Tuesday, May 24, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Sports should be about the game, not the antics

Leader sports editor

In professional sports, there have recently been two high profile shots to the face that were matters of wide discussion. A couple of weeks ago in Major League Baseball, Texas Rangers shortstop Rougned Odor landed a vicious straight right to the jaw of Toronto’s Jose Bautista. A few days ago, Lebron James caught an incidental tricep to the lip from teammate Tristan Thompson.

The big difference? Bautista barely flinched from a waylay punch while James flailed himself 15 feet backwards and crumbled to the floor from contact less severe than most men experience wrestling with their nephew.

In postgame interviews, Bautista said it would take more than Odor’s punch to knock him down. James, of course, explained his reaction was completely natural to getting hit in the face.

If that’s James’ natural reaction, his sheetrock man is wealthy. No telling what his bathroom looks like in the aftermath of he and his wife bumping heads brushing their teeth.

James also said he wasn’t trying to sell a call, and he’s likely telling the truth. It’s probably more accurate to say he was giving the referee his cue. It certainly looked so when the official instantly started passing out technical fouls like a Shriner does raffle tickets.

People like James, Manu Ginobili and Chris Bosh have turned the NBA into America’s EUFA.

Those who continue to insist the NBA doesn’t utilize officiating to sway outcomes just isn’t being honest. It’s probably true in most professional sports, but the NBA has been rather brazen about it for about 30 years now.

Another recent case is Draymond Green’s obviously intentional kick to Steven Adams’ sensitive area. The NBA upgraded the foul from a flagrant 1 to a flagrant 2, but decided not to issue a suspension, despite the fact that a flagrant 2 usually does involve suspensions. In fact, NBA’s rules say plainly that a flagrant 2 foul is an automatic ejection.

They say they don’t want to alter the outcome by suspending a player, but in truth, that’s exactly what they are doing. Following protocol is not meddling. Not following protocol is meddling.

They want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to give the appearance that they don’t buy Green’s obvious lie, while not actually doing anything about it.

They most likely started contemplating the ratings of an Oklahoma City vs. Toronto championship series.


The personal antics that take away from the game is not just in professional sports. This high school baseball season in Arkansas has featured a drastic and disturbing uptick in coaches storming the field and showing out.

Of course, they were all about umpire calls. In a few cases the objections were legitimate, but the visceral outbursts never were.

In most cases witnessed, however, the objections weren’t even legitimate.

And since it is high school baseball, we are, literally, talking about a kids’ game.

If coaches want to be the center of attention, let them learn standup comedy or how to juggle. But let high school baseball be about the kids and the game.


Since we’re on baseball, and we’ve disproportionately razed the NBA, let’s take look back at the Odor vs. Bautista incident. The whole thing started with last year’s playoff bat flip after Bautista hit a go-ahead, three-run home run against the Rangers in one of the weirdest, most emotionally charged baseball games ever played.

It was an epic bat flip, and Texas retaliated earlier this season by throwing at and hitting Bautista.

The issues are multiple and complicated. First, that bat flip last season was acceptable. Any play that has a major impact on a game, especially a playoff game like that one, can and should be celebrated spontaneously without retaliation.

A bat flip in game 42 with a score of 6-0 – that may indeed disrespect the game. Last summer in an international game, a Cuban leadoff hitter reached base on a bunt in the eighth inning with his team ahead 12-1. The No. 2 hitter was on the ground after the next pitch, and rightfully so. That’s the sort of thing that used to, and should, warrant a brush back.

But a bat flip, or any kind of spontaneous, unrehearsed celebration of a meaningful play, should be fine. It’s no different than the way pitchers throw air punches and scream towards the heavens when they get a big strikeout.

Bautista’s teammate Josh Donaldson recently brought the issue back into the spotlight with his rant after being thrown at twice during last weekend’s series with Minnesota. In game one of the series, Twins bench coach Joe Vavra chided Donaldson, a man with a well-deserved reputation as a hard-nosed player, for not hustling out of the box on an infield grounder.

In game two, Donaldson hit a home run on his first at-bat, and looked a little too long for the Twins’ liking into their dugout (purportedly directly at Vavra) during his home-run trot. He was thrown at twice later in the game. The second of which, thrown by Phil Hughes, who has the lowest BB-per-nine-innings ratio in MLB the last two years, flew behind Donaldson.

Furthermore, when Blue Jays manager John Gibbons came out to ask why two-straight pitches at the AL MVP doesn’t even get a warning, he was thrown out.

Afterwards, Donaldson berated the way baseball handles such things, and he’s right.

“They say they’re trying to protect players. They make a rule that says you can’t slide hard into second base. They make a rule to protect the catchers on slides into home. But when you throw a ball at somebody, nothing’s done about it. My manager comes out to ask what’s going on and he gets ejected for it. That’s what happens. I just don’t get the point,” Donaldson said.

The beanbag culture in MLB is tired, outdated and overused. High and tight for every little perceived offense is becoming the norm, and it accomplishes nothing.