Hump day hot takes: NFL officials continue to ruin the game, Theo Epstein is the smartest man in sports and more

There’s nothing like NFL refs inserting themselves in a crucial play thanks to multiple bonehead calls on national TV, and it’s time to stop drinking the poison. 

Like the rest of my fellow writers on the ChinMusicPod, I too will not be talking about politics.  (Editor’s note: I had to go and ruin this bit) How I voted has nothing to do with what I write here every week.  So, that’s why I stay away from it. I like my sports without politics. So that’s that.(Editor’s note: This part still stands)

This week’s ramble will feature more of the same: bitching about the NFL, some hockey things, a look at baseball and basketball, and a fifth added take for your reading enjoyment (or displeasure?). Oh, and if you missed last week’s column, I got everything I could have wanted and more out of the World Series. So much misery! It was beautiful!

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1. Full time or part time – NFL officials continue to prove they have no clue what they’re doing

So I led off this column with an observation. If you tuned into this week’s Monday Night Football (ratings continue to drop, so maybe you didn’t) you were subject to a pretty entertaining contest between the Bills and the Seahawks. Compared to some of the garbage games we’ve been subjected to in primetime in 2016, this one actually wasn’t a stinker.

Back-and-forth action, some pretty decent quarterback play, etc. etc. All was well. Until the officials fucked up, yet again, with the entire nation watching. What is it with Seattle and plays like this? Something in the water in the beautiful Pacific Northwest? Whatever it is, the entire country witnessed another awful gaffe in real-time last night.

 

For those of you that missed the play, here’s the deal. The Bills are trying a last-second field goal to close out the first half. It’s a close game. Tyrod Taylor actually manufactured a solid drive to get Buffalo within FG range. Out comes Dan Carpenter for the boot. As Buffalo gets ready for the attempt, Seahawks CB Richard Sherman jumps the snap, goes offsides, and runs full blast into Carpenter. Then all hell breaks loose.

The whistle blows, the referees meet for a couple minutes, and only an offsides penalty is called. The kicker got blasted, and nothing was called. John Gruden and Sean McDonaugh are losing their minds in the booth. Twitter goes off on the play. Rightfully so.

Carpenter has to come off the field for a play because the trainers came on. Rex Ryan loses his shit. The Bills (smartly) spike the ball, and allow for Carpenter to come back on. All seems to be alright in the world.

But here come the refs again! The official placing the ball for the play doesn’t vacate the line of scrimmage until four seconds are left on the clock. Delay of game on Buffalo. Missed FG as time expires. Good thing it didn’t alter the rest of the game.

Oh wait, it did exactly that. Buffalo lost by six, needing to go for a touchdown to tie instead of a field goal. Ryan was pissed, and I don’t blame him in the least.

The officials screwed up twice on one play. That’s pretty damn hard to do, but you have to credit them. In a league where the Fail Mary is replayed countless times on the league network, a gaffe like this surprises me in the least bit.

First things first: that should have been an unnecessary roughness call on Sherman. Even if he didn’t “hear” the whistle, you can’t blast a kicker like that at any time. Sure, he got his finger on the ball for the block, but he also ran right through him like a napkin in the wind. How the refs didn’t give any penalty on that contact baffles me.

And then on the delay of game, how can Buffalo be expected to snap the ball less than five seconds after it has officially been placed down? No wonder they got a delay of game, they were working against the clock that was never reset. This was the perfect doomsday scenario for the NFL wrapped up in one giant turd-covered present.

National game, two entertaining teams, a close contest, and the only thing people are talking about on the day after the game is the idiocy of the officials. Way to go NFL, you’ve done it again!

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2. Name me someone in sports who’s smarter than Theo Epstein – you can’t

There really isn’t anything this guy can’t do is there. Theo Epstein, the wonder kid. He’s given the Cubs and Red Sox World Series titles after almost 200 years of combined waiting. He’s broken curses, he’s eaten goat and he’s playing chess while everyone is playing checkers. It’s not a hot take to say that Theo has cemented his place in Cooperstown. I think that one’s pretty uniformly accepted in the sports community.

But, is there anyone in sports who is head and shoulders above the rest of their league like Epstein is with Major League Baseball? I can think of two examples of people who come close – Stan Bowman with the Blackhawks, and Bill Belichick with the Patriots. And even as a Pats fan, I think Theo is light years ahead of Bill. Here’s why.

With both the Red Sox and the Cubs, Theo laid out a plan with the organization he was taking over. It would take money and time, but most of all it would take brains. Epstein turned two of the worst farm systems in the sport into two of the best. He assembled teams of baseball guys and stat guys, and picked the best of both worlds. He identified talent at the professional, minor and amateur levels and secured them for not only a one-year window, but a long-term span of championship opportunities. To hit on so many different players is almost unheard of, and yet here we are. The Red Sox are filled with young players that Theo had his hands on. The Cubs are the same way. Boston eventually screwed it up by letting Epstein walk, but for the moment, I can’t really imagine the Cubs doing that unless something cataclysmic happens.

Why is Theo better than Bowman and Belichick? Because he has done it with multiple franchises and without some of the best players in the history of the sport already on the team. Epstein signed David Ortiz and re-upped Pedro Martinez. He drafted Jackie Bradley Jr., Dustin Pedroia and Mookie Betts and signed Xander Bogaerts as an international free agent.

Bowman drafted Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and filled the roster out with other studs like Duncan Keith and Marian Hossa. Belichick drafted Tom Brady in the first year of his coaching career in New England. The rest is history.

Now for both Bowman and Belichick, they would have to do everything they’ve done with one franchise, and do it again somewhere else. That’s exactly what Theo has done, with his young studs group of Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Javy Baez, Kyle Schwarber, etc. He’s reloaded a team in five years and brought them to the promised land.

Bowman has as many rings as Theo, and Belichick has the advantage right now. But with what Epstein has done, I wouldn’t be surprised if he passed that pretty soon.

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3. Vegas gets hockey, and Quebec City (followed by Seattle) should be next

So finally, the Las Vegas NHL franchise will have a name later this month. I am a big proponent of the team being called the Aces, but I’ve had my dreams squashed, alas. Through some discussions with friends this week, we brought up the question about what will happen next with the NHL. Starting next year there will be 31 teams. At least one team will be off every night. And one division (the Central) will consist of seven teams instead of eight. The West will still be one team short of matching the East.

I don’t like that.

Symmetry makes things better. In life, and in sports. The NHL’s recent division realignment worked because it shifted Columbus and Detroit to the East. Two cities with Eastern time zones were always playing 8:00 games against division opponents. That doesn’t work for the home market and I appreciate that. But in doing so, the West lost two franchises, and the path to the playoffs became a lot simpler. Over half of the teams in the Western Conference make the playoffs now. That’s not right.

So with the Vegas _______ Knights ready to start next year, it’s only right to look into the future of how the NHL will even things out with the conferences. Here’s my (foolproof) plan.

The first step will be getting a team in Quebec City. They have a brand spanking new arena and a history with the sport. Before they jumped ship and moved to Denver, they were beloved in QC. The Nordiques still have a huge following, and they deserve another shot. The weak Canadian dollar and small population be damned. They can most definitely support a second team in Quebec. They’ll get a team, but it won’t be because of expansion.

It’s time to move the Hurricanes, Panthers, Islanders or Senators to Quebec City. Those are four of the lowest attendance numbers in the NHL over the past decade, and without a real outlook in the future to improve that number, it’s time to head north of the border. Like when the Thrashers left for Winnipeg, hockey clearly wasn’t working. Carolina and Florida had plenty of time to figure it out, and it’s pretty evident by the large number of empty seats every night that things just aren’t working. The Islanders and Senators may come as a surprise, but I’m including them because of the lack of an arena. The Barclays Center sucks for hockey. The Canadian Tire Centre is nice, but it’s so far outside Ottawa that the team struggles to draw people in. I hate cities paying for new rinks, so I don’t blame the fan bases, but these are failing franchises in need of a jolt. Quebec City might just be that.

So while that won’t even out the conferences, it solves one problem of a starved hockey market looking for a team. To make things an even 16-aside, this is where Seattle comes into play.

A privately financed arena might be on the horizon for Seattle, with a return of the Sonics leading the charge. If Seattle does get a new arena, then they are looking pretty good for another NHL expansion. They would fit into a Pacific Northwest rivalry with Vancouver immediately, and they have a large enough market to sustain four major franchises. Plus a uniform of blue and green would look awesome in hockey.

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4. Kevin Durant wasn’t the problem in OKC

I’m a Durant fan. I approved his move to Golden State. Like Brendan, how can you fault someone for taking a better job elsewhere? He took more money, and also went chasing a title. There’s not a damn thing wrong with that.

So now that the Oklahoma City Thunder are off to an incredibly hot start with Russell Westbrook leading the way, all I’ve read and seen is how Durant was holding that team, and more specifically, Westbrook back. That’s beyond dumb.

Why are the Thunder better? Here’s the simple answer: they’ve played basically nobody. At 6-1 on the young season, the Thunder have beaten the likes of: Philadelphia, Phoenix, LA Lakers, LA Clippers, Minnesota and Miami. Their only loss? Golden State. With one superstar on the team, the Thunder should be exactly where they are right now, with or without Durant.

I personally believe Westbrook limited that team’s ability, because of his shoot-first mentality. He took away too many moments from Durant down the stretch because he wanted to attack the basket. The shorter guard shouldn’t be driving to the rim when the taller, and far-superior shooter is open on the wing. Sure Russ can play with a chip on his shoulder and push the Thunder out to a hot start, but this isn’t in spite of Durant’s departure. It’s simply because the Thunder have played one good team in the first month of the season. They lost that game too.

So sure, it makes headlines to jump on the new bad guy of the NBA, Kevin Durant, and point out that his old team is doing just fine without him. I’m not jumping the gun. Come back to me in January with their record. It won’t be better than where they were last year.

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5. So, Richard Sherman is a scumbag

I figured I would space out my two football takes instead of overloading you with them back to back. I haven’t liked Richard Sherman for a while. Sure, he’s a very intelligent football player with a good head on his shoulders, but I hate the way he plays the game. It’s the constant jawing, ridiculing and whining that gets under my skin. He’s also not afraid to go head-hunting in the middle of the field.

But it wasn’t until last night that I would really consider Sherman a dirty player. What he did on that field goal was beyond shitty. He knew he was offsides. He knew a kick wasn’t going to happen. And he sure as hell knew that he was going right after Dan Carpenter’s legs. His smirk and shrug after the play should all but confirm that.

As soon as he crossed the line of scrimmage before the ball was snapped, his thought process of blocking the field goal changed to let’s go after the kicker. It went from stopping a potential scoring play to let’s see what I can get away with on this play.

I’ve never seen a play like that before. There was no regard for the rules as Sherman blasted into the kicking leg of Carpenter. That looked like an attempt to injure a player, and take points off the board. And, because of the lack of a penalty, opened the door for opposing players to do something very similar to that in the future.

If it’s only a five yard penalty, why shouldn’t defensive players bull rush the kicker on an offsides and dive at their legs? If he doesn’t get hurt, he’s definitely rattled. And if he does get hurt, you’ve essentially taken our a third of the opposing team’s strategy. It was a garbage play by a scumbag player.

But, nothing with the Adderall/HGH loving Seahawks surprises me anymore.

6. Brendan’s Camel of the Week: Every single one of us

Listen. I’m still not going to reveal who I voted for, at least not here. It’s not a secret by any means, but as Tim said, this isn’t the place for politicking.

And really, that’s the point.

No matter how you voted this election, you likely did so while convinced you had no other choice. And why were you bereft of choice? Because the other side had gone so far, they could not be rescued.

Now, that may be fair. This was certainly an election of the extremes.

But isn’t it possible that not everyone is an angel or a demon?

Donald Trump has said horrific, horrible, sexist and racist things in the media. Hillary Clinton has repeatedly lied, to the American public, without much signs of remorse. Both have their sins to bear, as we all do.

Both of them are also undoubtedly intelligent people who can galvanize large portions of individuals to follow them and have impressing and interesting points on their resume, along with those failures. As much as it may pain us to admit, both have their strengths as well.

And voting for one of them, either one of them or anyone else, is not a sin.

It’s possible to support Trump, and support the Republican Party, without being a racist, a homophobe, a sexist, or anything else. It’s possible to support the Democratic party without being a godless heathen bent on ruining America and its values.

We seem to have forgotten that.

No one side has forgotten it more than the other. We have both vilified each other past the point where any real discussion can be had.The result last night is not what worried me most, but the vitriol and venom that both sides spewed for each other.

Regardless whether you are delighted or distraught to see Hillary Clinton lose and Donald Trump win, it’s time to take a deep breath.

“How did our politics get so poisonous?” Stephen Colbert asked last night.

“We overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison. You take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side.And we like the way it feels. And there’s a gentle high to the condemnation.

And you know you’re right, right? You know you’re right.”

It’s time to stop drinking the poison.

I know Hillary supporters, Trump supporters, Gary Johnson supporters, people who couldn’t vote, people who didn’t vote. I love people who have voted for all of these people, good and honest people that do their best to be a decent person. They have their flaws. But we all do. And that’s the point.

Don’t stop fighting for what you believe. But stop giving into that hatred.

Start seeing the other side as a person equally as passionate and committed to the future of your town, city, state or country, who just happens to disagree. There is more that brings you together than tears you apart, or they should be. They are an ally, not a foe.

Stop drinking the poison.

That’ll do it for us. We’ll be back next week with some more hot takes for your Wednesday reading enjoyment. Follow Tim on Twitter@culvey13 and Brendan at @MurraySportTalk for more, or to tell me us we’re morons. Either way, have at it.

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