30 Apr 2007

Diving is not part of sports

Feigning, faking, falling way too easily, diving.
Whatever you want to call it - I call it crap and it has no place in any sport. OH, except for diving, lol.
The biggest culprit of this heinous crime against sport is soccer.
Another classic example of the ever-present 'soccer dive' came in this past weekend's home opener for Toronto's MLS club against Kansas City.
While TFC was pretending to be the Maple Leafs and still remain without a goal in four games, their opponent was busily engaging in antics that are reminiscent of the Laurel and Hardy pratfalls in their movies. Of particular note was the 'playing up' of an injury by the KC goaltender on a legitimate challenge outside the box.
That incident was just the worst one of the bunch, which consisted of at least four or five 'dives' by KC players in the first half. (I didn't watch the second half, as I had to have a nap.)
And this was just the latest, because fans and others have been complaining for the past few years about the 'actions' of players in UFEA games or the EPL or other European leagues.
But soccer isn't the only sport that sports the slogan - Come dive for us.
Hockey - particularly the NHL as of late - has been chastized for allowing the downhill slide into the debachary called faking.
Unlike soccer, where players seem to fall like a tree in a tornado at the slightest touch from an opponent, hockey players have become adept at biting their lips (or any other portion of their mouth, cheeks, etc) to draw blood at get a double minor or major for the penaltized player, dropping their stick and shaking or grabbing their hand/arm if they get a little wack or tug from a stick as well as falling to the ice in the fashion of a three-year-old learning to skate would do after attempt his first step on the ice with no support.
There are other sports that have similar troubles as well, but in the interest of your time and my fingers, I will stop at these two.
Now for the solution, it's easy - - Use the rule book to its fullest extent and eliminate the classless activity.
In soccer, referees need to be trained to start booking (yellow card for those not familar) players that feign any injury or perform any in-flight stunts. Only when this begins to happen in the upper echelon of the sport and in a consistent fashion, will this crime be gone for good. And any good soccer official can usually tell the difference, if not, then why are they there. As well, use the assistant's vision and allow them to help the referee on this call.
Now for the sport where I have officiated for 26 years - hockey.
The NHL has to crackdown and call the diving penalty on its own, no longer as an 'even up' call. Once you do that, players will stop this cheating and do what they are supposed to do - battle for space and the puck.
As for the fake letting of blood, it's hard for officials to know what the cause was, but maybe its time for one of the officials (now that there are four of them) to immediately skate to the player and make a check - instead of having the trainer reach the player first, giving the player time to create something.
The other thing is by getting officials from the lowest category on up to start calling this conduct and penalizing it as it should be - with an unsportsmanlike penalty.
Give the officials the tools to help get rid of it - - and then make them use it.

12 Apr 2007

Vertical stripes are slimming

Alas...my apologies. I stated in my return story of a few days ago that I would have a certain entry done.
Well, work and progress (of the NHL playoffs that is) got in the way, causing me no end of consternation on how to write the aforementioned story. So, anyway, here it goes.
I have been wearing black and white stripes for several years - as a hockey official for 26 years and as a football official for 20 (I missed a couple of seasons in there, but close enough). I have also officiated other sports - baseball, which I did for more than 20 years and stopped doing two years ago; soccer, which I started about 15 years ago, but lost interest about eight years ago due to living in places where competitive soccer was as much an afterthought as someone actually using their signal light in any Prairie town; basketball, which I did for probably a 15 years off and on until my knees told me to give up about eight years ago; and volleyball, that I did only for a few years here and there to help make ends meet when money was tighter than the grip on the steer wheel when you see gas prices go up again.
And I was the farthest one from that old (and oh so not true) statement - Those who can't play coach, those who can't coach, ref.
I played all of the sports mentioned - except volleyball, I just didn't like it - and also got into officiating most of them before I stopped playing them.
Having played the game - hockey and baseball at a high level - it took hardly any effort to learn how to become a good official.
People often compare the sports and to difficult it is to officiate them. Well, hockey - with the new rules emphasis this past year in amateur hockey - has been made very easy, a lot more so than it was several years ago.
Baseball has always been more about perception and being at the right place with the right sightlines, making it nearly as difficult as the others. Basketball too, is the same way, since its only about what effect the play has on the opportunity to score or get the ball, not necessarily other places on the floor.
Volleyball has gotten looser with its rules in the last several years, with the emphasis placed more on creating excitement to attract fans (and therefore sponsors and money) to the sport than on the actual skills it took to play the game in the early days.
However, the one game that stands out now - as the one I would describe as the most difficult - is football.
Learning the various officiating positions and what they are looking for - which doesn't necessarily mean watching for the ball - knowing where to look, where not to look and all the while, taking flack from players, coaches and fans that can be as close as inches away from your ear.
(Note: one can't really appreciate that until you have had Sarge - you Saskatoon fans will know what I mean) yell at you from just feet away!!)
Oh, I nearly forgot, you have to do all of this while standing in one spot for a while, then running full tilt, stopping even quicker and then avoid getting clobbered by any number of mostly larger, heavier and iron-like equipment clad people charging into the area you're standing in with no regard for your safety.
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
I live for the play to come to my side, or into my area, of the field. I love the fact that I am up close and personal with the players and coaches - more so than hockey or baseball or basketball.
It's also a great way to stay in touch with my competitive nature - especially when I try to either catch up to a reciever and DB battling each other down the sideline or racing a ball carrier to the goalline.
The brotherhood of officials though hardly changes, regardless of the sport. But it certainly helps when you have five or six others out there to help you through something, as opposed to having to be alone for part or all of the game after a rough time, screw up, bad argument, tough time dealing with the game's participants - like you would in baseball or soccer and a little bit in hockey.
It's also good afterwards, when there's more people to buy 'refreshments' for you, instead of spending most of the money you made on yourself.
Hockey is also too long of season, baseball drags on and on (and that's just the games, not the season), soccer can be exceedingly dull at time, basketball has its moments and volleyball looks more like a bigger version of Pong - but football, it's something I look forward too more and more now.
I can't wait...just a few more weeks.
I was going to give a head's up on the next topic, but I won't do that anymore. I don't need the pressure.

9 Apr 2007

Indigestion and Jubilation

After some of the food I have had over the weekend, one would like that the cause of that burning sensation would be the result of over-indulging or eating the wrong food. Alas, you would be incorrect, as it all has to do with our "national" sport - the NHL.
Yes, I am a huge hockey fan - having played the game for years and been one of those hated 'Stripes' for the past 26 years.
And yes, my team has failed to make the playoffs this season - in dramatic fashion I might add.
But before you go on, I AM NOT a fan of the team at the centre of the universe, something you may think of when one mentions not making the playoffs (lol).
No, I am one of the followers of the Montreal Canadiens (insert own joke here, if you must) even if they continue to be mired in misery and humiliation by being dumped by that team which's name resemble something on a tree.
For me though, this outcome wasn't as unexpected as it was to many of the other fellow Habs followers. I, for lack of a better term, am one of those followers that are 'realistic' about the condition and ability of the Canadiens.
Unfortunately, being realistic means accepting the fact my club played horrible on the road (nearly as bad as those Flames), while flying high at the Bell Centre. Being 'realistic' also means not running for the 'excuse' tray for an explanation for the post-season absence.
However, despite the disappointment on Saturday, my spirits were bouyed Sunday with the dramatics displayed by a virtually unknown Islanders goaltender (well, not unknown to me, since I reffed him in Bantam and Midget oh so many years ago) in the shootout.
Imagine the triumph and excitement as you see the good old poke check (as a former goalie myself, I can really appreciate this feat) slide out TWICE to foil the Devils - not to mention that team from the golden horseshoe.
Congrats Wade on sending your club to the playoffs and thanks from all of us Habs fans too.

5 Apr 2007

The Prolonged Absence

Well, I guess I am finally settling down to the realization that I have been neglecting this blog for too long.
Therefore, beginning today, I will start taking at least a few minutes each day (but maybe not on weekends considering the weather is getting better) to focus on creating a new identity - aka new reality - for me and this page.
I suppose that means giving some kudos to a few people, whose efforts to inform (or is deform) others on the web vis their blogs, have pushed this "journalist" into the new era of information dissemination.
That includes a new friend of mine - a good buddy of a good friend of mine (huh??), both of whom are great journalists in their own right.
(Note to Neate - find some time to bug KB sometime, he needs it with what's going out his direction)
As well, cheers go to Snake - for whom I dedicate my next entry....focused on what else - Football officials.
As always, keep your piece of mind - it might be the only thing you have left at the end of the month.