John Steigerwald's Sports Column
There’s a place for replay in professional sports
Is it time for an eye in the sky?
One of these days an NHL team is going to lose a game or a series because of a retaliatory penalty. It will happen like this. Player A will come down with a two-hand slash to Player B behind the knees. Player B will take offense and cross check Player A in the throat. The referee misses the two hander but sees the cross check. Player B gets a double minor and Player A gets nothing.
Instead of a 4-on-4 situation, Player A’s team is rewarded - that’s right, rewarded for a two hander behind the knees - with a power play. Player A’s team scores the game-winning or series-winning goal.
How stupid is this?
There were 20,000 witnesses who saw the original two-hander. Somehow both referees missed it. Player B writhing around on the ice and then being helped to the bench by the trainer doesn’t influence him because he can’t call a penalty he didn’t see.
Would it be that difficult or that outrageous to have an official in the pressbox who could be equipped to buzz the referee to tell him why there was a player writhing on the ice?
Video review has been a part of pro sports for a long time now. Results are changed all the time. There’s still a place for a human witness who can, as they like to tell us, “Get it right.”
How about taking it a step further and having the eye in the sky make the final decision? Major League Baseball could have used one of those in the ninth inning of a game Wednesday night in Cleveland.
The Indians were leading 4-3 when third base umpire Angel Hernandez gave no home run signal on a ball hit by Adam Rosales of the Athletics even though the replay showed it had cleared the left field wall. He ruled that the ball hit the top of the outfield wall and 100 percent clear refutation by the replay wasn’t enough to change his mind.
Rosales was awarded a ground rule double and the Indians held on to win the game.
All major sporting leagues should have someone in the pressbox who can overrule the officials on the field when they are in danger of screwing up a game or, in the case of Hernandez, insistent on embarrassing themselves.
Get it right.
• If you like hockey, you should pause every now and then to appreciate how lucky you are to have Sidney Crosby to watch up to 100 times a year, especially after having Mario Lemieux to watch for almost 20 years.
If you are over 30, you have had two once-in-a-lifetime players to root for in your lifetime. It’s kind of like Chicago basketball fans getting LeBron James to follow Michael Jordan. Only better.
When he’s been healthy the last three seasons, which isn’t nearly often enough, Crosby has distanced himself from the rest of the players in the NHL as much as Lemieux did in his prime. I’ve said for years that Lemiuex is the best player I’ve ever seen in a team sport, but, although the numbers are different because the game has changed so much, I see very little if any difference in the degree of Crosby’s level of play compared to everyone else.
• Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin and John Tavares are the finalists for the Hart Trophy for NHL Most Valuable Player.
Crosby is the best player in the league but he missed a third of the season because he was injured. Ovechkin missed the same amount of time because he didn’t show up for the first 20 games. A case could be made for Tavares because of the success of the Islanders but not enough to keep the award from Crosby.
• Two months ago, if you asked Penguins fans if they would trade Evgeni Malkin for Ovechkin, you wouldn’t have gotten one yes. Now? You might get a few yeses but, as frustrating as Malkin can be at times, he’s still a better all-around player and more consistent.
• When I see highlights of James’ alley-oop dunks, I’m usually much more impressed with the pass.
• It’s too bad that the Ducks and the Kings, two good, exciting hockey teams, have to be wasted on Los Angeles. There are infomercials getting better TV ratings in that market.
• The Miami Marlins, playing the second season in their dishonestly funded ball park, are last in National League attendance. Good.
• The Miami Dolphins’ request for $250 million to refurbish their stadium was turned down. This is also good.
• I think white-outs or whatever-your-favorite color-outs at major professional games are kind of girly. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
• If Major League Baseball reacted to injuries the way the NFL has/does, the line drive would be outlawed next year.
John Steigerwald writes a Sunday column for the Observer-Reporter.