Protected: Season In Review: 2010-11

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I’m sick of it too, Joe.

I have a new ally.  His name is  Joe Posnanski.  He wrote this.

The “controversial” Pitt/Butler ending

Didn’t watch it live, as real life interfered with the NCAA tournament, but have since caught it, as all of you have.

But before I saw the play, I heard about it from the announcing crew for the game, Tim Brando and Mike Gminski.  They dedicated quite a bit of time over the last minute of their UConn/Cincinnati broadcast (since that game was decided) to discussion of the Pitt/Butler ending.  When I heard Brando ask for Gminski’s opinion, I girded up my loins for a big attack.

Yet again, I didn’t get it.

Here’s my transcript of what Brando and Gminski said (I’ve left out the play-by-play of the game they were covering when it occurred in the middle of this).  While I don’t agree with everything they say, it’s still quite a robust defense of the game officials, and it is deeply appreciated.

BRANDO:  While we have a moment, Mike, I would like to get quickly your thoughts on the conclusion of game number one, because it’s going to be such a hot topic tomorrow.  Your overall thoughts on what was one of the most bizarre finishes we’ve ever seen.

GMINSKI:  One, I thought it was a terrific play that Butler ahd to get Smith the layup inside.

BRANDO:  –Yes.—

GMINSKI:  I thought it was a good look.  And then I thought it was two brain cramps defensively by two players.

BRANDO:  –Both veterans.—

GMINSKI:  Yeah and uh, Mack I thought never should have been in the vicinity of that play, and then Pitt on the offensive rebound to put Howard on the line.  I thought they were absolutely the correct calls.  […]  Just having looked at it and thought about it, I absolutely think the referees got it right.

BRANDO:  I do too.  I will go back to what happened in ’89 to our friend John Clougherty, now the man that’s in charge of officials in the ACC.  And John Adams was on at halftime of our game tonight, this game, and he explained exactly as we did, a foul is a foul regardless of how many seconds into or how many seconds are left in a basketball game.  I thought John Clougherty was unfairly criticized at the time on the Rumeal Robinson play [see the 1:53 mark here], and had it not been for the nature of PJ Carlesimo as a head coach on the receiving end of that call, it might have been very ugly, but there’s no doubt that the philosophy of the game in terms of the way it was officiated changed after that.

GMINSKI:  Most times, Tim, when the referees make a mistake on calls they don’t make…

BRANDO:  –That’s right—

GMINSKI:  as opposed to calls they do make.

BRANDO:  –I agree.—  I think  again depending upon what part of the game you come from, Mike, I think your philosophy and perspective will change.  If you love the college game, you know the correct calls were made.

Interesting.  I don’t know that I agree with the bit about no-calls being bigger mistakes than calls.  And I”m also not sure about Brando’s last comment.  But a historic look at officiating is always welcome–the Clougherty call is one of those interesting moments of do-you-call-that-in-that-situation?–and Gminski’s immediate instinct to talk about players is important.

But Mack nearly knocked the dribbler out of bounds, and Robinson’s wrap-around smack wasn’t a ticky-tack.  Everybody seems to agree.

This was made abundantly clear by guest commentator Phil Martelli on TBS/TNT’s post-game show.  He was as clear as could be:  “I think we have to be emphatic here.  It was not controversial.  Not at all.  The referees were not wrong in that situation.”

Seth Davis agreed.  He remarked that he had looked at Twitter and blogs and examined the opinions of sportscasters, and they all agreed, which is rare, he joked, since they normally never agree on anything.

In fact, even the coaches and players were showing little disagreement.  Pitt’s Jamie Dixon pointed out that the first 39 minutes and 53 seconds mattered as much or more as the final 7 seconds.  Butler’s Brad Stevens remarked: “If he was impeding his progress to get the ball, then it’s a foul.”  Shelvin Mack, who committed the first foul, remarked: “I was so mad at myself,” rather than at official Terry Wymer.  And a “disconsolate” Nasir Robinson, whose final foul wound up ending Pitt’s season, said: “I blame myself.”  Not the official, Antonio Petty, mind you.  “I’m smarter than that. I have been playing this game too long to make a dumb mistake like that. I blame myself.’’

So, there it is.  Overenergetic players let the situation get the best of them, and the officials called at as they saw it.  Broadcasters, players, coaches, NCAA administrators, and everyone else says it was called correctly.  Let’s dust off our hands and call it done.

And yet…

and yet…

leave it to ESPN to still say there’s a reffing controversy.

In the article with the above quotes, writer Dana O’Neil still manages to indicate that the officials should have let the fouls go and ended the game. No, really.  Check out this bit here:

“Here I am, I think we won it after Andrew’s shot,’’ Howard said. “And there were still two more possessions. How does that happen?’’

How it happens is two great players make bad decisions and an officiating crew thrusts itself into the endgame maelstrom, calling two fouls in the final three seconds that put an anticlimactic finish on a game that deserved better.

Huh?  Calling fouls that exist is “thrusting yourself into the endgame?”  Didn’t Mack thrust his hip into the maelstrom?  Didn’t Robinson thrust his forearm in there?

Here’s the bit that’s weird.  Officials in the St. John’s/Rutgers game were rightly criticized for not “thrusting themselves into the ballgame” at the end there.  So if Wymer and Petty swallow their whistles, they’re given the Burr and Higgins treatment.

And, amazingly, even O’Neil was critical of Burr and Higgins.  In this radio interview, she isn’t unkind to referees, pointing out (from a story she wrote on Higgins last year) that they feel horrible when they make errors.  But, nonetheless, she criticizes the refs, saying that all three officials had a bad day at the same time.

So when officials neglect to call the game at the end, O’Neil criticizes them.  When officials call the game at the end, O’Neil criticizes them.

Dana, which version of you should we believe?

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was your goal to stir up officiating related controversy to ESPN rather than to be logically consistent with yourself.

Thoughts from a sleep-deprived ref/dad

My second son arrived on March 3rd.  Mom, Dad, brother, and little dude are all doing fine, except that Mom and Dad have traveled to that land of the sleep-deprived that only new parents (and, I am convinced, only new parents of a SECOND child) can really understand.

The following is a dispatch from that land.

It was about 4:45 this morning when my son awoke.  My wife was unable to get him down by feeding him or any other techniques, so  she turned the job over to me.  As any dad of a breastfeeding infant knows, for the first couple of months of a child’s life, Dad doesn’t have anything the kid is interested in.

Now. my younger son has a loud, lusty cry…way louder and lustier and more pissed off than the first one.  And I was up–up very, very early–and was left with the task of calming my child.

He yelled.  I kissed him and hugged him.

He yelled louder.  I rocked him and slow-danced with him.

He continued to yell.  I sang to him and held him.

Somewhere around here–at the five minute mark of yelling or so–I was a little bit frustrated.  I was stuck with this inconsolable yelling person, one who was incapable of responding to reasoning, and I couldn’t lash out or show anger.  I just had to put up with it.

Hmmm.  This reminded  me of something.  Actually, of someone…

We’ll just call him the coach of [Deleted] High School.

With this in mind, I decided the singing and rocking and kissing wasn’t working with my son, and rather than baby-pacification techniques, I needed to try some coach-pacification techniques on my son.

He yelled.  I said “What are you seeing?”

He yelled more.  I said “I hear you.”

He yelled more.  I said “You’ve made your point.  Now we need to move on.”

Just like with the [D]HS coach,  none of this worked.  I wound up giving my son back to his mother after more than a few loud, unproductive minutes.

But, as I lay there never quite drifting back to sleep, it occurred to me I might have the whole comparison backwards.  Maybe, rather than attempting coach techniques on my infant, I need to attempt infant techniques on a coach.

I suggested this to my wife.  What if, the next time I have a [D]HS game, I were to employ some new baby moves?

Like what? she asked.

Well, I could go over and hold him, hug him, and rock him.  Tell him  “It’ll all be all right.” Carefully, quietly repeat “sh.”  Vibrate him carefully, as Dr. Harvey Karp suggests.  Sing him songs.  Slow dance with him.  Kiss him lightly.

I giggled at this image.  But my wife is smarter than I am, and she suggested this:

You could swaddle him.

Great idea!  Now we’re really onto something.  Swaddling the coach would turn this:

into this:

You bet.  I’m certain it would calm the [D]HS coach.

But I want to make one thing clear. Even if swaddling fails, even if I can’t find a blanket big enough, even if the coach won’t hold still while I try to pin his arms down nice and tight, there is one card I’m just not willing to play.   The sure-fire way to calm my son, while it might be effective on the coach at [D]HS…well, I refuse to use it on the coach.

I will NOT hand him to my wife to be breastfed.  No chance.

Sure, I’ll blog about St. John’s/Rutgers.

I’ve fallen off the wagon a little as far as addressing officiating-related newsmakers of late, but even I (with a 6-day-old in the house, no less) have noticed that the current blood lust for officials Jim Burr, Tim Higgins, and Earl Walton after St. Johns’ defeat of Rutgers in the first round of the men’s Big East tournament today.  So I checked out the video.

Ouch.  It’s pretty clear that this was a bad error.  What’s especially bad is that any of the three officials could reasonably have made the call.  In the ESPN video here, I think it’s Burr in the new-lead position on the left.  He’s looking down the sideline (though he might be screened by the player right in front of him).  Walton is the C.  He can’t call the out of bounds violation, but he can certainly call that travel–even from across the court.  We’ve been encouraged to get that call this year.  And the new-trail (I think it’s Higgins) probably has the worst look at the play (he might even be keeping an eye on the player on the floor rather than the ball).  But somebody has to make the obvious crew-saving call there.  I’m baffled as to why nobody did.

But the fallout–at least in the above ESPN clip–isn’t that bad.  Rece Davis is very careful to point out that Jim Burr is one of the very best around.  So is the NCAA head of officiating (who was contacted about it).  The Big East commissioner called the end of the game “unacceptable,” which I think everyone–including Burr, Higgins, and Walton–agree with.  And while partisan blogs are going bonkers, that’s to be expected.  (My favorite:  “Everybody knows that, when Jim Burr or Tim Higgins are officiating a game, there will be at least one bad call.”  Isn’t this true of every ref, player, coach, garbage man, politician, chef…?  And if it’s that easy to be perfect, why aren’t you officiating?  You’d be reffing the Final Four inside of five years.)   ESPN, where I normally expect breathless ref-bashing, isn’t that bad.  In addition to Rece Davis, Hubert Davis says that the bonkers situation at the end may have made the call difficult.  He’s bending over backwards to be kind, I think, which is appreciated (who does that for refs, after all?).  Digger Phelps responds by saying the errors are unacceptable (which I agree with).  He blames ref fatigue.  I don’t know what it’s like to work 4 or 5 games a week from November to March and be on a plane every night, but I know that these officials earned this assignment, and I trust the assignors to put good officials rather than bad ones on tournament games.

So why such kindness and muted criticism?  To be honest, I think it’s about Jim Joyce.  I think the whole Joyce/Galarraga thing humanized refs and umpires more than any event ever.  Mike Pereira’s presence on Fox NFL broadcasts was the next step.  I now want a prominent recent ref on call for all big sporting events.  The NCAA tourney is probably the next one.  Get a recently-retired Final Four ref to say what happened from a ref’s perspective, even if it’s to show clear mistakes.

Irv Brown, who officiated six Final Fours, was a Nuggets’ color man when I grew up in Denver.  Even as a kid, I liked his perspective on the give-and-take between officials and coaches.  Who’s this generation’s Irv Brown?  And can he take moments like this one (or perceived-but-not-actual-errors, like the Jeff Green non-travel a few years ago…and sorry about the repetitious local announcer there) and diffuse them before they blow up with a gentle personality and unflappable delivery of the facts?

So, my heart goes out to this officiating crew.  There but for the grace of God go any of us.  And my thanks go out to the classy Rutgers coach (who said that the refs made a mistake, as did players and coaches) and to the ESPN crew for not starting the ref-bashing feeding  frenzy that I’m certain we would have been subjected to as recently as 5 years ago.