The NFL is about to put its multi-billion dollar business in the hands of replacement referees. Given how much money the NFL makes, I can’t believe there isn’t enough wiggle room in the budget to work out a deal.
The integrity of this season is at stake. Replays can correct some mistakes, but there are hundreds of ways officials can affect a game that can’t be fixed using replay. A holding call, a missed holding call, pass interference, a bad spot, turning the wrong way, etc. Even replay can’t fix all mistakes because, if there’s no indisputable evidence, the call on the field stands.
Replacement refs will certainly try their best. But they’re not used to the speed of the game at the NFL level. As we’ve seen during preseason, this leads to mistakes and confusion.
It’s almost inevitable that the outcome of a game will be decided by a blown call. Let’s hope that blown call doesn’t cause a team to miss the playoffs.
The NFL needs to forge an agreement with its officials. Yesterday.
GODFATHERS OF BASEBALL: Just when you thought you were out, the Phillies pull you back in.
And just when you thought you were back in, the Phillies push you back out.
The Phillies were cruising toward a sweep of the Braves, nursing a 7-1 lead Sunday. Even when their lead was cut to 7-3, fans were still doing the math. A win brings the Phillies to within seven games of a wild card berth. They’ll have 28 games left to play. After this week’s series with the Reds, their next 13 games are against the Rockies, Marlins, Astros and Mets, so they should make up more ground. And … Boom! It all blew up in their faces.
It’s too painful to go through all the details of their ninth-inning collapse. Suffice it to say the inning featured too many walks by the bullpen, a poor defensive play that didn’t result in an error and a bad decision by Charlie Manuel. (Walk Chipper Jones next time!) In other words, it was nothing you haven’t seen before.
CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK: This may be a bad time to say this, but Chipper Jones is my favorite player in baseball who has never played for the Phillies. I’m glad to see he’s doing so well in his final season. I just wish fewer of his highlights came at the Phillies’ expense.
CHARLIE (NO-)HUSTLE: I’ve already ranted about Jimmy Rollins’ lack of hustle in Miami several weeks ago, both in Fish ‘n Chips and on our weekly Internet Blog Talk Radio show. It’s also a major topic in this week’s Phillies notebook. It’s very disappointing to see Rollins pull the same crap two weeks later. Not running out a pop-up, which dropped safely, was an in-your-face insult to Charlie Manuel, who has had Rollins’ back when he’s criticized for incidents like this one and for his poor performance as a leadoff hitter.
BLUE STATE: The support by the Penn State faithful for their football team Saturday was wonderful. The fans let the players know that they appreciated them sticking with the school and the program instead of leaving, as the NCAA allowed them to do without sitting out a year.
But the game, a 24-14 loss to mid-major Ohio University, was a different story. Penn State’s paucity of weapons on offense and lack of depth, a situation that will likely only get worse as the program loses scholarships due to NCAA sanctions, were painfully evident.
There also were some moments when it was obvious that the Nittany Lions were being coached by someone in his first game as head coach. Why was linebacker Gerald Hodges returning kickoff and punts? Hodges is a terrific athlete, but it’s difficult to ask someone who doesn’t touch the ball all game to catch a punt under pressure. Hodges’ muffed punt deep in Penn State territory led to Ohio’s only points of the first half. He also made a bad decision on whether to run a kickoff out of the end zone. Hodges did not return kickoffs during the second half.
After Ohio was repeatedly shut down on third-and-short during the first half, the Bobcats converted 11 of 12 third-down opportunities during the second half. Three of those conversions came on the same slant pattern. How many times does a team have to run the same play in key situations before you take it away?
I know it’s only the first game. It’s not time for the “BILL-ieve” t-shirts to be traded in for “Bill must go!” t-shirts. Penn State fans will need to be patient. It might be a long, hard climb back to the top.
E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!: Only one week to go until Eagles season begins! With the Phillies below .500 and the NHL careening toward a lockout, the Eagles will have center stage all to themselves for nearly two months.
GOOD THURSDAY: Last Thursday was a good day to be a quarterback named Trent in the Delaware Valley. Trent Edwards completed 22 of 32 passes for 197 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-10 preseason victory over the Jets, enabling him to beat out Mike Kafka for the third quarterback spot on the Eagles’ roster. On the same night, a little further South, Delaware quarterback Trent Hurley, a transfer from Bowling Green, completed 24 of 35 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns as the Blue Hens defeated West Chester, 42-21, in his Delaware debut.
RETIRING KIND: Andy Roddick is certainly making the most of his farewell tournament. After announcing on his 30th birthday last week that the U.S. Open would be the final tournament of his career, Roddick has won two matches. If he can beat Juan Martin del Potro, Roddick would reach the quarterfinals.
Roddick’s lone grand slam title is the 2003 U.S. Open, which also happens to be the last grand slam won by a male player from the United States. Since Roddick’s U.S. Open championship, only three grand slam events have been won by someone other than Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic. That trio has won 29 of the last 30 grand slams, with del Potro’s 2009 U.S. Open championship representing the only exception since January of 2005.
The U.S. Open was also the farewell tournament for Kim Clijsters, who had not lost a match at three straight U.S. Opens before being eliminated this year. Clijsters won in 2005, 2009 and 2010, taking time off in between for injuries and to start a family.
RACE TO THE CHASE: The race for the Chase became a little clearer during Sunday night’s AdvoCare 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. But there is still plenty of drama left for Saturday night in Richmond, the final opportunity for drivers to qualify for the 10-race Chase for the Sprint Cup.
The top 10 drivers in in the standings have qualified for the Chase. Defending champion Tony Stewart, in 10th place, could still be caught by Kasey Kahne or Kyle Busch if fares poorly at Richmond, but his spot in the Chase is protected because he has three wins. The two drivers outside the top 10 with the most wins earn the final two berths in the Chase.
Right now those two drivers are Kahne and Busch. Kahne has two wins, so he’s assured of a berth in the Chase. Busch has the most points of any driver outside the top 10 with one win, but he would pushed out of the Chase if Jeff Gordon, Marcos Ambrose, Ryan Newman or Joey Logano pick up their second win of the year at Richmond. Gordon almost notched his second win Sunday, but Denny Hamlin held him off over the final two laps, picking up his fourth victory of the year and protecting the opportunity of his Joe Gibbs Racing teammates, Busch and Logano, to make the Chase. Gordon either has to win Saturday or finish at least 12 spots ahead of Busch – with someone other than Ambrose, Newman or Logan winning – to qualify for the Chase.
On the other hand, Carl Edwards’ chances for making the Chase went up in smoke Sunday with a blown engine. Edwards has been hovering around 11th and 12th place in the overall standings, but hadn’t won a race. His 36th place finish Sunday dropped him to 14th place, 14 points behind Gordon and 26 points behind Busch. His only chance to make the Chase is to win at Richmond while Gordon finishes in 15th place or worse and Busch finishes in 27th place or worse.
UNION WORK STOPPAGE: The Philadelphia Union are in the midst of a two-week stretch without a game. Getting some recovery time before the final six weeks of the season may have seemed like a good idea when the schedule came out, but, with a six-game winless streak dating back to July 29, it must be frustrating for the eighth-place Union (7-13-5) to wait two weeks to get back on the field. They return to action Sept. 15 at Toronto.
Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for 24 years, always hustles.