Monthly Archives: June 2010

SOCCER SHOULD LEARN FROM, AMONG OTHERS, THE NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE, AND COME INTO THE NINETEENTH, TWENTIETH AND/OR TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY

                                                                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Strange title, no? But the joke that is international soccer took incredible hits the last few weeks. If you are an American and at least interested in the performance of your country, you have obviously learned that a goal is not necessarily a goal. Maybe you have to count to ten after a goal to be sure. But a phantom foul call here, a non-existent off-sides there and no explanation necessary from an official can make a whole sport a laughing stock throughout the country.

Are there bad calls in every sport? Absolutely. But at least some efforts are being made in baseball, basketball, football and hockey. But soccer? These guys are lost in the Dark Ages.

LET’S GO BACK TO THE NINETEENTH CENTURY IN HOCKEY

According to well-respected hockey man Colin Campbell, the sport of hockey first used goal judges as early as around 1877 in the Montreal area. If you’ve ever been to a hockey game, you can usually see the goal judges sitting right behind each goal. Their main job is to put the green light on when a goal is scored. In recent years, some rinks have moved the goal judges higher up to ostensibly give them a better view. Critics think the goal judges have been moved in order for the home team to fill that prime area (right behind each goalie) with expensive seats.

Whatever the reason, the point is that, for well over a century and certainly for the entire existence of the National Hockey League (starting in 1926-27), goal judges have been an important part of hockey.

SO WHY NOT BRING THEM TO SOCCER?

While you can understand (maybe) why soccer might be unwilling to have two goal judges at every soccer game due to either the expense or the size of the goal (obviously much bigger than hockey), there is no excuse for not having goal judges at every World Cup game (and, one would argue, every World Cup qualifier, at least).

Many of you saw or heard about the definite goal scored by England against Germany in a World Cup elimination game this past weekend. Germany had gone ahead 2-0, a virtually insurmountable lead in a World Cup elimination game. But England scored late in the first half to make it 2-1 and, shortly thereafter, England’s Frank Lampard took a shot that hit the crossbar, bounced two to three feet past the goal line but, due to funny english (no pun intended), bounced up, hit the crossbar again and came out where German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer could catch it as if it had not gone in.

Neither referee Jorge Labbadia (totally out of position to see if it was a goal but, apparently, not his fault) nor his assistant could see the obvious – that the game was tied. A goal judge, situated behind the goal (as in hockey), would have easily seen that it was a goal.

BUT GERMANY CRUSHED ENGLAND ANYWAY, SO WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

Ahead 2-1 at the half, Germany came out and wound up crushing England, 4-1 (and, yes, a 4-1 defeat in a World Cup elim game or any soccer game, arguably, is a crushing defeat). But you don’t have to know anything about soccer to know that a 2-2 game at half is totally different than a 2-1 game when you’ve been robbed of a goal.

While that is not to say that England would have won, it is to say that mentally and the way you play strategically is totally different (not to mention momentum) in a tie game as opposed to a 2-1 game.

BUT THIS JUST MADE UP FOR THAT 1966 GOAL, RIGHT?

Well, also fascinating. In 1966, Geoff Hurst of England scored a goal (in extra time, no less) that wasn’t when, on a similar shot, the ball went off the crossbar and hit the goal line. But England was awarded a goal on their way to their only World Cup Final victory over, you guessed it, Germany.

But two wrongs don’t make a right and goal judges, if they were around in 1966 (and they could have been) would have seen the play and made the right call.

As a strange side note to all of this, Adidas did a 2006 soccer commercial which had soccer superstars in a pick-up game. During the brief “game” in the commercial, Frank Lampard of today’s English team recreates this 1966 goal that counted (but shouldn’t have)(Google Frank Lampard Adidas ad 2006). This past weekend, Frank Lampard scored a goal in similarly eerie fashion, that didn’t count. Weird stuff.

SO, WHERE SHOULD SOCCER STAND ON GOAL JUDGES?

Well, that’s a no-brainer. At least in the World Cup, they are obviously a necessity whether it’s 1966 or 2010.

LET’S MOVE TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY AND THE NHL

Late in the 20th Century, the NHL decided to go to two referees on the ice (in addition to the two linesmen). The move was controversial but, for the most part, has been viewed to be a success (the stories are legion in the one-ref NHL of players waiting for their opportunity to cheap-shot an opponent when the ref was at the other end of the rink). While cheap shots still exist in the NHL, it ain’t like it used to be in the “good old days.”

Actually, one of the main criticisms of the NHL change was that the ice surface was too small to add another ref. While a decent argument, obviously that would be meaningless on a soccer field.

SO WHY NOT BRING THEM TO SOCCER?

On a field as vast as a soccer field (much bigger than a hockey rink) and with many more players (22 in soccer v. 12 in hockey), there is clearly a need for a second referee on the field in soccer. As Groucho Marx once famously said (in a totally different context): “Outside of the improvement, nobody will notice the difference.”

By definition, two referees would see more than one and at least one of them would often be in a good position to make a call. Now, it’s often impossible for a referee to see everything that is going on. As in the two-referee NHL, some calls will still be missed, but two referees, in general, will see more of the action than if there was just one doing the game.

LET’S MOVE TO THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY, REPLAY REVIEW AND ALL THE MAJOR “AMERICAN” SPORTS

It would be boring here to list how instant replay and review have influenced the four “major” sports in America. Suffice it to say, Major League Baseball, the NFL, the NBA and the NHL have all used replay (clearly at different levels) in an attempt to “get calls right.” While there is sometimes some right-minded criticism of replay, the notion that we should go back to the “good old days” is simply stupid. While certainly there is and should be a fear that there could be too much replay review, the trick isn’t to not use it at all; the trick is to use it in appropriate situations.

Like, you know, a game-tying World Cup goal.

This will be the biggest hurdle to climb. It’s taken a long time for sports in the United States to use this and the usage of it is still being debated. But at least in baseball, basketball, football and hockey, the powers-that-be have tried to do SOMETHING.

In international soccer, the powers-that-be still have their collective heads in the sand and have done NOTHING.

For the most popular sporting event on the planet (real football to the non-U.S. masses), SOMETHING has to be done.

Here’s hoping that someone with a brain and some power can implement that 19th Century idea (goal judges) and/or that 20th Century idea (two referees) and/or that 21st Century idea (some form of replay review, at least for goals).

The sport will be better for it, overall, and the view in America will be something other than confusion and ridicule when watching these great sporting events.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

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LAWRENCE TAYLOR IN BIG, BIG TROUBLE

                                                                                        Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

Nobody who has remotely followed the case can really be surprised that Lawrence Taylor was indicted today by a Rockland County grand jury (see Kallas Remarks, 5/8/10). What is interesting, however, is what he has been charged with and how many counts he is facing in court in Rockland County. As stated before, this is unlikely to have a happy ending for one of the greatest football players ever.

THE INDICTMENT

LT has been charged with two Class E felonies, two Class A misdemeanors and two Class B misdemeanors. Most know about the first Class E felony LT is charged with, Rape in the third degree, which makes it a felony when, being 21 or older, a person engages in sexual intercourse with another person less than 17 (New York Penal Law section 130.25). The second Class E felony, discussed by former Bronx Assistant District Attorney Joseph Heinzmann in a prior post (Kallas Remarks, 5/8/10), is Criminal sexual act in the third degree, which occurs when a person 21 or over engages in oral or anal sexual conduct with another person less than 17 (New York Penal Law section 130.40 (2).

Each of these Class E felonies is punishable by up to four years in prison.

LT has also been indicted for two Class A misdemeanors: Patronizing a Prostitute (New York Penal Law section 230.04), which is exactly what it sounds like; and Endangering the welfare of a child (New York Penal Law section 260.10 (1)), which one is guilty of if “he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a child less than seventeen years old … .”

Each of these Class A misdemeanors is punishable by up to one year in prison.

LT has also been charged with two Class B misdemeanors, both for Sexual abuse in the third degree (New York Penal Law section 130.55), which occurs when a person “subjects another person to sexual contact without the latter’s consent.”

Each of these Class B misdemeanors is punishable by up to six months in prison.

WHAT, IF ANYTHING, HAS LT ADMITTED TO?

While we have heard through LT’s lawyer, New York City attorney Arthur Aidala, that LT denies having sex with this underage girl, he did admit that “there was some kind of contact” in that hotel room in Suffern, New York back in May.

In a federal criminal complaint filed against the alleged pimp of the underage girl, Rasheed Davis, LT supposedly told police that he “met with a female” and, after “engaging in sex acts,’ he (LT) paid her “300 dollars in cash.”

If this is true, then LT is already guilty of the two Class A misdemeanors, maybe the two Class B misdemeanors and, depending on the “sex acts,” possibly one or both of the Class E felonies.

That is obviously plenty of trouble and LT’s lawyer will presumably argue that LT never made those statements nor commited those acts.

WHAT ABOUT THE LT “I PLEASURED MYSELF” DEFENSE?

According to ABCNews.com, back in early May, a “source close to” LT told ABC News that LT’s defense was that he never touched the young girl, but, rather, he masturbated in her presence.

Assuming the truth of this defense, something that will obviously be a topic of debate and testimony if there ever is a trial, the problem for LT will be that, even if believed, LT would essentially be admitting to the two Class A misdemeanors, Patronizing a prostitute and endangering the welfare of a child (by pleasuring himself in front of her).

Since each of these charges is punishable by up to one year in prison, Taylor could be looking at up to two years in prison without conviction of any felony charge.

WILL THE PROSECUTION ACCEPT A PLEA?

An interesting question as there have been reports that Taylor’s lawyers were hoping to have him plead to just the Patronizing a prostitute charge. But it is hard to believe that on this fact pattern (sex, or something, with an underage girl) with this defendant, a prosecutor and/or judge in Rockland County will agree to such a deal.

Depending on the evidence (what’s happened with that used condom found in the room?), Taylor would be lucky to get such a plea. But even though Rockland County is just 20 miles away from New York City, it’s a different, more conservative world up there. If LT was allowed to plead (unlikely) or is even convicted of just the two Class A misdemeanors, it says here that he will do some or even all of the max two years he could be sentenced to after either a plea or a trial.

And it says here that that is the best outcome he can get given the facts above (if true). Obviously, a felony conviction would bring up to four years in prison and the higher end of that range (that is, closer to four years) would not be out of the realm of possibility if he pleads or is convicted on the higher charge.

If LT’s lawyer can keep this in the misdemeanor(s) range, that would be a victory for LT, even if he has to do time. And remember, while LT is innocent until proven guilty, he also can’t use as a defense that he didn’t know she was underage. This is (probably) the classic case of someone believing that someone else is older than she really is (but also remember that her correct age at the time must also be proven – maybe the defense can do something here if the girl was born outside of the United States).

Except for the inclusion of some additional charges, nothing really surprising happened today when Lawrence Taylor got indicted for multiple counts in Rockland County. How it ends up could be a very sad thing for a very great football player.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.

GALARRAGA LOSES A PERFECT GAME ON A BAD CALL — AND A GROUND BALL TO SECOND (NOT FIRST)

                                                                                       Kallas Remarks by Steve Kallas

With all due respect to Dick Young, an imperfect ump cost Armando Galarraga a perfect game. Galarraga pitched a perfect game last night in Detroit (a 3-0 win over the Indians). Except that Jim Joyce, a very good umpire, made a very bad call. In fact, a bad call for the ages that might very well trigger instant replay in baseball (more on that later).

A GROUND BALL TO SECOND

With two outs in the ninth, after great plays by Brandon Inge in the fifth and Austin Jackson in the ninth, 27th batter Jason Donald hit a ground ball to second. But a funny thing happened that turned an easy play into a difficult play. First baseman Miguel Cabrera, ranging way too far to his right, fielded the ball cleanly while pitcher Galarraga quickly broke to cover first base. Cabrera, obviously running away from first as he caught the ball, absolutely made the play as he set and threw to first. Galarraga absolutely caught the ball and touched first base just before Donald hit the base.

And Jim Joyce absolutely blew the call.

WHOSE BALL WAS IT ANYWAY?

But whose ball was that? This isn’t the situation, as it is between third baseman and shortstop, where the corner infielder cuts in front of the middle infielder to field anything he can get to (better angle, easier throw to first). In fact, it’s the exact opposite (worse angle, harder throw to first). Caught up in the emotion, Cabrera went after and caught a ball that wasn’t his. You’ve probably seen the play 10 times already; next time you see it, watch where Cabrera throws to first from – it’s got to be almost halfway between first and second, about 40-45 feet.

Can you blame Cabrera for this? Not really. After all, he DID make the play. But Jason Donald is out by two steps if second baseman Carlos Guillen fields an easy grounder (for a second baseman) and throws to first. It’s a “feel” thing for a first baseman and not an easy thing to do. If Guillen does field the ball, there’s no waiting for Jim Joyce to (maybe) blow a call on a close play at first. Give an ump an opportunity to blow a close play and now, more than ever, it seems that he might (or will) (of course, plenty of calls in the “old days” were blown but, with no replay and bad camera angles, often times only the people in the ballpark knew it).

VIRTUALLY EVERYBODY SHOWS SOME CLASS

Obviously, Galarraga would have been well within his rights to have gone ballistic. But he kept his cool and got Trevor Crowe to ground out to third for a complete game one-hit shutout. Even afterwards, he was very cool, saying that “nobody is perfect” (although he was in this game) and showed great respect for umpire Jim Joyce. Joyce, to his eternal credit, didn’t hide in the umps room and was mortified that he made a bad call (“I just cost the kid a perfect game.”). Jim Leyland (correctly) argued vehemently after the play and after the game. But it will forever be filed under the column “What can you do?”

WELL, HERE’S WHAT BASEBALL CAN (AND SHOULD) DO

The veneer of invincibility was long ago stripped away from umpires. With the technology of today, replays from multiple angles and even super-slow motion have shown that, not only are umps fallible, they also often make mistakes. The days of “you are out because I said so” may very well be coming to an end.

This has to set the stage for some kind of instant replay in baseball. Since it is baseball, change will be very slow. But the door was opened once home runs could be reviewed on replay. That was the first step.

This should be the second step: Allow managers one challenge per game (again, you have to start slowly). Even if they are right, don’t give them a second challenge (for now). To review every play would be too much. Nobody could really complain about lengthening the game if only one challenge, right or wrong, were to be allowed to each team (hey, I’m for electrifying the strike zone, but that’s for another time).

SIMILARITIES TO LARSEN?

Absolutely. When Don Larsen pitched his perfect game on October 8, 1956, there were two similar plays to last night’s action. In the second inning, the great Jackie Robinson hit a line drive off of Yankee third baseman Andy Carey’s glove. It went right to shortstop Gil McDougald, who just got Jackie at first (actually, there is still footage of this play around and Jackie looks safe to me – imagine if they had replay back then). In Galarraga’s game, in the top of the fifth, Russell Branyon hit a hard grounder that bounced off Galarraga’s foot towards between third and short. Third baseman Brandon Inge fielded the ball and threw Branyon out at first.

In 1956, the great Mickey Mantle made an excellent running catch in left-center on a line shot hit by Gil Hodges in the top of the fifth. In Galarraga’s game, in the top of the ninth, Austin Jackson made an even better catch on a long fly hit deep to left-center by Mark Grudzielanek.

There’s more: both pitchers only went to a three-ball count on one batter. And, while people are amazed that Larsen only threw 97 pitches in his perfecto, Galarraga only threw 88 in his great gem – and he had to pitch to an extra guy.

The lead sentence of this article was in reference to Dick Young’s lead (actually under writer Joe Trimble’s byline in the New York Daily News) about Larsen’s perfect game in 1956: “The imperfect man pitched a perfect game.”

This isn’t to compare Larsen’s game to Galarraga’s from an importance perspective. Obviously, a regular season game on a Wednesday night in June can’t compare in importance to a World Series game. But the similarities are almost eerie.

IN CONCLUSION

It’s very, very sad what happened to Armando Galarraga in Detroit on June 2, 2010. It’s unlikely that he will ever be in that position again. But this can (and should) propel baseball to come into the 21st Century.

Umpire Jim Joyce would probably agree.

© Copyright 2010 by Steve Kallas.  All rights reserved.