Archive for Friday, October 23, 2009

Spotlight often can be harsh in sports

October 23, 2009


It’s getting awfully hard to hide anymore.

Tim McClelland understands that better than most, which is why he had no choice but to admit he blew a pair of calls at third base Tuesday night in the Yankees’ blowout victory over the Angels.

What else could the veteran umpire do? Replays from every angle except from the top of the Matterhorn in neighboring Disneyland exposed his calls for what they were.

“I’m just out there trying to do my job and do it the best I can,” McClelland said.

That’s what Alabama kicker Leigh Tiffin was doing when he put white tape on the field so he could better spot his field goals against South Carolina. Turns out it’s against the rules, which Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was more than eager to point out after he saw it on video.

Alabama coach Nick Saban didn’t dispute the video evidence. But he did make his assistants stay up all night watching videos of other games just so he could claim that half the teams in the SEC use some sort of marker for their kickers.

And then there is the infamous Mariano Rivera spitball video, which went viral on the Internet after it appeared to show the great Yankees closer was adding some lubricant to the ball against the Angels. The beauty of high definition TV is that it exposes everything, including the big glob of spit that came out of Rivera’s mouth.

Not answered in what has to be the most studied piece of video since Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction at the Super Bowl was whether Rivera was aiming for the ball and whether he actually hit it. Still, the conspiracy theorists had such a time with it that Rivera surely will be a lot more careful about where he spits next time he takes the mound.

“You will see that the spit is never on the ball,” Rivera insisted.

It’s really hard to hide these days. Nothing, it seems, happens in any game that escapes the prying eyes of television cameras that seem to be everywhere.

Not that the cameras are always needed. Angel fans booed when they saw replays of one of McClelland’s miscues, but they could have been sitting in the top deck at the Big A and figured out what the veteran umpire for some reason couldn’t — that tagging two guys who were both clearly off third base means both of them are out.

And even those sitting in obstructed view seats at Yankee Stadium during Game 2 against the Minnesota Twins could see what an umpire not 10 feet away couldn’t — that Joe Mauer’s hit down the line was fair by a good foot.

It’s been a horrible postseason for umpires, who are particularly exposed by the cameras.

While Bud Selig and company are at it, make the umpires enforce rules designed to speed up a game that is now agonizingly slow. Playoff games take nearly twice as long as they did 40 years ago, and adding instant replay would stretch them out even more.

That would mean more late nights for Manny Ramirez, who is so into the whole team concept that he was taking a shower in the clubhouse when the Phillies rallied for two runs in the ninth to win Game 4 from the Dodgers.

“I saw the highlights and everybody was coming in,” Ramirez said. “They turned the TV off.”

Proof, perhaps, that there are still some places left to hide.


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