Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Experimental Rule 7.13, et al ...

Major League Baseball has adopted Experimental Rule 7.13, governing collisions at home plate. Including the rulebook commentary, which guides implementation of the rule, it takes 351 words to say that runners may not go out of their way to barrel over a catcher, and that a catcher cannot block home plate without having the ball. The word “buttocks” is included, so you know it’s good. ...

See the whole story here, from Sporting News.

Kicking Back Comments: I'm not sure what is funnier the "rule modifications" suggested by SN, or concern showed my MLB to make this "experimental" for 2014. I mean, come on folks, if you think it is important, do it, don't go half way.

For any interested, the text of the rule itself can be found here, in a tweet from MLB.

Monday, February 24, 2014

It's the people, not the rules

I caught an interesting article from Mike Woitalla in Soccer America titled, Put refs and coaches in the same room. Similar in venue to what we discussed last week with He Blinded Me With Science!, this discussion too was from the US Youth Soccer gathering in Philadelphia. The .pdf of the slide deck can be found here.

In the ether, the points have some merit. While I am sure that some actual polling went behind the conclusions, I have to believe the sample size was so small and the focus so narrow that the actual results are not quite on point or at least so general to be not helpful to anyone specific.

Don't get me wrong, they are worth reading as again, each has merit, at least at the highest level of abstraction. Also, the title is a good idea unto itself as well ... provided they are the right referees and coaches. At the professional level this is an absolute necessity, but even there, with the right people. Can we really imagine the outcome of placing a group of young, youth referees in a room with a bunch of older coaches? Are the issues all rules and regulations, or is there something else at play here?

Do we really think that if we take Peter Walton's advise from this article and have referees be more demonstrative in signaling fouls that the types of issues hurled on referees, such as abuse, will end?

How about inconsistency? Do we as referees always want to be consistent regarding fouls all the time for the same reason? I hope not as any number of situations may cause us to intentionally stray from this course of action.

Two very concrete points I really like are (a) make players and coaches take a referee class and exam. This sadly was recently removed from anyone who was getting their "A" license and to the best of my knowledge the certification requires no actual referee classroom work or experience. (b) Is to require coaches to referee a set of matches to feel what it is like to referee.

Some have commented this is not very practical and I disagree strongly. With these (2) steps you could make at least coaches feel empathy for these young youth referees which is what I believe is the intent behind "getting in the same room."

I think we keep forgetting, it is not about the silly rule book or how it is executed in the majority of the youth soccer games across the planet ... it's about the people and how we choose to manage each other. I believe humility and empathy are far more important than demonstrative signals and consistency.

Don't believe me? Try using NFL type signals the next time out and see the reaction you get.

Friday, February 21, 2014

How Brad Meier got screwed (not how he screwed the Russians)

By now most have heard about how the US Men's Olympic Hockey has advanced to play Canada in the Semi-Finals today (21-FEB-14) at 12:00 EST.

Team USA has played well, but not without controversy during the match with Russia on 15-FEB-14, where the USA won in overtime after a goal (box score) which was disallowed by American NHL referee Brad Meier.

To be clear I am not here to dispute the call. By all accounts it was correct for the international game. I am also not here to talk about the fanaticism of the Russian fans united to "make soap" out of Meier.

My beef is actually with the supervisor of officials for the International Ice Hockey Federation, Konstantin Komissarov. Now you say, that's odd as Komissarov was front and center in defending the referees for making the correct call, and has been vocal about it since the event occurred. My issue is why Meier was even assigned in the first place.

Meier was born in the US (Ohio) and was shortly moved to Canada where he has spent his life, however has never renounced his US citizenship and holds passports for both countries, making him both a Canadian and US citizen. From this my question becomes why oh why was a US citizen assigned to a US match!?!?!

There were several other referees available to do this (list of 2014 officials here) so why even have a whiff of impropriety‎? Yes Meier is supremely qualified and did a nice job in the match and no I don't think he was tainted in any way, but why even risk it?

Now look what we have ... protests be damned as they are of no consequence ... we have a good referee that made the correct call who will be excluded from any future games this Olympics IMHO. Now functionally that may have been the case anyway as if either the US or Canada go through he would be excluded due to seeing them already or his citizenship, respectively. Then again, can he "turncoat" to US citizenship if Canada goes through?

My point being that I think it was actually pretty silly to assign a US Citizen to a USA match, even if that citizenship is shared with another country. It has put a fog on the USA win over Russia, will certainly have a similar effect if they medal, and most importantly to me, has an excellent referee out of the ruining at a chance to referee a medal match.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

He Blinded Me With Science!

Over the last couple of years I had described how like soccer players, soccer referees are endurance athletes, particularly when it comes to refereeing a several match set in the same day.

Recently, the NSCAA held its annual convention in Philly and was attended by Jay Williams, who is the author of several publications including the blog The Science of Soccer. Kicking back has been following him for some time and enjoys both the raw science and commentary he provides.

Mr. Williams was recently asked to speak at the NSCAA annual convention and provided an excellent presentation and slide deck about recovery, both can be viewed here at his blog.

Why beyond curiosity is this important you may ask? I'll offer (2) reasons:

  1. It helps to further understand the sport and its participants from a scientific perspective. Understanding what a player is going through is important to understanding how to manage a match. If you have ever run into a player who is "bonking" and their mood, you'll know what I mean.
  2. Referees are endurance athletes and this information applies to them as well. Don;t forget a referee is running around for 90 minuets as well, and expends energy just like anyone else. Keep in mind, the ability to make accurate decision is also based on fatigue, and how quickly one fatigues depends in part on energy levels of the individual. You want to make good decisions for 90 minuets, fuel yourself properly.

Take a look at the preso as it presents some very necessary steps to assure an individual recovers properly for the next effort.

I'd also recommend the blog generally as the information presented is quite good.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Who said they can't sing

The song on Valentine's Day from English soccer fans

For any interested, the is a cover of Truly, Madly, Deeply by Savage Garden

Not quite "battle of the bands"... but not bad at all.

Happy Valentines Day. Don't forget to thanks those who you love in supporting our passion.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

PA to ask FIFA to expel Israel

Chairman of Palestinian Football Association says Israel should be expelled for failing to abide by FIFA conventions.

The Palestinian Authority will ask the Federation Internationale de Football Association to expel Israel from the organization for failing to abide by its conventions, Jibril Rajoub, chairman of the Palestinian Football Association, announced Wednesday.

Rajoub, a senior Fatah official and former Palestinian Authority security commander, said that the Palestinians won’t accept any compromises or half solutions to solve the problems facing Palestinian athletes and sports. ...

Se the whole story here, courtesy of jpost.com.

Kicking Back Comments: While I hope that FIFA does not take this issue seriously as everyone should be welcomed by FIFA, later in the article I noted some of the supporting nations for this action, one of which was Qatar.

Also recently I took great note late week when in the Qatar capital Doha, during the Swimming World Cup, local officials both refused to fly the Israel flag, and in at least one occasion, whitewashed it. See Qatari Insult from jpost.com for the details.

From this editorial the author suggests that FIFA should be taking a hard look at this conduct and weigh in for the 2022 World Cup. I do agree.

While in recent days the focus on Qatar rightfully is on their exploitation of  the migrant workers and have recently signed on to a new set of conditions for these workers (source), we will see what actually comes to pass.

I am personally doubtful that things will change significantly as from reports these workers were literally dying every day. How much better can things get from there?

It continues to make me wonder what FIFA uses as a template for suitability for a World Cup. We are on the cusp of a World Cup in Brazil and there are serious questions about safety and security of all participants, and that is saying nothing about the unrest in the region toward the displeasure of the Brazil government.

We see Russia openly making laws against homosexuals and sub-standard conditions for many during the ongoing Winter Olympics which have become iconic on Twitter (https://twitter.com/SochiProblems).

Now we have Qatar with its workers literally dying at its feet, a World Cup calendar moved, and about an air of brown envelopes and promises of beautiful weather.

Like many of us, I have read some of the bid specs ... but through those outright lies in some cases, FIFA has to exercise some common sense to protect the crown jewel of The Game.

Anytime now FIFA, anytime now.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Bridge Too Far


At this point I am opining FIFA is losing its collective mind with the news they are actually considering video replays for matches.

Ah, have no fear you may say as it sounds innocent enough.

It is just being studied ... they say.

Simply a proposal ... some muse.

Why oh why are they doing this? It is clear enough they are unwilling to trust their own referees with the advent of GLT and have the ability to retroactively dole out punishment for incidents caught on tape that the match committee feels warrants additional action (this later practice I agree with).

Why, when GLT has been proven 100% effective in tests conducted by FIFA, used in various competitions, and is about to be used in all World Cup matches this year (assuming the stadia are competed) do we need more?

What is FIFA after?

Well ... here are some thoughts on this topic.

First, is a big fat I told you so. I somehow knew that once the camel's nose was under the tent, FIFA could not help itself. Take a look at what I wrote back on July 6th 2012 on the topic. I saw it then and am scared to death of it now.

Second, FIFA has no faith in its GLT system. It went to the lowest bidder after all. GoalControl has yet to be proven in any actual significant action and am willing to bet when really tested, it has not, and will not, perform well. PR videos of the "testing" are hilarious and I hope are not representative about what was actually done.

Third, FIFA really wants replay, and in fact it will swallow GLT whole. FIFA I opine is not happy with Goal, Offside, and Penalty decisions. I'll throw it out here that any replay decision will include all (3) of these.

How it gets implemented is anyones guess, but in any case it will be a disaster as you are going to have to stop the match either for the review, or the action that comes from the review.

Take the NFL or MLB as examples. In these cases, a review can be easily worked into the flow of the game itself as there are natural starts and stops all the time. Here it makes the most sense (I still hate it though).

Of all the other sports with reply the NHL may be the closest analog where they can look at a goal which was awarded that may not have counted for a variety of reasons (e.g. kicking the puck in the net). This, assuming I buy replay at all, makes the most sense ... but wait ... FIFA now has GLT that is 100% effective ... why are we changing course?

I think we are changing course folks as soon we will see either a booth referee looking at incidents, or a challenge type of system like the NFL and now MLB (thanks a lot Bud) where a limited number of challenges are allowed in a particular period of time.

It is unworkable in soccer as the game is too fluid for such drivel. That what makes it a beautiful game, and with continued tinkering how FIFA is going to ruin it.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Call of the Superbowl

In a past article (What Tony Hayward and referees have in common) I discussed in part how NFL referee Phil Luckett on November 26, 1998 made exactly the right call on a coin toss which several NFL players and coaches tried to imply the referee made a mistake that cost the Pittsburg Steelers the game. From my article: 

My favorite of all time is Phil Luckett. Anyone know him? NFL referee extradornare who had the guts to follow the rules during a coin toss on November 26, 1998 when the Pittsburgh Steelers were playing the Detroit Lions. Yep, this is where Jerome Bettis called "hea-tails" during the coin toss, Luckett when with "heads" as per the rule of the game, the first call uttered is the one to be used. You all know the rest of the story, Steelers lose the toss, and eventually lose the game.

As we can see history can repeat itself and even with the NFL changing how the coin toss must be conducted, if not for the actions Terry McAulay, Superbowl 48 would have started in controversy.

Take a look here to see the article and video.

Mr. McAulay saved the game for falling into controversy with a great catch before the game ever started.

I believe however, he did make one potentially fatal mistake during that exchange ...

Anyone have an opinion?