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Astronomical a-holes

Thanks to two MORONS in Houston last night, the Astros may not have the opportunity to defend their World Series championship.

In the first inning of Game 4 of the American League Championship Series, Jose Altuve launched a fly ball to deep right-center. Boston right fielder Mookie Betts backed up to the wall and leaped in an attempt to reel the ball in, but a pair of assholes had to reach over the fence and attempt to catch the $12 baseball.

Right field umpire and crew chief Joe West, an umpire whom I think should have been put out to pasture 25 years ago, this time got it right. As much as I dislike the Red Sox, he got it right by calling the fans for interference and calling Altuve out. Houston manager A.J. Hinch came out to argue and got West and the MLB command center in New York to review the call, but it stood.

The Red Sox ended up winning 8-6 and now lead the ALCS 3-1.

Worse, the Astros let the stupid sacks of shit who interfered with Betts to stay inside Minute Maid Park.

At least Jeffrey Maier was thrown out of Yankee Stadium in 1996 when he reached well over the right field fence and stole a ball off the bat of Derek Jeter which would have either been caught by Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco, or at most, been a double.

Right field umpire Rich Garcia, one of the best umpires in the game (and one of the stupidest, because he drank Richie Phillips’ poisoned Flavor-Aid three years later, costing Garcia his job and a possible spot in Cooperstown) did not see Maier reaching over Tarasco’s shoulder and called the play a home run for Jeter. Of course, there was no instant replay in 1996, but he also made a colossal mistake by not getting the other five umpires together and at least asking if someone else had a better view. Crew chief Larry Barnett also bears some of the blame for not calling for a conference when Baltimore manager Davey Johnson came out to argue. Johnson would have had every right to find Maier and kick him in the nuts.

Of course, the Yankees’ #1 super fan, then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani, treated Maier as a conquering hero by giving him a key to the city. David Letterman praised him on his late night show. Unfortunately for Rudy and the rest of the nation, he redeemed himself big time (and then some) five years later in the face of unspeakable evil.

Back to Houston last night.

This morning, one of Kansas City’s most respected sports talk radio hosts, Soren Petro, stated on WHB 810 AM that the fans should be able to jostle with players on the field on a fly ball. He said the fans pay good money to sit in the seats close to the field, and they should be able to do as they please if the ball and/or a fielder come close to them.

Petro also went on to say West had no right to interject himself into the play and call fan interference. He also said he abhorred replay in baseball.

I’m not a fan of replay in baseball in nearly all instances. But had West NOT called fan interference, I would have supported replay, even if the call went in favor of the Red Sox, who aren’t my least favorite team (they’re above the Reds, White Sox, Rangers and Marlins for sure), but I certainly don’t care for. I’m not a huge Astros fan, either, but they were the team I followed the most living in Louisiana for 29 years.

WHAT THE HELL?

Soren, you sir stated something so idiotic it does not justify me taking my time to refute it. However, I’m not someone to just let it be, so I am going to respond.

Fans have NO RIGHT to interfere with play. NONE. They buy a ticket to be a spectator, not an active participant in the game. The game is for the players, the coaches, officials and anyone who has an active role in the game, whether it be on the field, in the press box, or somewhere else in the stadium/field/arena. Fans of the home team at a Major League Baseball game should know better than to reach over the fence in an attempt to catch a $12 baseball. They should especially know this in a postseason game.

Because these two C U Next Tuesdays could not keep their hands to themselves, they may have very well cost their beloved Astros a return to the World Series. These two “fans” should be found and tarred and feathered. At the very least, the Astros, Rockets and Texans should ban these people FOR LIFE. And MLB should do the same to them at all 30 parks. Of course, the Red Sox may have season tickets in right field at Fenway waiting for them.

Do not attempt to compare these two garbage sacks to Steve Bartman.

Bartman did not reach over the fence down the left field line at Wrigley Field and attempt to interfere with Moises Alou. Bartman’s hands were straight up in the air, as were the hands of several other fans in that section, attempting to catch the foul ball. Mike Everitt, the left field umpire that night at Wrigley, made the right call by determining no fan interference.

The hate Cubs fans heaped upon Bartman was sickening. Steve Bartman didn’t do a thing wrong. Not a thing. The Cubs only had themselves to blame for (a) melting down in the eighth inning of Game 6 by giving up eight runs to the Marlins, and (b) melting down again in Game 7. It is a crying shame Bartman can no longer go to an MLB park and enjoy the sport he loved to play and coach. It is a crying shame he could not be in Cleveland the night the Cubs ended their 108-year championship drought. It is a crying shame he could not be at Wrigley when the Cubs received their World Series rings.

Shame on you, Houston Astros, for letting these fans remain in the ballpark. I’m certain the Royals and nearly every other MLB team would have told these pieces of fecal matter to leave and never come back, just like the idiot who poured beer on and flipped off the Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill in Foxborough during last Sunday’s game with the Patriots.

Maybe the Astros will find the intestinal fortitude (a term used way, way, WAY too much by legendary World Wrestling Federation announcer Gorilla Monsoon) to at least get the series back to Boston. But I have my doubts.

We’re heading for a Red Sox-Dodgers World Series. Heaven help us.

Another jinx vanquished

There will be no World Cup matches today, fitting since today is the 242nd anniversary of the independence of a nation which cannot fight its way out of a wet paper bag in association football, at least when it counts the most.

It’s even more fitting the World Cup is off today, because  the country celebrating the 242nd anniversary of its independence gained said independence from the country which birthed “the beautiful game”.

One of the constituent countries of the nation where association football (soccer for those snooty Americans) is still alive in the World Cup, thanks to ending a curse which had long haunted it.

England advanced by winning a shootout (kicks from the penalty mark) yesterday over Colombia.

Repeating: England advanced by winning a shootout.

Let that sink in for a few seconds.

It’s the first time The Three Lions have won a shootout in the World Cup since it was introduced to team sports’ greatest spectacle in 1978 (but not put into practice until 1982).

Previously, England had been eliminated in 1990 (semifinals vs. West Germany), 1998 (round of 16 vs. Argentina in a match which saw David Beckham draw a straight red card two minutes into the second half; that England was able to hold Argentina scoreless for 73-plus minutes was amazing) and 2006 (vs. Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo burying the winner).

England appeared as if it would win in normal time 1-0, with Harry Kane burying a penalty kick in the 57th mniute after he was taken down in the box rather aggressively.

Colombia played borderline dirty all match, with the manager giving an English player a hard shoulder as they exited the pitch at halftime, and another Colombian player getting away with a headbutt as they jostled in the box on a free kick.

However, Colombia’s Yerry Mina scored the equalizer only seconds from full time, and the match continued. The half-hour of extra time was scoreless, and the groans went up from Newcastle and Sunderland in the North East to Bournemouth and Southampton on the south coast, and all points in between.

The tension had to be most palpable in Sunderland and Liverpool.

English goalkeeper Jordan Pickford is a native of the North East of England. He played for Sunderland before leaving the Black Cats in the summer of 2017 after they were relegated out of the Premier League.

Everton, located in Liverpool and the archrival of the world-famous Liverpool Football Club, won the bidding war for Pickford. However, the Toffees were unable to fully take advantage of having Pickford and Wayne Rooney, finishing well behind Burnley for the final European qualifying spot, and obviously behind the Big Six of the Premier League: Manchester City, Liverpool, Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Arsenal.

FYI, the four most famous residents of Liverpool, two of whom are sadly no longer with us (one at the hands of a bloody murderer) did not care about the Merseyside Derby, the name given to the Liverpool-Everton rivalry. It was reported The Fab Four did not care much for football, at least the kind played with a round ball (Paul McCartney performed during the Super Bowl XXXVI pregame show and Super Bowl XXXIX halftime show).

In fact, when England won the 1966 World Cup at the old Wembley Stadium, Paul, John, George and Ringo were on the last leg of their last concert tour in the United States. And if you think few Americans care about soccer in 2018, the number of soccer die-hards in 1966 may have numbered less than the number of members of United States House (435).

Back to 2018, Pickford and his mates.

The announcers on Fox stated throughout extra time that Colombia was a lead-pipe cinch to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Sweden. They felt Colombia had enough momentum from the late equalizer to score in extra time, then kept harping on England’s failure in shootouts in the past when it looked like the third shootout of the round of 16 would be a reality.

Surprisingly, English manager Gareth Southgate chose Kane to go first. Many managers save their best kicker for the fourth or fifth round, which is what the United States women did in shootouts in the World Cup finals of 1999 and 2011. In 1999, Mia Hamm, arguably the greatest female association football player to date, went fourth, leaving the heroics to Brandi Chastain and her famous sports brassiere. In 2011, Abby Wambach went fourth, but because the three before her–Shannon Boxx, Carli Lloyd and Tobin Heath all missed, it didn’t matter, and Japan won. More of the blame lies on the shoulders of Hope(less) Solo (now Stevens).

Kane and Marcus Rashford scored for England after Radamel Falcao and Juan Cudrado did the same for Colombia. Luis Muriel scored the third kick for Colombia, but Jordan Henderson’s attempt was turned aside by David Ospina, shifting the edge to Colombia.

The pressure was now on Pickford. If he could not stop Mateus Uribe, the South American side would have a huge edge, knowing it would at the very least go into sudden death.

Pickford got a piece of Uribe’s arching shot. It hit the crossbar anyway, and England’s condition was upgraded from critical to satisfactory. It became completely healed when Kieran Trippler scored to knot it up again.

Carlos Bacca stepped to the mark for Colombia. He went right, and Pickford was spot on, easily stoning the Colombian substitute forward.

Southgate sent Eric Dier onto the pitch in the 81st minute to spell Dele Alli, the Tottenham striker. Dier now was called upon to take the last kick of the regulation round. If he missed, the kicks would go into sudden death. If Dier scored, England would play again Saturday.

Dier went hard and low to his left. Ospina guessed wrong. England was jolly indeed.

England now plays Sweden, a 1-0 victor over Switzerland. The winner of that match plays the winner of Croatia-Russia, which is also Saturday.

Friday’s matches are France-Uruguay and Brazil-Belgium. I picked Croatia, England and Brazil as semifinalists before the knockout round, and I’ll stick with that. I had France playing Portugal, with Les Bleus losing. I’ll pick France to win, though, against Uruguay.

Maybe it was time for England to end its curse. The Red Sox ended the Curse of the Bambino in 2004. The Cavaliers won the 2016 NBA championship, ending Cleveland’s sports curse which spanned 51 1/2 years. The Cubs ended the Curse of the BIlly Goat by winning the 2016 World Series, their first in 108 years. The Astros broke through last year, their 56th season, to win their first World Championship. The Eagles won Super Bowl LII earlier this year, Philadelphia’s first NFL title since 1960. The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup last month, ending a long run of playoff futility.

See? Most bad things will end. The bad news? All good things WILL end sooner or later.

Meanwhile, the Rays and Marlins played 16 innings last night. How depressing. Paid attendance: 6,259. I’d like to know how many people actually went to the game in Miami, and how many were left when it ended at 0040 Eastern.

The Royals and Orioles seem to be racing to the bottom. Both have lost 60 games, and both are so far out of the playoff race they need the Hubble telescope to find the Red Sox, Yankees, Astros, Mariners and Indians. Both are on pace to lose 114 games. Neither will probably lose that many, but both will likely fall short of 60 wins.

The Royals host the Red Sox this weekend. There are only nine more big-revenue home games left on the schedule at Kauffman Stadium: the three this weekend, plus three-game sets with the Cardinals and Cubs.

In case you’re curious, the Royals and Orioles play three in Kansas City Labor Day weekend. I’m sure the ticket office at The K is burning up over ticket sales for that one.

I like my baseball plain, thank you

The Orioles defeated the White Sox 8-2 this afternoon at Baltimore in what is believed to be the first Major League Baseball game to be closed to the public.

The decision to bar ticket holding fans from Camden Yards was made due to the rioting which has been going on in Baltimore since the death of Freddie Gray, who suffered fatal injuries when he was in the custody of Baltimore police earlier this month.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for the rioting thugs. There is a major difference between peaceful protest, like Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington in 1983 or the Alabama march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965,and the type of looting and destruction going on in Baltimore right now, or what went on in Ferguson, Mo., last year, or in south central Los Angeles on this night in 1992 following the verdict in the Rodney King beating trial of four Los Angeles police officers.

Enough social commentary. Back to baseball.

The Orioles game was open only to credentialed media members, of which there were about 100, Orioles and White Sox employees, and those who had a legitimate function at the game. The game was televised in Baltimore and Chicago and those with SiriusXM radio like myself (although I didn’t listen) could tune in.

The game was played in two hours three minutes. You want to know why?

NO STUPID PROMOTIONS TO SLOW THE GAME DOWN.

As much as I enjoy Major League Baseball and I like going to games, I don’t think I could stand going to 81 homes games–or even one-fifth that many–due to all the asinine and inane things which go on in between innnings.

Do we need a pointless trivia question after every half inning? Do we need to have some idiot with a wireless microphone go into the stands to embarrass someone who probably could care less about being on the stadium’s big screen TV, someone who probably just wants to be left alone and enjoy the game with whomever he or she came with?

The Royals are among the most egregious violators. Since moving to Kansas, I have never been to a Royals game where there has not been an overabundance of lunacy and promotions which belong at a carnival, not a professional sporting event.

The worst is the hot dog race, which in Kansas City is sponsored by Heinz. This is a ripoff of the dot race which began in 1984 at Arlington Stadium, the old home of the Texas Ranges. I didn’t care for it then, and I certainly don’t care for it now.

Even worse about Kansas City’s hot dog race is KETCHUP is one of the three participants. KETCHUP. That’s un-American. I don’t care if you’re 3 or 103. YOU DO NOT PUT KETCHUP ON A  HOT DOG. Period. Cut and dried. If the Royals insist on having ketchup in the race, there ought to be a way that ketchup never wins, much like Teddy Roosevelt never wins in the president’s races at Washington Nationals games.

The worst is the kiss cam. Seriously. KISS CAM? Can’t people have some privacy?

I worked one summer for the New Orleans Zephrys, a Triple-A baseball team. I loathed the stupid dizzy bat race. I could not stand the stupid race around the bases between a kid and Boudreaux, the nutria which is the Zephyr’s mascot.

When I go to a Major League Baseball game, I do not pay good money to park, to get into the gate and to eat mediocre food to watch some idiot with a microphone in between innings. I pay that money to watch BASEBALL. Major League Baseball. The game is more than enough to me.

If promotions departments would eliminate those childish hijinks, I guarantee they will save 25-30 minutes per night.

Sadly, this crap has permeated to the NBA and NHL. Every timeout, every stoppage of play in those sports is time for some fan to make a fool of himself or herself. The NFL doesn’t have these bad ideas. Doesn’t seem to hurt their crowds.

Baseball drowned

The rain continues to fall in Kansas City, and because Mother Nature will not back off, there will be no baseball at Kauffman Stadium tonight. Game three of the American League championship series between the Royals and Orioles has been postponed. It will simply be played at 7:07 p.m. tomorrow, when game four was supposed to start. Game four is now set for 3:07 p.m. Wednesday, and if a fifth game is needed, it will be played at 3:07 Thursday.

Got to Buffalo Wild Wings at 2:30. As can be expected on a wet, windy and rainy Monday, not much action. The management was going to bring in 12 servers if the Royals played tonight, but with the game washed away, they don’t need nearly as many.

It’s Monday, so it means The Pulse at 7 p.m. I finished a meager ninth nationally last week, but it was enough to extend my streak of top-10 finishes to 10 straight. It was the first time since July 14 (did not play July 21) that I was anything but first or second.

Dan and Pam left me some mini cupcakes and a card for my birthday. Alexandra Mullinax left me a cookie cake. Very thoughtful. Too bad Alex and Brittany aren’t going to the Royals game tonight. Tori is behind the bar, Ashley is waiting on me, so all is okay.

Brookville boo-boo

It rained off and on all the way from Kansas City to Brookville yesterday. It would not stop raining in Brookville until late in the second quarter. This made for an interesting night.

I had a rain cover for my camera, and I would have used it, but I could not get my flash over the rain cover, so I ditched the cover. It wasn’t raining that hard.

The bigger problem was my game notes. I always pride myself on being able to keep a running play-by-play of the game even though I’m taking pictures. I’ll take the play-by-play I write down on the sideline and feed it to The Automated Scorebook on my computer, and it will spit the stats out immediately. I would operate TAS live from the press box when I worked for The Advocate, and that saved me so much time, since I didn’t have to sit there and manually add up statistics. I could just print out the stats and play-by-play, write the story, file it, and be done 15-20 minutes following the game.

My first quarter play-by-play from last night almost didn’t make it. It was quite soggy. The second quarter was a struggle, too, but it was because the paper was wet. Fortunately, the rain abated, and the second half was much easier.

I was also glad I brought two jackets. My parka was soaked after the first half, and I changed to my Milwaukee Brewers dugout jacket for the final 24 minutes. Not as warm, but I had two layers over my turtleneck anyway.

Last night’s Smith Center-Ell Saline football game proved two things:

  1. Mother Nature is often a great equalizer.
  2. Special teams matter.

Both points were proven early. A fine punt by Smith Center’s Kody Zabel and excellent coverage by the Redmen following the game’s first offensive possession left the Cardinals marooned inside their own 10-yard line. Two plays later, Ell-Saline quarterback Luiz Antonio Arceo could not handle the muddy football following a low snap, and the Redmen had the ball at the 4.

Nick Lehmkuhl scored two plays later, and just like that, it was Smith Center 7, Ell-Saline 0, and the game wasn’t four minutes old.

Smith Center looked poised to add to its lead when it used a lengthy drive to reach the Ell-Saline 5, but on fourth down, a low snap to Thayne Benoit did not allow the play to come off, and the Cardinals took over on downs. The first half ended with the same 7-0 score.

It took all of 20 seconds of the second half for the score to change.

Arceo fielded the second half kickoff near the left sideline. He found a wall of red shirts and followed them to the middle of the field, and reached the Redmen 3. One play later, he scored on a keeper around the right side. The conversion failed, but it was a new game at 7-6.

The Redmen looked like they would strike right back when Kaden Meitler returned the next kickoff to the Ell-Saline 14, but that drive came up empty when the Cardinals held on downs with a fourth-and-two at the 6. The Smith Center defense held, and following Arceo’s punt, the visitors had the ball at the Ell-Saline 22.

Guess what? No points. Despite first down from the 12, Smith Center couldn’t pick up the first down from there, and then Zabel missed a 22-yard field goal attempt.

The next Smith Center drive did result in points. For the wrong team.

The Redmen again penetrated the red zone, but with the ball at the 18, Meitler fumbled on a run around left end. Ell-Saline linebacker Luke Sheridan spotted the loose ball and picked it up, and began running the other way. Benoit was in position to make the tackle inside the Smith Center 20, but a good block downfield allowed Sheridan to complete an 80-yard touchdown jaunt. Arceo this time was successful on the conversion, which proved to be critical. Ell-Saline led 14-7 at the end of the quarter, although Smith Cneter was driving.

Six plays into the final period, Benoit spotted Zabel open over the middle. His pass got over the outstretched hand of Cody Walters, and after making the catch, Zabel rumbled into the end zone from 34 yards out. Now, if Zabel could convert the extra point, it would be deadlocked with 9:26 to go, and overtime would be a real possibility for the second time in three seasons between the schools.

Except that Zabel missed. There was still 9:26 to go, but the Cardinals still had the lead.

That 14-13 score did not change. Smith Center never got close to scoring again, and its final play was a Benoit pass which was intercepted by Noah Bradley. Despite gaining 64 net yards and picking up just five first downs, going 0-for-8 on 3rd down conversions and losing the time of possession battle by nine minutes, the Cardinals prevailed, winning for the first time in three games vs. Smith Center. The Redmen won 43-8 at Brookville last year and 20-18 in overtime at Smith Center in 2012. In the 2012 game, the Cardinals missed their conversion in overtime after having the ball first; the Redmen scored and Payton Buckmaster ran in the conversion to win.

The Redmen saw their 33-game winning streak in district games ended. They had not lost a disirict game since October 2003 to Norton at home.

More importantly, Smith Center’s string of 11 consecutive state playoff appearances is in trouble. Not only must the Redmen hope the Cardinals lose at least one district game out of three, they must also defeat Bennington and Phillipsburg in the final two weeks. The best hope would be to hope Phillipsburg wins against Republic County and Ell-Saline, and then Smith Center beats the Panthers in the regular season finale Oct. 30 to force a three-way tie. Since Smith Center lost to Ell-Saline by only one point, the Redmen would need to beat Phillipsburg by two to finish among the top two in a three-way tiebreaker. If Ell-Saline beats Phillipsburg, of course, the winner of the Redmen-Panthers game would finish second behind the Brookville boys.

Following the game, I listened to the Royals-Orioles game. Incredibly, Kansas City got TWO MORE home runs in extra innings to win a postseason game. Alex Gordon led off the 10th with a solo shot, and Mike Moustakas added a two-run clout to put the Royals up 8-5. The Orioles scored once in the bottom of the 10th, but Greg Holland shut the door, allowing the Royals to prevail 8-6 and take a 1-0 lead in the American League Championship Series.

It was midnight when I got off I-435 at Missouri Highway 152, so I decided to go to Buffalo Wild Wings and see who was there. Liz was, and of course she had a big smile when she saw me. Both Morgans, Gilliand (who’s six-plus months pregnant) and Tomec, were there, as was Alexandra Mullinax. Since I was staying only three miles away at the Courtyard on Tiffany Springs, I stayed until a little after 1 before leaving.

Today is going to be hell for the crew at Buffalo Wild Wings. Missouri plays Georgia at 11, the Royals play at 3. LSU plays at 6:30, but who cares?