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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Observations: Little League, Princeton Lacrosse, NBA Officiating, OTA's and More

1. From the Little League (my post with the parade of horribles from this year's league will follow within the week): A friend of mine's son (he's 10) plays on a Little League team in our community. His team trails, 2-1, in the bottom of the last inning, men on second and third, two outs. The umpires are teenagers with little training or mentoring. The home plate ump was so challenged during the game that he switched positions with the base ump, and the opposing coach senses the weakness of the umpiring crew. He manifests this bit of intelligence by shouting out a call every time there's a play on the bases. And he does so before the umpire can make the call, so, intimidated by this coach, the umpire makes the same call that the coach (who is coaching on the bases does). So what happens?

Batter hits a grounder to shortstop, who throws to first. The first baseman drops the ball. Two runs score.

Game over, right? My friend's son's team wins, right?

Wrong. As the dust is settling, the opposing coach yells loudly, "He's out." Everyone looks at the base umpire, who, unbelievably, signals that the batter was out.

Game over, the final score is 2-1, and my friend's son's team wins. The losing team feels cheated -- rightly so -- and has many kids on the bench in tears. Why? Because they were robbed -- by an adult in a position of responsibility no less.

My friend went up to the coach after the game and politely told him that she thought what he did was wrong. She then sees a league supervisor and tells him what happened. The "victorious" coach happens to walk by. He says to my friend: "Losing sucks, doesn't it?"

My friend replied by saying that, no, that conduct like his was what was wrong with the league. To which he responded: "You're just being a sore loser."

This actually happened.

Footnote: The two teams played again a couple of days ago. This time the score was 15-2 -- my friend's son's team won. My friend is magnanimous not to have said to the coach who acted like a loser: "payback's a bitch." But it would have been interesting to see that happen. Hard to believe, but stuff like this goes on (more than you think).

2. Princeton men's lacrosse coach Bill Tierney is headed to the University of Denver after 22 years in Tigertown and 6 national titles. Tierney is a lacrosse legend and is moving out west to accomplish three things: 1) be closer to most of his family (who are west of Denver), 2) to work with his son Trevor (who, it appears, will be an assistant coach) and 3) to spread the lacrosse gospel out west. Click here to read Princeton's press release about Coach Tierney's departure. It will be interesting to see whether the Tigers promote 20-year assistant Dave Metzbower (and whether Metzbower is interested in the job) or whether they'll conduct a national search to find Tierney's successor.

3. I heard a good discussion of the NBA's officiating on "Mike and Mike in the Morning" last week. A listener e-mailed a good point: A-Rod doesn't get a special strike zone, and the end zone isn't widened for Peyton Manning, but why don't they call traveling on Kobe or why do they call more fouls on the people guarding him than they do on him? It's a good point and one that David Stern and the NBA leaders have failed (miserably) to address over time. That the officiating comes into play so often suggests (perhaps at times unfairly) that the league is more about entertainment than it is about the quality of play. I think that we're all onto something wanting the league to enforce the rules equally on everyone. Were that to happen, the quality of play would increase (and, correspondingly so would the entertainment value, even if at first blush the owners might shudder and Kobe drawing 3 traveling calls a game).

4. What's with the NFL and "OTA's"? Isn't that a bit silly? Whatever happened to the term mini-camp? Why all of a sudden are they calling these things "organized team activities" and abbreviating them by calling them "OTA's"? Get over yourselves, NFL, and find a word that captures what you're trying to accomplish. And the "O" is particularly ridiculous? Why do you need to use the word "organized?" Is that to distinguish these activities from the disorganized team activities that the use of the word "organized" implies you must also have?

5. The Phillies placed closer Brad Lidge on the disabled list today. Lidge, the team's MVP last season (according to the Philadelphia-area writers), has blown 6 saves this season and there was concern about his right knee. Presumably, set-up man Ryan Madson will step into the closer's role. This is a good move for the Phillies, who need to get Lidge healthy and straightened out. They have a deep bullpen, and with J.C. Romero back they have the option of a second substitute closer.

6. AC Milan agreed to send star striker Kaka to Real Madrid for the largest transfer fee in the history of soccer -- Euro 92 million. Kaka promptly signed a 6-year deal with Real Madrid. And I thought that the economy in Europe was worse than it is in the United States. Kaka is one of the best players in the world, and Real Madrid is one of the best teams. This transfer has to leave fans of English Premiership also-ran Manchester City baffled -- their team had been rumored to have been in the hunt for all sorts of international stars, from Kaka to Barcelona's Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto'o. Will Man City land anyone of note?

More later.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would hope that, when Bill Tierney was deliberating whether to take the Denver job, he consulted with Dave Metzbower. I assume that Metzbower said, "Yes, I would very much like the job" and that was one more factor which tilted Tierney toward Denver.

If Metzbower did NOT want the head coaching position, Bill Tierney could have hired Trevor Tierney onto his Princeton staff, with the goal of turning over the reins sometime in the next few years.

I believe that, among the many reasons Tierney gave for moving out West, two unstated reasons were: (1) I want to give the Denver head coaching job to Trevor in a few years, and (2) Dave Metzbower deserves to get the Princeton head coaching position while he's still a fairly young man.

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