how and when to release it becomes extremely tricky. What complicates it even further is that not everybody in an organization will always agree on a consensus. If a reporter wants to tweet an important quote he or she just recorded in an interview with an athlete, their employer might disagree with that decision to release it so soon because they’d rather the reporter use it in a story. If a quote is tweeted and then later inserted into a story, it becomes redundant. Readers are lazy and they don’t want to read about something twice if they can get the gist of the story from a tweet.

I learned this through experience, as I have had to tip toe my way through this issue myself. As a beat writer covering a baseball team, part of my job was to tweet throughout the games in order to give fans an idea of how their team’s players were doing. But I also had to be careful about how much information I released, because I wanted to save some for articles I would be writing that week. It is much easier said than done.

As I take a look at the Twitter pages for sports writers (beat writers in particular) across sports and then compare them with the articles they are writing, I can’t help but notice how much information is being repeated. These writers tweet from the second they wake up until they go to bed, and plenty of that already-public information ends up in an article later that day or the next day. This makes me wonder what their editors think, especially when it matters much more to them what appears on their publication than what is found on a Twitter account. I know from conversations with at least one editor that they are having issues with this and that organizations are hiring people to monitor the Twitter accounts.

Editors are aware that Twitter accounts are necessary for reporters, and that these accounts can attract readers in the form of followers. But how much the editors want their reporters to tweet is another story.

This brings me to my final question, which is simple but valid. How do editors properly teach reporters how to balance their Twitter accounts with their articles? It takes experience with this issue to really understand how complex it can be. It should be interesting to see how it plays out as time goes on.

Mets’ owners don’t care and Collins has given up

Count me in as one of those people who thought Terry Collins was not one to blame for his team’s second half slide into hell.

But suddenly he is handling the Mets’ free fall all wrong. We all thought Collins was not the problem (and he still isn’t really the problem), but as Mike Francesa so screamingly pointed out to us during his rant on WFAN yesterday, Collins hasn’t helped the problem lately. Rather, he has given up on the season. In fact, Collins just said that he’s already looking ahead to next season and that he has to look at the bigger picture. Of course, the Mets won’t be in the playoffs but it is still important to the fan base to at least pay enough attention to the remainder of the season to avoid a total disaster.

Francesa made note of how Collins seemed complacent with the way the Mets were just swept by the cellar-dwelling Rockies. Collins, who just days ago seemed to put his foot down, has backed down and seems completely OK with the way his team has sunk into oblivion. He has tried to say in his post-game press conferences that the players are at least having some good at-bats, which they definitely are not. He was even supportive of Frank Francisco after the Mets’ closer just went on a tirade in the dugout. The front office, not Collins, is to blame for this season, but Collins needs to understand that he has a responsibility to at least attempt to finish strong.

The players are not to blame. Professional athletes play every game, regardless of whether they are on a first place team or last place team, knowing that their personal success on the field is what will determine their financial future. The harsh reality for a fan of any team is that athletes play for themselves, not the team. I wouldn’t say any individual player on the Mets actually quit on the team. The front office just failed at fielding a successful team this season.

Collins’ job is unique in that he has different goals than the players do. In theory, a manager will do what it takes to win games, and even while the Mets fade into darkness he has an obligation to put an effort into setting a higher standard. If Collins is content with the way the team is playing right now, the fan base will become even more upset than they already were.

The owners have done nothing but make a complete fool of themselves in recent years. They were good friends and did business with the most well known criminal on Wall Street, they made ridiculous comments about their soon-to-be free agent player’s worth, and their team simply stinks. The Wilpons haven’t had a positive newspaper headline in forever, and the fans are getting fed up.

The team’s owners don’t care, and now the team’s manager doesn’t care. Even with a month left in the season, I guess this means the fans shouldn’t care either.

Back from Cape Town

After a great semester abroad in South Africa, I am finally back to the blog. I returned from Cape Town less than a month ago, and I had less than a week at home before I moved here to Princeton, West Virginia for the summer. I am spending the summer working with Rays Digest as the beat reporter for the Princeton Rays, a Tampa Bay Rays affiliate.

To follow my work with Rays Digest, check out the website and be sure to follow me on Twitter @MatthewTracy. I tweet during the games to update fans about the latest from their favorite prospects. 

During my semester abroad, I wrote an article for Varsity Newspaper, the campus paper at The University of Cape Town, and I maintained two blogs — one at the Ithaca College Sport Management and Media blog about my overall experiences, and my second at WordPress about my volunteering experiences each week.

I will be more active here this summer and into the Fall since I am back in the country, so I will have some things to catch up on that I never covered while I was away. Most notably, I need to talk about the New York Giants as they captured their second Super Bowl victory against the Patriots in just five years. The Mets, on the other hand, do have some things worth writing about this season as they are exceeding expectations. R.A. Dickey has been unstoppable and David Wright is having the season of his life.

Check back in soon for an update, and be sure to follow my work at Rays Digest and on Twitter!

In Cape Town for the semester

As I mentioned before, I am here in Cape Town, South Africa for the semester. I am keeping a blog of my experiences on the Ithaca College Sport Management and Media blog, so if you would like to follow along then just click on this link. If you simply scroll down on that page, you can find the posts I have made so far.

I probably won’t be writing too much on here this semester since I will be a bit preoccupied — but once I return to the states in June, I will be sure to catch up on all things Mets since it will be a couple months into the season. In the meantime, feel free to follow along on the IC blog.