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Dotson Lewis' Blog


Dotson’s Blog for ESPN 1440-Benchwarmers

Dotson’s Note: The NFL administration is hard at work with proposed playing rules changes, and pressure regarding players’ and owners’ conduct. For a change, things were quiet on the officiating front…until a couple of days ago when my voice mail & Email started filling up with questions regarding the hiring of the first female on-the- field official. This was not a fact, but many thought it had happened. The following are the facts in the matter. Thanks to Mark Schultz, writer for the “NFL Zebras” for his help in providing you the information.

The headlines: NFL Has Hired the First Female Official

The facts: NFL preparing to hire new officials

 

 

 

As far as football officials are concerned, the NFL is in a critical time in that the NFL vice president for officiating, Dean Blandino, will be hiring new officials, assigning positions, and beginning the orientation process for new zebras.

The 2014 season saw a near-record number of retirements, forced or voluntary. It is predicted that there will not be such a drastic change this year.

One year ago, the NFL saw some of the most wide-spread change in a generation as 13 officials retired before the start of the 2014 season and two more officials, Kirk Dornan and Chad Brown, retired in the middle of the season.  Other officials missed significant time due to injury or illness and it is unclear whether those officials will answer the bell for 2015.

The NFL already has three slots to fill with the retirements of Brown, Dornan and Tom Stabile.  As of now, we don’t know of any more officials who have decided to retire, but there could be more openings as officials evaluate their standing with the league, their age and their health.  Also, the NFL could weed out officials who are not performing to standards, creating more openings.

Each official has to pass a physical exam each year during the offseason.  In the past, those exams have uncovered health problems forcing officials to retire.

 

 

 

 

Right now most think that we won’t see dramatic change in staff for 2015.  The NFL saw many officials retire last year and the NFL also weeded out some officials that they felt needed to retire. It appeared that Blandino weeded out the officials he thought needed to go last year, either due to eroded skills or for the sake of bringing in new officials.  The NFL needs to manage its roster turnover, and double-digit departures in two straight years would bring in too many inexperienced officials.

The facts: Female officials

This could be the year that the NFL officially breaks the gender barrier and hires a female official full time.  Sarah Thomas has spent two years on the advanced training roster, working NFL preseason games, being mentored and being scouted by the NFL.  Maia Chaka has also spent time on the advanced training roster, and the NFL could add another female official in the program, possibly Cat Conti, a NCAA Division I official.  Whoever is the first female hired, they will feel the pressure to succeed, so Blandino wants to make sure the first female official is really ready to go; however the commissioners’ office could be anxious to see history made. 

 

Cat Conti

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The facts: New white hats?

Last season saw three new referees appointed including double rookie Brad Allen, who became a referee after the surprise retirement of Mike Carey.  Craig Wrolstad and Ron Torbert became white hats to replace the retired Scott Green and Ron Winter.  At times, the NFL pushes referees to retire if they have a veteran official waiting to be a white hat.  The NFL encouraged Gerald Austin to retire to make room for Alberto Riveron to be a referee.  There were rumblings that the NFL encouraged Winter to retire after 2014 to make room for a new referee. When Mike Carey suddenly retired, the NFL tapped Allen to replace him.  If the NFL were anxious to promote a veteran official to white hat, they would have done so and not assigned Allen.  If a referee retires this year, it will be his own choice and not with any “encouragement.”

The NFL is now in the dark period with its officials.  They do not communicate with its officials from now until May 15, an acknowledgement that the officials are part-time.  After May 15th we will start to get quite a bit of officiating news.

Dotson’s Note: As you can see in the last sentence above, the NFL will not be in contact with any of the officials until May 15th.  Also note the headline below does not say that the NFL has hired Sarah Thomas.

According to multiple media reports, the NFL is hiring Sarah Thomas as its first female official.

A source told the Los Angeles Times that the NFL informed current officials that seven men and one woman were selected as new hires for the 2015 season. All of them will have to pass physical exams first.

 

 

 

 

 

Sarah Thomas

 

The news of Thomas' hiring was first reported by Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun. The league hired the eight new officials because four from the 2014 season decided to retire. Four of the new hires will be considered "floaters" and not assigned to a specific crew.

 

The NFL has not officially confirmed the new hires and it is unknown if Thomas will be assigned to a permanent crew or not. Being the first woman to officiate at different levels is not new for Thomas. She worked for Conference USA in 2007 and in 2009 became the first woman to officiate a bowl game. She has been in the NFL's Officiating Development program and worked a preseason game last season.

 

"I set out to do this and get involved in officiating not having any idea that there were not any females officiating football," Thomas told NFL Network in 2014. "Being a former basketball player, you saw female officiating all the time. So, no, I don't feel like a pioneer."

Thomas was born in Pascagoula, Mississippi. She played basketball in college at the University of Mobile. After school, she played on a men's team in a church league.

 

Thomas began her refereeing career in 1999 at the high-school level. Gerald Austin invited Thomas to attend an officials' camp, where he was impressed by her performance and Conference USA hired Thomas in 2007. In 2011, she was the first female referee to work in a Big Ten stadium. A woman did work a game in 2012, when Shannon Eastin served as a replacement referee when the NFL locked out its officials.

 

Dotson’s other note:  If the NFL does hire a female official this year, I will discuss the matter with some of my friends who have been or are now active officials, and I will share their thoughts with you. Your suggestions, comments and/or questions/concerns regarding my blogs are appreciated. Call the Benchwarmers 361-560-5397 weekdays, Mondays thru Fridays, 3-6 p.m. or contact me.  Phone: 361-949-7681 Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Have Fun!!! -30-

 

 

 

 

 

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Dotson’s Note: This Blog  is actually taken from three different articles about the trials and tribulations of a rookie NBA basketball official, who happens to be a woman. Violet Palmer, another female NBA basketball official, is a friend who I have known since she first started officiating basketball at the collegiate level. Violet’s career as a basketball official in the NBA has received very little publicity…the NBA has pretty well kept her out of the public eye, and those who have been critical of her officiating abilities have very carefully avoided any comments regarding gender. 

 

Lauren Holtkamp Unfazed On Being NBA's Third Full-Time Female Referee

 

Lauren Holtkamp had just finished school and a basketball career at Division II Drury University in Springfield, Mo., a decade ago and contemplated what to do before pursuing a master's degree in divinity.

Laura Holtkamp

 

A former teammate's dad invited Holtkamp to a local referees meeting, and in 2004, she refereed her first game, a middle-school contest in Springfield. Ten years later, Holtkamp, 33, is now a staff official for the NBA, becoming the third woman to ref NBA games full-time, joining Dee Kantner (now the WNBA's supervisor of officials) and Violet Palmer (an NBA referee since 1997).

 

"Part of the satisfaction of earning this opportunity has to do with the fact that I've been able to stay committed to the work and put the work first and trust the system and that's what matters," Holtkamp said, "It doesn't matter who is doing the work as long as the work is high quality. There is a great deal of satisfaction in that."

 

Holtkamp is one of three officials to make the jump from the NBA Development League to the top league this season. Dedric Taylor and Justin Van Duyne also joined the 63-person roster.

 

 

                            Violet Palmer

 

 

 

She said she appreciates what Kantner and Palmer have accomplished. "There is a kinship and certainly a sense of support and collegiality." But Holtkamp is emphatic that she is a referee who just happens to be a woman.

 

"I would say really from day one when I got hired into the D-League, I've been treated as a referee as far as my performance," she said. "It's been about my performance and the quality of

my work."

Posted!

A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.

 

Referees Union Says “Chris Paul’s Comments about Female Referee Were Personal and Unprofessional”

 

The union representing NBA referees defended official Lauren Holtkamp after "personal and unprofessional comments" by Clippers guard Chris Paul. Paul criticized the rookie referee Thursday, saying she might not be ready for the big leagues after six seasons in the minors.

Lee Seham, general counsel of the National Basketball Referees Association, said in a statement his group reviewed Holtkamp's calls and "deems them fully justified." "Furthermore," he added, "the NBRA deplores the personal and unprofessional comments made by Chris Paul. She belongs."

 

Paul was called for a technical foul by Holtkamp during the Clippers' 105-94 loss in Cleveland. Following a free throw by Cleveland with 10:17 left in the third quarter, the Clippers were attempting to inbound quickly when Holtkamp stepped in. Paul questioned her and was slapped with the technical.

 

"The tech I got was ridiculous," Paul said. "That's terrible. There's no way that can be a technical. We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court. When we did that, she said, 'Uh-uh.' I said, 'Why uh-uh?' and she gave me a technical. That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her."

 

Paul is president of the NBA Players Association, and his questioning a referee's readiness is a common complaint the league hears about rookie officials. He likely will be fined for public criticism of an official.*

 

 

The 34-year-old Holtkamp spent six seasons in the NBA Development League, working its championship series the last two years. A former player at Division II Drury University, she also officiated nine NBA regular-season games before her promotion to the full-time staff.

Violet Palmer is the league's other currently active female referee, having worked about 900 regular-season games during a career that's now in its 18th season.

 

Paul and the Clippers were assessed five technical fouls by Holtkamp's crew.

 

 

*Chris Paul Fined $25K for His Technical Called By Referee Lauren Holtkamp

 

NBA star Chris Paul has been called for many technical fouls through the years. His latest is drawing perhaps the most notice, and his criticism of the female referee who called it has drawn a $25,000 fine from the league.

                           Chris Paul

The conversation around the technical has centered on what Paul said about rookie referee Lauren Holtkamp, one of two current active female officials in the NBA.

The NBA said Paul was being fined for "public criticism of officiating." The league's statement announcing the fine didn't mention the official's gender.

Paul said her call during a Los Angeles Clippers loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers was "ridiculous" and "terrible."

As previously stated, Paul’s comment was, "We try to get the ball out fast every time down the court, and when we did that, she said, 'Uh-uh.' I said, 'Why, uh-uh?' And she gave me a tech," the Clippers point guard told reporters after the game.  "That's ridiculous. If that's the case, this might not be for her." But critics focused on the last sentence, accusing the nine-year veteran of sexism.

 

Other people, including San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon, defended Paul. "I don't think it had anything to do with the ref's gender," she tweeted.

Becky Hammon

 

 

 

 

And the director of the National Basketball Association Players Association, Michele Roberts, also denied it was a gender-based comment.

Michele Roberts

"Any suggestion that Chris Paul would ever conduct himself in a disrespectful manner towards women is utterly ridiculous, outrageous and patently false," she said, according to media reports.

Before his game the following night, Paul was asked several times about the comment. Each time he said: "Last night was about a bad call."

Paul, who is the players' union president, was fined $15,000 in 2011 when he was with the then-New Orleans Hornets for verbally abusing a referee.

According to NBA statistics, Paul has been called for 79 technical fouls in his career.

 

Dotson’s Other Note: What do you think about women officiating in the NBA? Your suggestions, comments and/or questions/concerns regarding my blogs are appreciated. Call the Benchwarmers 361-560-5397 weekdays, Mondays thru Fridays, 3-6 p.m. or contact me.  Phone: 361-949-7681 Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Have Fun!!! -30-

 

 

 

 

 

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Dotson’s Note: The NFL usually announces the Super Bowl Referee about a week before the game; and does not reveal to the public the names of the rest of the crew until the day before the game. The reason for the secrecy is another story, but knowing that you Benchwarmers are used to being ahead of the game, here is some inside information for you. Also, I have included a couple of updates on “Deflategate.” Are we having fun yet?

Super Bowl Officials Assigned Bill Vinovich to Referee

 

 

 

 

 


Bill Vinovich will be the referee heading the Super Bowl officiating staff on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. The assignments were officially given to the crew on January 14th. Vinovich worked the Divisional Playoff game between the Ravens and the Patriots January 10th. Each of Vinovich’s crew members worked a Divisional Playoff game, but no more than three appeared on the same crew. Officials in the Super Bowl must be ranked in the top tier as determined by the vice-president of officiating, Dean Blandino. Accuracy percentages are a large part of the ranking scheme, but Blandino indicated there are other factors he considers. In addition, past practice has allowed officials to be selected who have not gotten an assignment, but are near the top rank at their positions.

The crew that has been confirmed for the big game is:

Referee: Bill Vinovich #52, 10 years in the NFL, is an accountant, formerly was an NFL Officiating Supervisor; Bill Shuster, Umpire #129, 15 years in the NFL, is an insurance broker; Headlinesman: Dana McKenzie, #8, 7 years in the NFL, a claims adjuster; Line Judge: Mark Periman # 9, 14 years in the NFL, is a teacher; Field Judge:  Bob Waggoner #25, 18 years in the NFL, a retired probation officer; Side Judge: Tom Hill #97, 16 years in the NFL, is a teacher; Back Judge: Terrance Miles #111, 7 years in the NFL, is a quality control manager.

Replay Officials: Mike Wimmer; Replay Assistant: Terry Poulos. Alternates: Referee: Carl Cheffers; Umpire: Fred Baynes; Linesman: Rusty Baynes; Deep Wing: Barry Andnerson; Back Judge: Todd Prukop. Supervisor: Garth DeFelice; Observers: Dean Blandino & Al Riveron.

 

 

 

 

NFL Officials Positions

 

 

 

 

“Deflategate” Updates

 

--Walt Anderson’s crew checked all footballs before AFC championship game.

--The crew followed standard procedure to prepare footballs for the game.

The past few days have featured media frenzy where the New England Patriots are accused of deflating the game balls to better suit quarterback Tom Brady in the wet weather. The NFL is investigating the matter.

 

By rule, footballs need to be inflated to between 12½ to 13½ p.s.i. Two hours before the game, the officiating crew checks the footballs provided by the teams. Each team provides 12 footballs to be used when their team is on offense. If the forecast calls for foul weather, each time provides 24 balls to use. The officials test the air pressure and weight of each ball, adding or subtracting air until it meets the specifications. Each crew marks the ball with a special symbol unique to the crew. Ron Winter used to stamp each approved ball with a snowflake, while Gene Steratore labels each football with the initials of his significant other. The imprimatur of Anderson’s crew is an interlocked WA. After each ball is checked in, the bag is returned to each club’s representative and the team has custody of game balls from then on. The NFL employs someone to have custody of the “kicking balls” at all times, but the teams are responsible for their own supply of game balls. The next time the official sees the scrimmage ball is when they toss it in to play.

Any speculation about wrongdoing or potential penalties is just that — speculation. It will be very interesting to see what the NFL concludes and if the league will adopt any changes in who is custodian of the balls between official inspection and the time that ball is put into the game.

 

 

NFL releases statement on deflated footballs issue

The NFL issued a statement January 23, 2015, to provide information on the investigation into whether the Patriots intentionally deflated footballs in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts.

THE STATEMENT IN FULL:

“Our office has been conducting an investigation as to whether the footballs used in last Sunday’s AFC Championship Game complied with the specifications that are set forth in the playing rules. The investigation began based on information that suggested that the game balls used by the New England Patriots were not properly inflated to levels required by the playing rules, specifically Playing Rule 2, Section 1, which requires that the ball be inflated to between 12.5 and 13.5 pounds per square inch. Prior to the game, the game officials inspect the footballs to be used by each team and confirm that this standard is satisfied, which was done before last Sunday’s game.”

“The investigation is being led jointly by NFL Executive Vice President Jeff Pash and Ted Wells of the law firm of Paul Weiss. Mr. Wells and his firm bring additional expertise and a valuable independent perspective. The investigation began promptly on Sunday night. Over the past several days, nearly 40 interviews have been conducted, including of Patriots personnel, game officials, and third parties with relevant information and expertise. We have obtained and are continuing to obtain additional information, including video and other electronic information and physical evidence. We have retained Renaissance Associates, an investigatory firm with sophisticated forensic expertise to assist in reviewing electronic and video information.”

“The playing rules are intended to protect the fairness and integrity of our games. We take seriously claims that those rules have been violated and will fully investigate this matter without compromise or delay. The investigation is ongoing, will be thorough and objective, and is being pursued expeditiously. In the coming days, we expect to conduct numerous additional interviews, examine video and other forensic evidence, as well as relevant physical evidence. While the evidence thus far supports the conclusion that footballs that were under-inflated were used by the Patriots in the first half, the footballs were properly inflated for the second half and confirmed at the conclusion of the game to have remained properly inflated. The goals of the investigation will be to determine the explanation for why footballs used in the game were not in compliance with the playing rules and specifically whether any noncompliance was the result of deliberate action. We have not made any judgments on these points and will not do so until we have concluded our investigation and considered all of the relevant evidence.”

“Upon being advised of the investigation, the Patriots promptly pledged their full cooperation and have made their personnel and other information available to us upon request. Our investigation will seek information from any and all relevant sources and we expect full cooperation from other clubs as well. As we develop more information and are in a position to reach conclusions, we will share them publicly.”

Dotson’s Note: Walt Anderson is from Houston and is a good friend. I first met Walt when he started officiating sub-varsity games back in the seventies.  By working very hard at the craft, Walt advanced rapidly through the ranks. He worked up through high school varsity, small college, the Southwest Conference, the Big XII and NFL. In addition to being an NFL Referee, he is the Big XII Coordinator of Football Officials. He Refereed the Super Bowl in 2012.  I know that Walt and his crew would never knowingly allow anyone to violate any rule. Your suggestions, comments and/or questions/concerns regarding my blogs are appreciated. Call the Benchwarmers 361-560-5397 weekdays, Mondays thru Fridays, 3-6 p.m. or contact me.  Phone: 361-949-7681 Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Have Fun!!! -30-

 

 

 

 

 

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Dotson’s Note: Here we are just days from Super Bowl 49 and all kinds of interesting game related facts are filling the headlines. The following is to help get you ready for the big game. If you read and remember, you are well on your way to being a pre-Super Bowl Forty-Nine expert.

NFL looking into Pats' possible use of deflated balls (do you remember Spygate?)


 

The New England Patriots find themselves amidst another controversy following their 45-7 pummeling of the Indianapolis Colts. Shortly after the game NFL spokesman Michael Signora said “The league is looking into the apparent use of overly deflated footballs by the Patriots during their win. Midway through the game, a ball was taken off the field and out of circulation.”

 For you picky Benchwarmer listeners, here is the rule direct from the NFL Rules Book:

 

 

Rule 2 The Ball

Section 1

BALL DIMENSIONS

The Ball must be a “Wilson,” hand selected, bearing the signature of the Commissioner of the League, Roger Goodell. The ball shall be made up of an inflated (12 1/2 to 13 1/2 pounds) urethane bladder enclosed in a pebble grained, leather case (natural tan color) without corrugations of any kind. It shall have the form of a prolate spheroid and the size and weight shall be: long axis, 11 to 11 1/4 inches; long circumference, 28 to 28 1/2 inches; short circumference, 21 to 21 1/4 inches; weight, 14 to 15 ounces.

The Referee shall be the sole judge as to whether all balls offered for play comply with these specifications. A pump is to be furnished by the home club, and the balls shall remain under the supervision of the Referee until they are delivered to the ball attendant just prior to the start of the game.

Section 2

BALL SUPPLY

Each team will make 12 primary balls available for testing by the Referee two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game to meet League requirements. The home team will also make 12 backup balls available for testing in all stadiums. In addition, the visitors, at their discretion, may bring 12 backup balls to be tested by the Referee for games held in outdoor stadiums. For all games, eight new footballs, sealed in a special box and shipped by the manufacturer to the Referee, will be opened in the officials’ locker room two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game. These balls are to be specially marked by the Referee and used exclusively for the kicking game. In the event a home team ball does not conform to specifications, or its supply is exhausted, the Referee shall secure a proper ball from the visitors and, failing that, use the best available ball. Any such circumstances must be reported to the Commissioner.

In case of rain or a wet, muddy, or slippery field, a playable ball shall be used at the request of the offensive team’s center.

Note: It is the responsibility of the home team to furnish playable balls at all times by attendants from either side of the playing field.

Between now and Super Bowl Forty-Nine I’ll bet we hear a lot more about "DeflataGate."

I will update you in my next Benchwarmers Blog.

Seven things to watch in Super Bowl XLIX

The Seahawks will be in Arizona on February 1st with a chance to become the NFL's first back-to-back Super Bowl champion since 2005. It's fitting the team standing in their way is the Patriots, who are the last franchise to repeat as Lombardi winners.

It's a classic old guard-new guard matchup with the stakes at their highest. Will the Seahawks edge toward dynasty status? Can Tom Brady win a fourth ring and solidify his GOAT credentials? Will Richard Sherman outshine Darrelle Revis? Can Marshawn Lynch find a way to escape Media Day?  Here's a look ahead:

1. This is a great match up, Bill Belichick and Brady squaring off against a historically great Seahawks defense. Michael Bennett bragged last week that the Seahawks have the No. 1 defense of their era. No one will deny that claim if Seattle goes back-to-back with wins over Brady and Peyton Manning.

                                                                          Brady             

2. Last February, Manning had his chance to solidify his argument as the best quarterback ever against the Seahawks and fell woefully short. Now Brady gets a golden opportunity in his record sixth Super Bowl appearance. On the flip side, Russell Wilson has conjured memories of a young Brady in his ability to find instant success at a young age. Like Brady, Wilson has always played like a quarterback wise beyond his years. Now the two passers collide.

3. The Seahawks didn't escape the Packers unscathed. Cornerback Richard Sherman suffered an ugly elbow injury that left him playing with one arm in crunch time Sunday. At press time the Seahawks are saying that Sherman had X-rays on the injured arm and they came back negative, he says he will be ready.

5. You have to love this coaching matchup. Belichick is widely seen as peerless in his field, but the team of Pete Carroll, defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- in what will likely be their last game as a unit -- won't be embarrassed. Just think back to last year, when Carroll and company coached circles around an overmatched John Fox. It's a big reason why Fox loaded up his U-Haul for Chicago.

 

Wilson

 

4. The Patriots' unending run with Belichick and Brady has placed the organization in rarefied air in the sport's history. The Patriots will be making their eighth Super Bowl appearance, which ties them with the Cowboys and Steelers for the most all-time. Urgency was never going to be a problem for the Patriots, but Belichick and Brady understand they won't have too many more opportunities like this.

6. We get a healthy Rob Gronkowski for Super Bowl week. This is both fun and important. The All-Pro tight end played on a badly sprained ankle in his first trip to the Super Bowl in 2012. There are many Pats fans that will go to the grave believing there's no way they lose to the Giants a second time if not for the treacherous Bernard Pollard. Now Gronk is 100 percent and looming as a major X-factor against a banged-up Seattle secondary.

7. This will be the first time these teams play each other since Week 6 of the 2012 season. You may remember that as the "U Mad Bro?" game, a moment that launched Sherman into the greater national consciousness and surely infuriated Brady (even if he'll never admit it). Expect both players to be asked about their shared history in the relentless manner that's unique to Super Bowl week.

 

Your suggestions, comments and/or questions/concerns regarding my Blogs are appreciated. Call the Benchwarmers 361-560-5397 weekdays, Mondays thru Fridays, 3-6 p.m. or contact me.  Phone: 361-949-7681 Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Have Fun!!! -30-

 

 

 

 

 

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Reasons Americans Dislike Soccer

Dotson’s Note: Perhaps many of you do not remember, but the United States hosted the Men’s World Cup in 1994.  The matches were played in the Rose Bowl, Pontiac Silverdome, Stanford Stadium, Giants Stadium, Citrus Bowl, Soldiers Field, Cotton Bowl, Foxboro Stadium & RFK Stadium. The primary international broadcast centers were Los Angeles, California and Dallas, Texas. Since I was working with the Cotton Bowl at the time, I was very involved in many aspects of the tournament and learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about soccer. Here are some of the happenings that stand out in my and others’ memory.

The Group A match between the United States and Switzerland was the first ever to take place indoors, played under the roof at the Pontiac Silverdome. Victories against Colombia and the United States (in front of a crowd of 93,869*) were enough to see Romania through as group winners, despite a 4–1 hammering by Switzerland in between. The magnitude of that victory allowed Switzerland to move ahead of the United States on goal difference, although the hosts qualified for the second round as one of the best third-placed teams. Switzerland's 4-1 victory over Romania came nearly 40 years to the date of Switzerland's last World Cup victory, which was June 23, 1954 and that was also a 4-1 victory over Italy. The United States' 2-1 victory over Colombia was its first World Cup victory since June 29, 1950 when it upset England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. Following the tournament, Colombian defender Andres Escobar was shot dead on his return to Colombia, after his own goal had contributed to his country's elimination. After all…it’s only a game!

We don’t like Soccer Hooligans

The World Cup just finished...why doesn't much of America really care? The rest of the world seems to find the game wildly exciting, yet most Americans are indifferent at best, and downright loathe the game at worst, even though the media and a few soccer enthusiasts keep trying to convert us.  So why is that?   

First off, even the terminology is confusing to us Americans. The game isn't played on a “field”… for us dummies it’s really called "the pitch." We are told that “goalies” play hockey, that guy in front of the net picking his nose for most of the match is the "keeper." Also it seems silly that women worldwide immediately love all soccer players; if Quasimodo were a professional soccer player in Europe, even he would have a chance as a supermodel.

 

We Don't Know Any Songs    

 Watch any soccer game not being played in America, and you will surely notice the background track of fans loudly singing, chanting, and generally having a giant party in the stands. This doesn't happen just during important junctures of the game…it is nonstop. The rest of the world has learned that if you show up and just sit there and watch the game, the boredom will drive you to pluck out your own eyeballs to relieve the pain of watching.

 

By contrast, as an English friend of mine once brought to my attention, the only thing American fans can do in unison is chant "U-S-A" or "DE-FENSE". This lack of repertoire severely hampers our ability to actually enjoy attending a soccer game. And God knows there's no joy in actually watching the damn thing!

In a sport where a goal is scored about as often as a grand slam is hit in baseball, there is a lot of down time between moments of excitement. Without some other activity to keep things interesting, the experience can be akin to gathering to watch a chess match.

 

Soccer in America is a "Mom" sport

As soon as the moniker of "soccer mom" was created, all hope of soccer every becoming meaningful in the United States ceased to exist. There is no other way to drive exuberant young males trying to impress girls away than to have them playing a game that's name is directly associated with suburban housewives.

 

To show you how damaging this actually is, just look what happened to the sport of hockey after Sarah Palin referred to herself as a "hockey mom." Hockey is about the toughest damn sport in the world, kind of like MMA on the ice, except they get to carry sticks with them. Despite this, the sport was set back 50 years in the US when Palin made her little quip. Don't believe me? Here's the proof…they're playing games outside now! Some may say it's a marketing thing, but the fact is, even hockey has had to work hard to regain the tough guy image, resorting to playing outside in the dead of winter just to prove they're REAL men.

 

Soccer just doesn't have the same tradition of toughness as hockey. The thought of the team showing up in mom's minivan does nothing to further the cause. Throw in all the moms who coach, thinking soccer is a game that "soccer moms" invented, and what you have is a breed of players who are more interested in making sure their socks match their headbands than they do in playing the game. While a few manage to succeed through sheer intestinal fortitude, the majority that emerge from mom leagues and keep playing the game only do so after deciding they enjoy their soccer games more than their ballet classes.

Soccer Had Its Chance, and Missed It: In 1999, the Women's World Cup was held in the United States. Of course no one cared about this any more than they care about soccer in general, but during the title game, there was a moment that could have forever changed the course of soccer in the US.

 

 

During the final game, after scoring the winning goal, Brandie Chastain dropped to her knees and peeled off her shirt. Since this was a soccer game, and a women's soccer game at that, the chances that any heterosexual males over the age of 10 were watching are mind-bogglingly low. However, it was an opportunity, maybe the only opportunity, to turn the tide for all those poor little boys of soccer moms who are barreling down a path towards pink polo shirts and having a "partner" instead of a wife.

In fact, the chance existed, though slight as it may have been that the removal of Brandie's shirt could bring a whole new fan base to soccer. Sure, many of those fans would have been the creepy guys that eat dinner at the strip club, but at this point I'm thinking soccer will be grateful for even these guys.

Unfortunately, what was revealed when Brandi's shirt came over her head was a sports bra, not a nice pair of firm athletic tata's. Perhaps those with perverted minds are the only ones that would think a woman would run all over the place for 90 minutes while she flapped free, but if you're going to rip your shirt off, do it to expose something! So while men took the opportunity to catch a peak of the sports bra, it wasn't enough to generate the interest needed to watch another game. Men can watch girls in sports bra's jog down the street any day of the week.

*At the time this was the record attendance at a World Cup match.

 

Dotson’s Note: Did you/enjoy the World Cup?  Your comments regarding this and/or any other Benchwarmers Blog will be greatly appreciated. Please call the Benchwarmers between 3 and 6 PM weekdays at 361-560-5397 or call or Email Dotson.  Phone: 361-949-7681  Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

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Dotson’s Note: Since the NBA play-offs began, I have had many Emails, phone calls and conversations questioning me about the National Basketball Association’s instant replay rules. The following is a condensed version of the instant replay rules. If you would like to have a complete copy, please let me know and I will Email you a copy.

NBA Instant Replay (automatic) “Triggers”:

Review of Last Second Field Goals: Since the 2002-03 season, referees have reviewed all made shots that clear the net with no time remaining on the clock (0:00). This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score.  During the review, referees use video to confirm, if they can, whether the game clock expired before the ball left the shooter's hand.

Review of Last Second Fouls: Since the 2002-03 season, referees have reviewed all called fouls that occur with no time remaining on the clock (0:00). This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score.  During the review, referees use video to confirm, if they can, whether the game clock expired before the foul occurred. If the foul is committed on or by a player in the act of shooting, referees will also determine whether the shooter released the ball prior to the expiration of time on the game clock if the foul occurred after the expiration of time.

Review of Flagrant Fouls: Since the 2012-13 season, referees have reviewed all Flagrant Foul calls any time a flagrant foul call is made. (Prior to this, since 2007-08, referees would call either a Flagrant Foul 1 or 2 on the floor and review only Flagrant 2 calls.) This is an automatic trigger and referees are required to conduct the review regardless of score and time remaining. The definition for a flagrant foul is:

  • Flagrant Foul Penalty 1: Unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent
  • Flagrant Foul Penalty 2: Unnecessary and excessive contact committed by a player against an opponent

The officials can also review whether any other players committed unsportsmanlike acts or unnecessary contact immediately prior to and/or immediately following the calling of the Flagrant Foul.

Review of Player Altercations: Since the 2007-08 season, referees have reviewed all Player Altercations, which for replay purposes means any situation where:

  • Two or more players are engaged in a fight or a hostile physical interaction that is not part of normal basketball play and that does not immediately resolve by itself or with the intervention of game officials or players, or
  • A player is ejected from the game for committing a hostile act against another player, for example, when a player intentionally or recklessly harms or attempts to harm another player with a punch, elbow, kick or blow to the head.

Review of Clock Malfunctions: Since the 2008-09 season, referees have reviewed all plays in which they have reasonable certainty the game clock malfunctioned and it continued to run to 0:00 or should have run to 0:00. If referees are reasonably certain there was a clock malfunction in this situation, they use video in an attempt to determine the amount of time (if any) that should be on the game clock. If there was a successful field goal on the play, they will also try to determine if the shot left the shooter's hand before the expiration of actual time.

Review of Two-Point/Three-Point Field Goal Attempts or Fouls: Since the 2008-09 season, referees have reviewed all situations in which officials are not reasonably certain whether a successful field goal was scored correctly as a 2-point or 3-point field goal or, in the case of a called shooting foul, whether the player was attempting a 2-point or 3-point field goal.

 

NBA INSTANT REPLAY Optional situations:

Review of Out-of-Bounds Plays: Since the 2009-10 season, referees have reviewed any out-of-bounds play that occurs in the last two minutes of the fourth quarter and during overtime when they are not reasonably certain as to which player caused the ball to go out-of-bounds.

Review of Shot-Clock Violations: Since the 2009-10 season, referees have reviewed plays in which they were not reasonably certain whether or not a 24-second violation occurred on a made basket or prior to a foul being called. When referees are not reasonably certain if a 24-second violation occurred before a made basket or a foul, they use replay to determine whether the 24-second clock expired.

Review of Clear-Path-To-The Basket-Fouls: Since the 2010-11 season, officials can use replay if they are not reasonably certain that a called clear-path-to-the-basket foul (clear-path foul) actually met all of the criteria of the rule.

Review of Correct Free Throw Shooter: Since the 2010-11 season, referees have used replay when they are not reasonably certain which player should attempt free throws on a called foul.

Review of 24-Second Shot Clock Reset: Since the 2010-11 season, officials have reviewed situations where they were not reasonably certain whether the ball actually touched the rim and are therefore unsure if the shot clock was (or was not) reset properly. This type of replay is only conducted in the last two minutes of the 4th period and during all of overtime.

Restricted Area Block/Charge Review: Since the 2012-13 season, referees have reviewed all block/charge calls when they are not reasonably certain as to whether the defender was inside or outside of the restricted area. Restricted area replays are conducted only during the last two minutes of the fourth period and during all of overtime

Goal Tending/Basket Interference Review: Since the 2012-13 season, referees have reviewed situations in which they are not reasonably certain whether a goaltending or basket interference violation was called correctly during the last two minutes of the fourth period and during all of overtime. Possible goaltending violations that were not called are not reviewable.

Off-Ball Foul Timing Review: Since the 2013-14 season, referees have used video to review situations in which they are not reasonably certain whether a player without the ball was fouled prior to (a) his teammate beginning his shooting motion on a successful basket or (b) his teammate releasing the ball on a throw-in.

Dotson’s Note: Your comments regarding this and/or any other Moon Sports article will be greatly appreciated. Please call the Benchwarmers between 3 and 6 PM weekdays at 361-560-5397 or call or Email Dotson.  Phone: 361-949-7681  Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Have Fun !!!

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March Madness (NCAA Basketball Championship Tournament)

Dotson’s note:  I was an active participant in the spectacle for 22 years.  That participation included all sorts of activities, including being at  22 years of “final four” games.  I have been asked many times regarding the special happenings that I remember during this almost quarter century of high level college basketball. There are many things that stand out, I am thinking seriously about writing a book. In the meantime, the following are updates to prepare you for the spectacle. To me, the “Final Four” is a bigger happening than the “Super Bowl.” Here are a couple of items of interest about the “2014 Big Dance.”

 

Updates for the 2014 “Big Dance.”

“Warren Buffett Offers $1 Billion for Perfect March Madness Bracket”

This was the headline story before the tournament started. As of 8 PM Friday, March 22, 2014 there were zero brackets left that had a chance to win.  Too bad, wait until next year…what a great marketing gimmick by “Quicken Loans.”

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett had tongues wagging about basketball. The billionaire, who ranks 4th on Forbes list of top billionaires, with an estimated worth of $53 billion, made you an offer: he’ll give you $1 billion for a perfect March Madness bracket. The 1 billion payoff was guaranteed by “Quicken Loans.” If you would like to take a look at the website here is the link: http://www.quickenloans.com/press-room/2014/quicken-loans-partners-with-yahoo-sports-to-launch-its-billion-dollar-bracket-challenge

I sent in my bracket, hope you did also. I decided that after I won, I would take the $500 Million cash payout.  After collecting, I was planning the best “hoop it up party,” the Island (North Padre) has ever seen.  I suggested that if I didn’t win and you did, I expected an invitation from you to your party. I was OK on the “First Four,” but in the “First Round” when Ohio State lost to Dayton I was gone.  How far did you get?
 

 

 

NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship

2014 big dance pic 2 AT&T

AT&T Stadium-Arlington, TX (Jerry World)

The NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship is a single-elimination tournament played each spring in the United States, currently featuring 68 college basketball teams, to determine the national championship of the major college basketball teams. The tournament, organized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), was created during 1939 by the National Association of Basketball Coaches, and was the idea of Ohio State University coach Harold Olsen. Played mostly during March, it is known informally as March Madness or the Big Dance, and has become one of the most famous annual sporting events in the United States. The NCAA has credited Bob Walsh of the Seattle Organizing Committee for starting the March Madness celebration during 1984. Peggy & I were there…great party!

The tournament teams include champions from 32 Division I conferences (which receive automatic bids), and 36 teams which are awarded at-large berths. These "at-large" teams are chosen by an NCAA selection committee in a nationally televised event on the Sunday preceding the First Four play-in tournament, currently held in Dayton, Ohio, and dubbed “Selection Sunday”. I participated in this meeting for a number of years…talk about pressure!

The 68 teams are divided into four regions and organized into a single elimination "bracket", which predetermines, when a team wins a game, which team it will face next. Each team is "seeded", or ranked, within its region. After an initial four games between eight lower-ranked teams, the tournament occurs during the course of three weekends, at pre-selected neutral sites around the United States. Lower-ranked teams are placed in the bracket against higher ranked teams. Each weekend eliminates three quarters of the teams, from a round of 64, to a "Sweet Sixteen", and for the last weekend of the Tournament a Final Four; the Final Four will be played the first weekend in April. These four teams, one from each region, then compete in one location for the national championship, with the championship played April 7th.  The next round (the Sweet Sixteen) starts Thursday, March 27th. Don’t miss a dribble; stay glued to both your radio & TV.

See You in Arlington-April 5th & 7th, 2014

Your comments regarding the 2014 “Big Dance” will be greatly appreciated.  Please call the Benchwarmers between 3 and 6 PM weekdays at 361-560-5397 or call or Email Dotson.  Phone: 361-949-7681  Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Hang in there!

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Dotson’s Note: On Wednesday February 5th around 5 p.m. ET, a soon-to-be-controversial NCAA press release hit the Internet. It detailed two changes proposed by the Football Rules Committee following their two-day meeting this week in Indianapolis. The headline: "Football Rules Committee Slightly Adjusts Targeting Rule, Defensive Substitution." College football coaches throughout the country immediately took sides and started heated discussions about the change. I was a member of the Editorial Committee for 18 years and have been involved in NCAA Football rules for more than 60 years and have never heard so much flak from coaches regarding a rules change.  It appears that the committee members may have started a fire storm, which caused the “Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP)” to disapprove the change.

 

Coaches express outrage over proposed no-huddle rule change



Many coaches are saying there is nothing slight about the radical "10-second rule" for defensive substitutions that the committee put forward for approval. The proposal -- in which offenses would be prevented from snapping the ball on a given play until the 40-second clock hits 29 seconds (excluding the last two minutes of a half) -- is a direct assault on the no-huddle, hurry-up offenses that are all the rage in college football.

 



Troy Calhoun-Head Football Coach-Air Force Academy

Chair-NCAA Football Rules Committee

Across the country, coaches who preach on behalf of those offenses were incredulous.

"Is this real?" one coach texted shortly after the news broke. "I thought it was a joke. No way that passes." It's not a joke. But it would compel officials to call a delay of game penalty on a team for moving too fast

.

"It's crazy," said Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury. "College football is the pinnacle of success right now. How do you even mess with that? It would slow the game down. It wouldn't be as fun for the fans."

 

"The 10-second rule is like asking basketball to take away the shot clock - Boring!" Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy tweeted Thursday. "It's like asking a blitzing linebacker to raise his hand."

 

The proposal apparently blindsided the coaching industry. Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, who serves on the board of the American Football Coaches Association, told the AP that the subject never came up at the association's annual convention in January. But the impetus behind the proposal -- which the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel will consider for approval March 6 -- is hardly a surprise.

 

Two prominent coaches, Alabama's Nick Saban and Arkansas' Bret Bielema -- both of whom happen to run more traditional, slow-paced offenses -- had voiced public concerns in the past about possible player-safety risks resulting from defenses' inability to substitute against hurry-up offenses. Bielema even disclosed last summer that during his own term on the Football Rules Committee he'd proposed a 15-second substitution period after every first down.

Bret Bielema-Head Football Coach-University of Arkansas

It's no coincidence that the same panel would end up authoring a similar proposal under the same purported pretense. The proposal is being billed solely as an issue of player safety, and in fact, because this is a "non-rule change" year for the committee, the only way it can put something forward is if it is a tweak to an existing rule (like targeting) or if there's an athlete safety concern.

According to its release, the NCAA's Committee on Competitive Safeguards and Medical Aspects of Sports -- comprised of team physicians and trainers -- requested that "sport rules committees review substitution rules in regards to player safety."

 

“You want to be able to have varied [offensive] styles, but that can't be the driver [of rules]," said Air Force coach and committee chairman Troy Calhoun. "The question that was brought up by medical people and athletic trainers -- is there a way for a defensive player to get off the field? That was the single thing that was brought up."

The hurry-up coaches aren't buying it. "That's b.s. by those guys," said Kingsbury. Feeding their paranoia, Calhoun confirmed to SI.com that both Bielema (as a non-voting member) and Saban (who spoke during a 90-minute open "rules discussion" period) traveled to Indianapolis for the meetings.

 

In 2012, Saban memorably said of hurry-up offenses, "Is this what we want football to be?" Last season his offense ranked 116th out of 125 FBS teams in plays run per game (65.9). Bielema, who as the coach at Wisconsin described his old-school style of offense as "real American football," oversaw an Arkansas offense that ranked 121st (64.7).

Kevin Sumlin-Head Football Coach-Texas A&M

 

Meanwhile, their division, the SEC West, now includes three hurry-up proponents, Auburn's Gus Malzahn, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin and Ole Miss' Hugh Freeze. Saban's Crimson Tide lost to A&M in 2012 and Auburn last season.

 

"The thing that's most shameful about this is it's a clear manipulation, through self-interest, by people who don't want to coach within the parameters where strategy and ingenuity [have] taken the game," said Washington State coach Mike Leach. "So now they want to manipulate the rules, and in needing an excuse to do this, they try to hide behind player safety. It's ridiculous."

 

It was reported that Oklahoma State's Mike Gundy went on a Twitter rant over rule changes.

 

Calhoun noted that his Air Force teams have "never huddled" during his seven-year tenure (though his team ranked 104th in plays per game last year). "We knew you'd ask," he said about the presence at the meeting of Bielema and Saban before insisting that "the strategic part of it isn't the real driver [behind the proposal]."

 

"There's a safety concern about getting a defensive player off the field," he said. "How do you do it for a guy who is out there for seven, eight, nine plays in a row, especially if it's a kid you have to manage that maybe has a sickle cell trait or asthma. How do you substitute for that player? There are very few [special cases], but if that one player is involved, it's a concern."

Of course, as Calhoun also noted, "One of the things you can do is create a turnover on first or second down, force a three-and-out or use a timeout."

 

Several concussion researchers were asked whether the player safety concerns of Saban and Bielema held any merit. The researchers universally said yes, primarily pointing to the fact that when players are fatigued their tackling and blocking technique gets worse, which puts them at increased injury risk. However, they also conceded that there has been no authoritative study to quantify their assertion and thus it would be premature to enact any dramatic rules changes.

 

"Is there any hard data, or just somebody saying that?" Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said "If there was big concern with that, wouldn't the teams that practice fast be concerned with it? We don't have any more injuries because we practice fast."

 

The only research cited in the committee's proposal "indicated that teams with fast-paced, no-huddle offenses rarely snap the ball with 30 seconds or more on the play clock." That of course led to more scoffing by the hurry-up coaches.

 

"If it's only a small percentage of teams that it would affect, then why do it?" said Baylor's Art Briles. "If the large percentage are good with the way things are then leave them alone."

But it's not the actual time between snaps that most taxes opposing defensive coordinators. The mere threat of the offense snapping the ball quickly prevents them from swapping players in and out, be it for fear of garnering a substitution penalty or simply not getting lined up in time. That inability to adjust frustrates coaches like Saban, whose complex defenses are built in part on situational packages involving specific players.

 

"You can't play specialty third-down stuff," Saban told a reporter last September. "You can't hardly scheme anything. The most important thing is to get the call so the guys can get lined up, and it's got to be a simple call. The offense kind of knows what you're doing."

 

Hurry-up proponents counter that limiting substitutions is no more advantageous to the offense than a defense's ability to move before the snap and disguise blitzes.

 

"Offenses don't have any control over what defensive players they play against, so why all of a sudden are we giving defenses control over what offensive players they're facing?" said Leach. "If it's strictly about payer safety, then let's not blitz and let's not tackle quarterbacks and let's all play flag football."

 

The group that will ultimately decide the rule's fate, the Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP), is comprised entirely of administrators, is not sport-specific and, unlike with broader NCAA legislation, does not invoke a formal process for feedback or overrides by the membership.

 

Given the uproar and the disruption a rule change would cause for hurry-up teams, most of whom practice at a more frenetic pace than they play, their coaches aren't likely to sit idly by and watch the rule pass. And PROP won't likely be oblivious to the criticism. One of its members is Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, whose conference includes several hurry-up proponents, including Leach and Rodriguez. Scott declined comment on Thursday due to his involvement on the committee.

 

But even if this rule doesn't pass, the discussion likely won't go away. Football is under unprecedented scrutiny over player-safety issues, with the NCAA currently facing myriad concussion lawsuits. If the rules committee and the NCAA's medical committee are truly concerned about hurry-up offenses the logical next step would be to launch a study this coming season to produce the hard data that the NCAA is currently lacking.

The committee's off-year requirement "gives PROP an easy out where they can say the safety link has not been well established enough," said Infante. "They can say, if you want to do this, come back next year when it's the normal year to do rule changes."

 

Or, the rule will pass, much to the delight of Saban and Bielema, and much to the chagrin of hurry-up coaches.

 

"It's irrational at every level, nothing about it makes sense," said Leach. "I don't know why we're compelled to constantly change rules in America's most successful game. We should think about how to reduce the football rulebook to a pamphlet from the Encyclopedia Britannica."

 

Coaches and Athletic Directors from NCAA are the voting members of the Rules Committee, this “brouhaha” may be the final straw that causes a split in the NCAA. Your comments pro & con will be greatly appreciated.  Please call the Benchwarmers between 4 and 6 PM weekdays at 361-560-5397 or call or Email Dotson.  Phone: 361-949-7681  Cell: 530-748-8475 Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

 

Hang in there!

 -30-

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NFL Keeps A Close Eye On Its Product From The Command Center

Dotson’s note: During the football season I received many calls, texts & Emails asking questions regarding what goes on during games at the NFL offices in New York.  The following is an insight of game day operations in the NFL “Command Center.” In some circles it is better known as “The Hot Room.”

 

Corry Roush, left, monitors one of many NFL games at the league’s control room in Manhattan on Sunday, October 20, 2013.(Pioneer Press: Ben Garvin)

Corry Roush, left, monitors one of many NFL games at the league's control room in Manhattan on a Sunday during the 2013 regular season

 

Shortly  after 1 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon during the 2013 season, on the fifth floor of the NFL's New York Park Avenue headquarters, eight games are on 42 television screens surrounding a glass-enclosed command center.

Vice president of officiating Dean Blandino and former referee Alberto Riveron hover over a dozen casually dressed subordinates, mostly guys in their 20s and 30s snacking on tacos and chicken fingers, hunched over keyboards. Abbreviated shouts pierce the cacophony of broadcasters on surround sound, chronicling the resumption of an NFL week of games right down to the minute.

"Kickoff in Jacksonville!"

"Oh-two ..."

"Kick in Atlanta!"

"Oh-three  ..."

Five of the games start one minute later than the 1:02 p.m. script, a minor lapse catalogued for future compliance.

The league scrutinizes every detail of its $9 billion product within these walls, where executives hardwired to stadium crews and network officials in production trucks work to ensure game presentations adhere to its highest standard.

The command center, recently named in honor of my friend Art McNally “The Art McNally Hot Room,” was built in 2002 to identify and smooth out glitches in game operations. These observers document scoring plays, penalties, injuries, replay reviews, uniform violations ... "anything that's noteworthy about a game," says Jay Manahan, who manages the game-day staff.

The raw data are reviewed throughout the week to issue supplemental discipline such as fines or suspensions, explain controversial calls for coaches seeking rules clarifications and maintain consistent standards of enforcement.

Referees communicate with replay officials in press boxes, who are in contact with the command center in New York. Unlike the NHL, where replay officials in Toronto have authority to affirm or nullify scoring decisions made in arenas all over North America, NFL referees remain the ultimate arbiters when they emerge from underneath the hood.

Dean Blandino, vice president of officiating, monitors NFL games being played across the country from the NFL’s control room in Manhattan on Sunday,

Dean Blandino, vice president of officiating, keeps watch over NFL games being played across the country from the NFL's control room in Manhattan.

"Game operations problems or coach-to-player headsets are the extent to which we get involved," Blandino said.

"We listen to the announcers to make sure they're providing proper rules interpretations. They can give their opinions. That's not for us to dictate. But we want them to quote the rules right and with the proper clarification so people can put into the right context whatever major concern there is."

Blandino has spent his entire professional career in football officiating, joining the NFL after graduating in 1993 from Hofstra University. He also is an entrepreneur.

Blandino was an NFL instant replay official from 1999-2003 and founded his company, "Under the Hood," four years ago to provide training for football officiating clients from the NFL, Big Ten, Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences.

He returned to the NFL in 2012 as VP of officiating and also supervises the instant replay program. He is liaison to the competition committee, which authorizes rules changes, and is on the other end of the telephone on Mondays when aggrieved head coaches call to vent.

"We have an open-door policy that serves a formal review process," he said. "Coaches can send up to 10 plays via our website. They'll call with questions about a play. We'll clarify it or point out if their player was or was not called for a foul properly. There's a lot of situations we may disagree with on-field judgments. It certainly happens time to time."

Cathy Yancy, senior director of broadcasting, is seated at a conference table in the middle of the room. She faces a wall with 24 high-definition screens showing raw broadcast feeds from the game telecasts, the NFL Network's studio show and DirecTV's "Red Zone" feed.

She is responsible for making sure commercial breaks are taken at the right times and that teams provide player and coach access in compliance with contractual rights negotiated by television networks that have invested $27 billion in the NFL through 2022.

Yancy is the only woman in a room of two dozen men.

"I've spent my entire career in sports, so this is not at all unusual," she said. "I get paid to watch NFL games. I think there would be a lot of people who would be jealous about the job I have. It is fun.

Dean Blandino, vice president of officiating, monitors NFL games being played across the country from the league’s control room in Manhattan on

 

 It is stressful, especially on game days, especially as we get closer to when the early games are ending and the late games are starting -- when we call flexing and folding. We have to keep a really close eye on that."

Before the first commercial break, a big play erupts in the Panthers-Rams game.

"Interception Carolina, returned for a touchdown!" Jon Ferrari shouts from his viewing pod.

"Did he step out?" Riveron asks as he sidles up to the replays.

"He may have. No, he sidestepped it," Ferrari responds.

"Yeah, he was close," Riveron notes, confirming Captain Munnerlyn's 45-yard score.

During a lull in the broadcast, Ferrari talks about his job.

"You've just got to stay locked in on it, take it seriously," he said. "You're not watching it for pleasure; you're watching it for (quality control). I don't really think about it like I'm sitting in my living room."

This is Riveron's first season as an administrator after spending nine seasons on the field, four as a side judge and the past five as a referee. He still is wearing stripes: a purple-and-navy blue Polo shirt, with jeans and sneakers.

Riveron is Blandino's eyes and ears on the floor, distilling rules and enforcement for the observers to log. Three minutes after the Carolina touchdown, the scenario repeats at the Georgia Dome.

"Fumble Tampa, touchdown Atlanta!" exclaims Russell Giglio.

"Another defensive touchdown?" Riveron reacts somewhat surprised.

"Yep. Fumble by (Mike) Glennon on the sack. Clean recovery, no question about it," Giglio reports.

"It was clean?" Riveron quizzes.

"Yeah, good play by Atlanta," Giglio says.

"Yep," Riveron confirms following replays. "He's clean."

With eight to 10 games typically scheduled early on Sundays, Blandino needs to keep his head on a swivel.

"It's fun, but it's also stressful. You want everything to go smoothly. We're just prepared for everything," he said.

Such as two interception returns for touchdowns and replay reviews on top of each other?

"Especially in the 1 o'clock window, you can have multiple things going on," he said. "It's a little unusual to have two interceptions returned for a touchdown -- back to back -- but that can happen when you have eight games going on."

Suddenly there is a rustle in the Lions-Bengals pod.

"Big play in Detroit, touchdown Cincinnati -- 82 yards!" announces Troy Somero.

Bengals receiver A.J. Green has just hauled in a scoring pass from Andy Dalton at Ford Field. No flags. No controversy. Cincinnati leads 7-0.

But there is a small glitch on FOX's broadcast.

The clock is malfunctioning on the screen graphic. Yancy is on the telephone with stadium officials in Detroit.

"The clock is working from the stadium, but the feed to the truck is out," she said after hanging up. "They put a camera on the stadium clock there, which is kind of creative."

Manahan is Blandino's field general in the minutia of regulations that not only govern the competition but how players can act and dress on the field.

Moments before kickoff he leads a video tutorial on IHRs -- shorthand for involuntary helmet removal -- cuing up an instance in which St. Louis Rams left tackle Jake Long violated Section 3, Article 1, Subset H.

"Right there," Manahan says, freeze-framing the infraction. "Write that down please."

Next Manahan plays a clip from an earlier Arizona-San Francisco game in which a FOX sideline microphone broadcast a slew of profanities, a discretion that draws Yancy's ire.

"If the mic is on for an extended period, please let Cathy know so we can make a note of it," he says before wrapping up his pregame speech.

"Watch your games. Watch your replays. Kickoff's in two minutes."

Your thoughts/questions/concerns are welcome, please call the Benchwarmers (ESPN 1440 Keys) 361-560-5397361-560-5397361-560-5, (Mondays through Fridays 4-6 pm) or Dotson (361-949-7681361-949-7681361-94) or Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com     

Are we having fun yet?

 -30-

 

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Dotson’s note: I first met Mack Brown when he was an assistant coach at the University of Oklahoma. I had the privilege of getting to know him very well when he served on the NCAA Football Rules Committee while he was the Head Football Coach at the University of North Carolina.  He is one of the very few college football coaches who kept his promises to the players he recruited. When a player was injured and could not play Coach Brown kept him on scholarship. The following are some facts of which you may not be aware.

The storied tenure of University of Texas head football coach Mack Brown will end at the conclusion of this season. Brown announced Saturday he will step down from his position following the Valero Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3d/Mack_Brown_Germany.jpg/200px-Mack_Brown_Germany.jpg

Mack Brown visiting a US military hospital in Germany

 

 

 

Outside of football

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/8c/Sally_Brown_Fort_Hood_April_29%2C_2009.jpg/110px-Sally_Brown_Fort_Hood_April_29%2C_2009.jpg

 

Brown's wife, Sally, in April 2009

Mack Brown is married to his wife, Sally. They have 4 children: Matt Jessee, Katherine Ryan, Barbara Wilson, and Chris Jessee.

In Austin, the Browns are active in community affairs, serving as honorary co-chairpersons of the Capital Campaign for the Helping Hands of Austin. The Browns have been instrumental in the opening of The Rise School of Austin (an early childhood education program that integrates children who have disabilities with their typically developing peers) and serve on the school's Board of Directors. They lent their name along with legendary UT QB James Street to the First Annual James Street/Mack Brown Golf Tournament benefiting The Rise School.

The Browns have endorsed a new Texas license plate, which is designed to raise public awareness for child abuse and neglect and the need for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) volunteers. After the Aggie Bonfire tragedy at Texas A&M in 1999, the couple initiated a blood drive on the UT campus that attracted more than 250 blood donors.

In October 2006, Mack Brown made a cameo appearance in the television pilot for Friday Night Lights. Early in the show, a resident is heard to say "Who does Coach Taylor think he is? Mack Brown? He's no Mack Brown." Later in the pilot, the real Mack Brown plays the role of a local football booster quizzing high school coach Eric Taylor on his pre-game preparation.

 He appears in commercials for College Game Day where he sings "Texas Fight" with the Game Day crew; when Kirk Herbstreit freestyles the song; Brown looks at Herbstreit sternly and says "We don't freestyle 'Texas Fight,' big boy."

 

 

Inside Football

One of the most respected coaches in the college game, Brown has served on numerous national committees, including currently serving as president of the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA), which he was named in January 2013. Brown also has served on the AFCA Ethics Committee and the AFCA Public Relations Committee. He has been a member of the NCAA Football Rules Committee and the NCAA Football Issues Committee. He has been chairman of the Football Coaches' Committee and a member of the Board of Directors of the College Football Association. He has been invited to coach in five postseason all-star games, including the Japan Bowl, Hula Bowl (twice) and East-West Shrine Game (twice).

One of just two active coaches in the nation to reach the 225-victory plateau, Brown is in his 16th season at UT with a mark of 158-47 (.771). His victory total with the Longhorns is second only to legendary coach Darrell K Royal (167-47-5 record from 1957-76).

Texas somewhat resembled a dumpster fire the decade leading up to the Mack Brown era, but Brown extinguished the blaze.

He honored the celebrated tradition of Texas football and reunited legendary coach Darrell Royal—who was stiff-armed by McWilliams and Mackovic—with the program. Brown also rekindled the union with the Texas lettermen by organizing the annual Mike Campbell Letterman's Golf Tournament and welcomed lettermen to attend practice.

http://img.bleacherreport.net/img-stag/article/media_slots/photos/001/257/387/hi-res-343314-sep-1998-head-coach-mack-brown-of-the-texas-longhorns_crop_exact.jpg?w=340&h=226&q=85

Brown in 1998.

One of Brown's most significant moves was rebuilding the relationship with Texas high school football coaches, a move that has helped the Longhorns bolster their in-state recruiting throughout his 16-year tenure.

"Mack Brown won over the Texas high school coaches early in his career," said McNeil High School coach Jack Estes. "Mack never acts like he is better than you. He has done things that us high school coaches haven't been able to do. But, out of all of the college coaches I have talked to in my career, Mack makes me feel more like an equal than anyone else."

Brown brought dignity back to Texas and reminded fans to come early, be loud, stay late and wear burnt orange with pride.  All of the time and legwork spent rebuilding Texas' brand paid off as the Longhorns returned to dominance on the gridiron.

"I love The University of Texas, all of its supporters, the great fans and everyone that played and coached here," Brown said. "I can't thank (former athletics director) DeLoss Dodds enough for bringing our family here, and (UT president) Bill Powers and the administration for supporting us at a place where I have made lifelong friendships. It is the best coaching job and the premier football program in America. I sincerely want it to get back to the top and that's why I am stepping down after the bowl game. I hope with some new energy, we can get this thing rolling again."


Dotson’s note: Coach Brown will be missed by all those who participate in football at every level in Texas. Your thoughts/concerns are welcome, please call the Benchwarmers (ESPN 1440 Keys) 361-560-5397, (Mondays through Fridays 4-6 pm) or Dotson (361-949-7681) or Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com     

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Do You Think You Could Keep Your “Cool?”

Dotson’s Note: A number of my friends who work or have worked as on-the-field officials and supervisors for the NFL contributed their thoughts for this factual account of what actually happens (officiating wise) in the NFL. I have spent many hours with Art McNally and Mike Pereira discussing and setting up programs for training officials at all levels. Art & Mike are truly gurus in the football officiating world.

If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you.

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you

 you are a man…’If…Rudyard Kipling’

Kipling was never a professional or amateur football official, but just about every sports official claims that famous poem as a motto.  Each week, football officials from Pop Warner to the NFL endure screaming histrionics that would get the offender kicked out of the neighborhood bar or get that person hauled in front of human resources at their work for discipline.  When someone screams at you or insults you what is your first reaction?  You usually want to match your counterpart scream for scream and cuss word for cuss word.  NFL officials are not allowed to do that.  In fact, if an NFL official does make it habit to scream and cuss at a player or coach, they will soon be out of a job.

This happens when you are concentrating your assignment

It wasn’t always like this.  Back in the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s, it was common for NFL officials to verbally spar with coaches on the sideline.  In the book, The Third Team by Richard Lister, former official Al Jury commented, “You could get away with saying certain things to player and coaches that you can’t get away with now.  If one of them cussed you, you could cuss ‘em back.  But Art McNally didn’t like that.”

McNally is the NFL’s former officiating director, who, at age 90, still grades officiating film for the NFL. McNally instituted a kill-them-with-kindness policy in the 1970s.  Former NFL official, officiating assistant to Mike Pereira, and UFL supervisor of officials Larry Upson says, “Officials are trained to never lose their cool.  We’re not going to engage in arguments.”  Officials will answer a rules question or explain a call, but then turn a deaf ear to continued arguing.

Touchdown?

Upson says the NFL instructs officials not to penalize a player or coach for excessive arguing, unless it is something extremely flagrant or obvious.  If a player or coach calls an official a name, the official will turn to the coach or player and ask, in front of his team, “Are you talking to me?”  If the player or coach backs down and says they weren’t talking to the official, then the flag stays in the pocket.  On rare occasions when a player or coach goes over the line or is totally out of control the officials will flag the offender for unsportsmanlike conduct. Officials are not mandated to take special conflict resolution courses by the league.  ”It’s just passed down year-to-year from one official to the next. We’re trying to foster a good relationship with the players and coaches,” Upson explains.

McNally’s policy on not escalating arguments with coaches took some time to catch on.  There are many stories in The Third Team in which noted officials in the ’70s and ’80s had some pretty cutting retorts to coaches.  Upson even saw one of the veterans on his crew in the 1990s slow to adopt the diplomatic approach.  ”There was an umpire on my first crew and a famous coach who just hated each other with a passion.  They spent the whole game yelling at each other,” Upson remembers.

Today, any official who yells at or curses at a coach or player, or allows a coach to “get inside his head,” gets in big trouble.  ”You train yourself to not hear what they’re saying.  If you listen to them you lose concentration and take yourself right out of the play,” Upson says.  If an official listens to the coaches yell and work them for a call, it will cause them to lose face.  He adds, “If a coach keeps yelling for an offside call on a player who is an inch into the neutral zone, and the official finally calls it, that coach knows he owns that official for the rest of the game.”

College officials are trained like NFL officials when it comes to sideline conduct, so a NFL officiating candidate already has to have good people skills to get a look from the pros.  But, what happens when the NFL hires an official who makes great calls but has a fiery temper; or what about an official who makes great calls but is easily rattled by a coach who screams at him?  ”The NFL tries to pair up a strong, level-headed veteran official with an official who needs some help.  The referee can come over and warn a coach to behave himself, but the NFL wants the sideline officials to learn to handle situations themselves.  There are some ways to help out an official, but, if an official cannot control his emotions or if he lets a coach get to him, he will soon be weeded out of the league,” Upson comments.  

“It’s a lovely day for a football game”

So, the next time you see an NFL Films segment with a coach screaming at an official — Marv Leavy calling field judge Armen Terzain an “over-officious jerk,” or Sam Wyche accusing an officiating crew of “home cookin’,” or Jerry Glanville telling Jim Daopoulos he’s “not for long”  — know that each official has spent decades honing his skills to tune out the insults and simply call the game.

Your comments are welcome: dlewis1@stx.rr.com  Phone: 361-949-7681  Cell: 530-748-8475

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Lightning causes many high school varsity games in the area to be suspended and/or cancelled.

Dotson’s Note: We had a very interesting night of football last Friday evening due to the thunderstorms in the area.  I have received many questions as to how the officials handle this kind of situation at a high school game. Of the 19 games scheduled by our area teams, 4 were played to completion, 15 were postponed, suspended and/or declared “No Contest.”  The referee is the final authority as to if and when the game will be suspended, for how long, and if the game will or will not be played later that same day. Of course, the referee discusses the matter with the coaches and school administrators before making his decisions. A Referee’s salute to Aaron for his yeomen’s service on last Friday’s scoreboard show. By tri/quad tasking he keep the listener’s up to date on the status of all of the games in the area. U DUN GUD!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lightning Strike at a Texas High School Stadium

 

Here’s an excerpt from the NCAA Football Rules Book and our instruction to the Referees.
The following specific lightning safety guidelines have been developed with
the assistance of lightning safety experts. Design your lightning safety plan to
consider local safety needs, weather patterns and thunderstorm types.
a. As a minimum, lightning safety experts strongly recommend that by the
time the monitor observes 30 seconds between seeing the lightning flash
and hearing its associated thunder, all individuals should have left the
athletics site and reached a safer structure or location.
b. Please note that thunder may be hard to hear if there is an athletic event
going on, particularly in stadiums with large crowds. Implement your
lightning safety plan accordingly.  After a game is suspended, it will be suspended for no less than 30 minutes and after that play shall not be resumed until there is no sound of thunder.  If lightening detectors are available they will be used to assist the Referee in making his determinations.

Referees’ Note: If you suspend your game and it is not resumed that date, you are to file an incident report with the Corpus Christi Football Chapter, the Texas Association of Sports Officials and the University Interscholastic League. The incident report form is available on the websites of the associations listed above.

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Dotson’s Note: Benchwarmer listeners and blog readers may not have heard of this, which is another inside story. 

Questions over NFL Doctor Cloud League’s Concussion Case

Former Jets team doctor Elliot Pellman, center, served as former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue's personal physician for nearly a decade -- even as Pellman led the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which shaped the NFL's concussion policies.

For years, Dr. Elliot Pellman has been a central figure in the NFL’s concussion crisis. As chairman of the league’s powerful research arm for more than a decade, Pellman led efforts to discredit independent scientists and presided over studies that portrayed concussions as minor injuries. His name appears 26 times in a lawsuit that contends the NFL concealed a link between football and brain damage.

But interviews and previously unpublished documents raise new questions about how Pellman — a Long Island rheumatologist with no previous expertise in brain research — came to wield so much authority over the NFL’s concussion program. Pellman, who remains employed by the league, served as Paul Tagliabue’s personal physician for nearly a decade, “Outside the Lines” and FRONTLINE have learned, while Pellman led the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury Committee, which shaped the NFL’s concussion policies. As New York Jets team doctor at the same time, Pellman put those policies into practice, often allowing concussed athletes back into games, according to players and other sources.

Tagliabue confirmed Wednesday he had been treated by Pellman, but not until 1997, three years after he had appointed Pellman to lead the concussion committee. “No personal medical care had anything to do with Dr. Pellman’s appointment to the committee in 1994,” the former commissioner said a statement released by NFL spokesman Greg Aiello. Aiello said Tagliabue saw Pellman “on occasion” as a patient for nine years until Tagliabue retired in 2006.

Pellman’s relationship with Tagliabue is certain to be explored thoroughly if the lawsuit filed by more than 4,800 retired players against the NFL moves forward. The league has distanced itself from the MTBI committee, asserting that its work was independent. The league also says its Head, Neck and Spine Committee, which replaced the MTBI group, operates independently of the league office. Last month, a judge ordered the two sides in the lawsuit to mediation to seek a settlement.

“This is something that should scare the hell out of the NFL as part of the concussion litigation,” Warren Zola, a sports law expert and assistant dean at Boston College, said when told of Pellman’s doctor-patient relationship with Tagliabue.

As a veteran team doctor with experience treating concussions, Pellman might have been qualified to lead the committee, but his relationship with Tagliabue could undermine his credibility, Zola said.

“As a matter of law, I’m not sure it would be all that damning,” Zola said. “But if the NFL were to find themselves in front of a jury, the jury would likely interpret this as evidence of negligence. It’s another rationale for the NFL to try to settle.”

In 2005, The New York Times revealed that Pellman embellished his credentials and failed to disclose that he attended medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico. Pellman acknowledged the mistakes, which he said were unintentional and primarily made by people he worked with.

Pellman, who joined the Jets in 1988, wrote in October 2003 that Tagliabue invited him to lead the NFL’s research after Pellman treated Al Toon, a Jets receiver forced into retirement in 1992 — the first in a series of prominent head injuries that led to players’ retiring prematurely. “The commissioner and I realized that we had many more questions than answers,” Pellman wrote in the medical journal “Neurosurgery.” “I was asked to mount an effort to answer these questions.”

Tagliabue retired in 2006. The following year, Pellman stepped down as chairman of the MTBI committee, although he was retained as a committee member. Pellman’s doctor-patient relationship with Tagliabue was known among some committee members.

Tagliabue, in his statement, said that he had “never heard of Elliot Pellman until his service as the Jets’ team physician came to my attention. His appointment to the committee was based on his experience in sports medicine, his work with the Jets that included Al Toon’s concussion-related retirement and Dennis Byrd’s spinal cord injury, and recommendations from Jets ownership and management.”

Pellman declined repeated interview requests for this story, but in a brief telephone exchange said information about whether he is or was Tagliabue’s doctor “is between myself and Paul Tagliabue. I can’t talk about that.”

In 2003, the NFL — with Pellman still in charge of the committee — published the first of 16 studies, many of which suggested concussions were not a significant problem in the NFL. Tagliabue had previously expressed skepticism about the seriousness of the league’s concussion problem.

Pellman was the lead author in nine of the studies. The league concluded repeatedly that no NFL player had suffered brain damage. In 2005, Pellman and two colleagues on the MTBI committee tried unsuccessfully to force the retraction of a peer-reviewed paper asserting that football gave Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame center Mike Webster brain damage. The demand was seen as highly unusual in a scientific journal because such actions are normally reserved for transgressions such as fraud or plagiarism.

The NFL has since reversed course, implementing rule changes that in some cases directly contradict the league’s earlier findings. Concussed players are no longer allowed to return in the same game, for example. In 2005, a Pellman-led NFL study concluded “many NFL players can be safely allowed to return to play on the day of injury after sustaining an MTBI.”

In December 2011, Pellman was described as the “NFL Medical Director” in an email from the co-chairman of the current concussion committee to its members. The email, was sent by Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, a Seattle neurosurgeon who identified Pellman as a co-sponsor of a committee meeting last year at the NFL’s New York headquarters along with Jeff Pash, the league’s executive vice president. Aiello said last week the discrepancy between Pellman’s titles boils down to “semantics.”

Pellman “does not establish policy,” Aiello said. “In conjunction with committee chairmen, he assists in the administration of the committees. This does not include the Head, Neck, and Spine Committee, which is administered by the co-chairs. … He does follow up with team doctors for information on significant injuries that he reports to our office.”

Aiello also pointed out that Pellman is an adviser to Major League Baseball and is the medical director of the New York Islanders. The website Sports on Earth first reported in May that Pellman still works for the NFL.

Some of Pellman’s colleagues seem uncertain why he retains his position.

Your thoughts/concerns are welcome, please call the Benchwarmers (ESPN 1440 Keys) 361-560-5397, (Mondays through Fridays 4-6 pm) or Dotson (361-949-7681) or Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com

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Dotson Lewis

Special to the Dotson’s Benchwarmers Blog

Pre-Season Insights for College Football Fans

Dotson’s Note #1: Before we get into a discussion about College Football nationally, A&M and UT are the two teams that engender the most conversation in this area; them we will discuss them first. If any Benchwarmers fans need a detailed report on their favorite team, let us know.

UT wins the toss so we will discuss where they stand, next week we see where A&M fits.

UT Quarterback, Junior David Ash

The Texas Longhorns faced a number of obstacles last season that left them at 9-4 with a momentous Alamo Bowl win in December. Now with some confidence behind them, the 'Horns are looking to tackle a 2013 year that has special written all over it.

Nineteen returning starters is enough cause for some enthusiasm, but uncertainties at certain positions may seriously weaken the foundation for a run at a conference title.

Exactly what else are the Longhorns facing as the summer weeks dwindle?

Strengths

The Running Game: The trio of Johnathan Gray, Malcolm Brown and Joe Bergeron figures to be one of the most potent backfields in all of college football. The talent is there, but now it is time for that talent to translate into production.

With such a diverse set of skills between the three, there may exist a delicate combination of touches that will support the development of quarterback David Ash and the passing game.

Much it of, however, will rely on the progression of an experienced offensive line that returns all five starters.

Health is the biggest concern. Brown missed five games in 2012, which opened the door for Gray to shine. But like a tripod, Texas' running game will need all three legs performing consistently or the entire project can suffer.

Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley: Apart from Davis and Shipley, Texas does not exactly exude a ton of confidence with its other wide receivers. With 11 receivers on scholarship, that leaves plenty of doors open for whomever wants to lunge at the opportunity.

The senior Davis and junior Shipley will have plenty on their plates.

Davis decided to return for his final season instead of jumping to the NFL, a decision that should prove critical for Texas' deep ball. Meanwhile, a fully healthy Shipley figures to provide that security-blanket aspect for Ash in what will be a crucial year for his development.

19 Returning Starters: Texas returns vast experience as it becomes one of the most veteran teams in the country in 2013.

Offensively, the 'Horns get everyone back. And, from a chemistry standpoint, those returning starts will be imperative for the growth of co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite's offense.

Defensively, Texas will have to replace all-conference performers in Alex Okafor and Kenny Vaccaro, efforts that will be heavily scrutinized during defensive coordinator Manny Diaz's third season in Austin.

Experience is not always everything, but inexperience ran wild throughout Texas' defense a season ago and we all know the result of that. Now, it is time to flip the script.

Speed: The Longhorns seemingly have been recruiting more speed lately and the offensive side of the ball figures to have plenty of it.

Although the departures of Marquise Goodwin and D.J. Monroe are huge losses in speed, the emergence of sophomore Daje Johnson could make us forget all about the long-goners.

Johnson impressed in his limited action as a freshman and he will look to inherit plenty of those speed-sweep and end-around looks as the go-to home run guy on offense.

Davis has shown his ability to get behind the opposing secondary, a tool that will be an essential component to Texas' offense this year.

Other notables include Johnathan Gray and up-and-coming wideout Kendall Sanders, who appears to be in line to secure the No. 3 spot behind Davis and Shipley.

Weaknesses

Defensive Safety: Losing Vaccaro in the secondary is a huge hit and now the Longhorns are looking at a duo of senior Adrian Phillips—who struggled incredibly in 2012—and junior Mykkele Thompson, who has just six starts under his belt.

If Phillips can bring more of his 2011 self rather than his 2012 self, Texas will be in much better shape. But that is a big if.

The back end figures to be one of the more heavily scrutinized positions early on.

Linebacker Shortage: It is no secret that Texas had its biggest problem at linebacker last season, but the return of Jordan Hicks off of injury as well as the emergence of at least one other has generated some encouragement heading into the year.

Still, the flak coming from the worst statistical defensive season in Texas football history has issued plenty of concern.

Will Hicks come back as the difference-maker he was once projected to be? Is Peter Jinkens, who started three games in 2012, the real deal or was it some fixation?

How will Steve Edmond respond after a very disappointing season? Can Dalton Santos brew enough competition to provide a much-improved middle linebacker front?

Texas can squash all of the negative talk quickly with strong play from its linebackers and it is all a wait-and-see type of project right now.

Receivers Ranks Thin: Texas' depth beyond Davis and Shipley is laughable. The numbers are there with 11 receivers, but the consistency in performance is not.

Sophomores Kendall Sanders and Cayleb Jones appear to be the top underclassmen, but both have had off-the-field issues that have them suspended for the season opener. Marcus Johnson, however, is not far behind them.

Bryant Jackson, John Harris and Miles Onyegbule are the veteran upperclassmen, but their production has been stymied by injuries or the inability to perform consistently.

Can any of the three keep healthy enough to cash in?

Jake Oliver, Montrel Meander and Jacorey Warrick fill out the rest of the group as true freshmen, but the realistic expectations for this year have to be slim.

At the end of the day, Texas cannot be comfortable with just two proven options at receiver.

Tight End needed: Junior college transfer Geoff Swaim could be making a push for the top job now that sophomore M.J. McFarland is recovering from a knee injury. Regardless, the Longhorns will have to see production instead of just imagining it.

Junior Greg Daniels is the only other tight end on the roster, but his body of work does not exactly scream production, either.

Generated by  IJG JPEG Library

The Bottom Line:

Head Coach Mack Brown is on the hot seat, he has plenty to work with—good and bad.

But if Texas can hone in on what it already has going strong while improving on its weaknesses, then 2013 will be a great ride to the end.

Just as the players in college football present a carousel of talent, the coaches have their own circus rides that can create waves throughout the sport.

The Texas Longhorns enter year No. 3 of a rebuild that started following their 5-7 disaster in 2010. As one of the most experienced teams in the country, a near 180-degree switch from a season ago, Texas is on the brink of a true resurgence.

But just as success—in the form of a conference title and beyond—will re-establish the 'Horns as a top program, anything close to mediocrity or stagnation could signal the end for Mack Brown.

Defensive coordinator Manny Diaz is definitely in a make-or-break season for his job, for reasons well endured.

Dotson’s Note #2: Had I known when I wrote the foregoing, of all of the brewhaha about Johnny Football’s escapades during the last few days, I would have fixed it so that A&M won the toss. Be ready for next week; hope we don’t run out of space.

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Dotson Lewis Benchwarmers Blog

There have been many sports headlines this past week. Here are the two leaders. High school football practice starts in just over a month. It’s about time to start talking about something worthwhile. Hang in there!

 

 

Patriots Fans Rush to Swap Aaron Hernandez Jerseys

Fans of the New England Patriots rushed to trade in jerseys bearing the name of former tight end Aaron Hernandez, who is being held without bail at Bristol County Jail on charges of first-degree murder.

 

 

A fan shields his head in the sun while waiting to exchange his New England Patriots Aaron Hernandez football jersey at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., on Saturday.

Prosecutors have said that Hernandez orchestrated the execution of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd – found dead near Hernandez’s home in June. The Patriots released Hernandez less than two hours after his June 26 arrest.

On Wednesday, the team issued a statement announcing that over the weekend the Pro Shop at Gillette Stadium would offer fans the opportunity to trade in the disgraced player’s jersey for that of another player on the team.

A saleswoman at the Pro Shop in  Foxborough, Mass., said Saturday that the store was “very busy” with fans opting to swap their No. 81 jersey. Close to 1,200 jerseys had been traded in by the afternoon, NBC Sports reported. Jerseys for quarterback Tom Brady and nose tackle Vince Wilfork were among the most popular sought in trades, the team said.

Still, some fans view their Hernandez jersey as collectible and have chosen to auction their jersey online. On Saturday, there were more than 750 results listed on eBay for Aaron Hernandez jerseys. Some sellers were asking for up to $1,000 for a jersey with his autograph.

Peter Leventhal, a sports memorabilia dealer at Boston’s Kenmore Collectibles, says there is little value to the Hernandez jerseys.

 “There was a small bump [in sales] when O.J. Simpson was on trial,” Leventhal said, “but that didn’t last.”

Vintage Simpson jerseys are being auctioned online for between $12 and $200 – asking prices that are similar to Simpson’s football contemporaries with untarnished reputations.

Leventhal said he would never sell a Hernandez jersey in his store, adding, “I find it distasteful.”

 

Dwight Howard will join Houston Rockets

 

 

After 20 months of twists and turns in the Dwight Howard saga, he made a decision on where he will play next season, the Houston Rockets.

"I've decided to become a member of the Houston Rockets," Howard tweeted. "I feel its the best place for me and I am excited about joining the Rockets and I'm looking forward to a great season. I want to thank the fans in Los Angeles and wish them the best."

Howard's deal with Houston is worth $88 million over four years. If he had stayed with the Lakers he could've made another $30 million and one more season.

 

Dwight Howard vs. Tim Duncan

 

Late Friday evening, Howard had changed his twitter avatar to him wearing a Rockets uniform.

Howard informed all the teams in the running of his decision one at a time, with the Lakers coming later in the day.

"We have been informed of Dwight's decision to not return to the Lakers. Naturally we're disappointed," Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said in a statement. "However, we will now move forward in a different direction with the future of the franchise and, as always, will do our best to build the best team possible, one our great lakers fans will be proud to support. To Dwight, we thank him for his time and consideration and for his efforts with us last season. We wish him the best of luck on the remainder of his NBA career."

For all the allure of the Lakers that he was so excited about after the trade that brought him to Los Angeles in the summer of 2012, Howard ultimately went with the team that gave him the best chance to win a championship now rather than later.

 

Dwight Howard vs. Tony Parker

 

 

The Rockets had gone to great lengths to clear the way for his arrival, remaking their roster and offering a chance to partner with James Harden on the team that went 45-37 last season and pushed his former Oklahoma City Thunder team to six games in a first-round playoff loss.

After being traded from the Orlando Magic to the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team deal a year ago, Howard entered the summer unsure of what he might do because of the awful Lakers season that had unfolded.

He will be happy only if the spotlight is on him…look out James Harden!

 

James Harden-Houston Rockets Star

 

I didn’t know much about Dwight Howard and really cared less, until he decided to sign with the Rockets. Now after some research, I believe it’s a question of attitude (Howard’s). What do you think of the deal, now that he is in our back yard? Call the Benchwarmers and let us know.  It should be a fun year, especially “Spurs vs. Rockets.”

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Fireworks and barbeques may be the first things to come to mind when thinking of the Fourth of July, but a number of notable events in the world of sports have also occurred on Independence Day.

 

This is the 4th of July sports event that stands out in my memory

 

 

Close to 62,000 fans packed Yankee Stadium on July 4, 1939 for an event called "Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day." With the ailing player retiring, the Yankees retired his No. 4 uniform as players, coaches and dignitaries feted the captain. In a speech that has now become famous, Gehrig told the fans in attendance "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth."
 
Do you recall hearing of any of these? Do you have others?

 

 
 
1910: Former undefeated heavyweight champion Jim Jeffries came out of retirement in with the sole purpose of defeating African-American boxer Jack Johnson. The anticipated fight took place on July 4th that year in front of 22,000 people. When the bout was stopped in the 15th round after Jeffries had been knocked down twice, Johnson was declared the winner. The result sparked race riots across the country.
 
 
1919:  Jack Dempsey knocked out defending champion Jess Willard in four rounds to become the heavyweight champion of the world.
 
1964: Although the game between the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles was tied 6-6, officials stopped play because of a Baltimore curfew to permit a fireworks show to take place. The game was also notable because Kansas City's Manny Jimenez, who hadn't hit a single home run in 1963, went deep three times in the tie.
 
1976:  Philadelphia Phillies catcher Tim McCarver hit what should have been a Grand Slam homerun. Instead, it became known as a “Grand Slam Single,” as McCarver passed his teammate Garry Maddox on the bases. The Phillies still beat the Pirates, 10-5.
 
 
1980: As a member of the Houston Astros, Nolan Ryan earned the 3000th strikeout of his career. He fanned Ceasar Geronimo of the Cincinnati Reds to achieve that impressive mark.
 
1983: New York Yankees pitcher Dave Righetti's 4-0 win, was special for two major reasons. First, it came against the Boston Red Sox, and second, it was a no-hitter.
 
 
1984: NASCAR legend Richard Petty took the checkered flag in the Firecracker 400.  Not only was it the final race he would win in his storied career, but it was also Petty's 200th career victory.
 
1985: By the time the 19-inning, six hour and 10 minute game between the Mets and Braves was finished, the calendar had rolled over from July 4, to July 5. Despite the late hour of 4 a.m. and despite the Braves' 16-13 loss, fireworks were set off at Atlanta Fulton Country Stadium. While the 1000 fans left at the game considered it a treat, the ballpark's neighbors did not. According to reports, 911 operators received many calls fearful the city was under attack.
 
1993: It was an "All-American" championship at Wimbledon, as Pete Sampras faced off against Jim Courier. Winning the first of his seven titles at the All England Club, Sampras prevailed in four sets, 7-6, 7-6, 3-6, 6-3.
 
1999: As a member of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Jose Canseco became the first player in Major League history to hit 30 home runs with four different teams (the A's, Rangers and Blue Jays are the others).
 
2001: Team USA soccer captain Cindy Parlow became the youngest player in U.S. history with 100 international appearances in a 1-0 victory over Canada.  She was just 23 years old at the time.
 

 

2001:  Fifty people were stranded on the Ferris wheel ride at Comerica Park during a game between the Royals and Tigers.  After two hours they were rescued by firefighters and given tickets to another game, free dinner and team autographs from the Tigers.
 
2004: The All-Star Game selections were announced on July 4th that year. For the first time in MLB All-Star history, three players with 500 career home runs started in the game. Those players were Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa (all from the NL).
 
2006:  Mets closer Billy Wagner induced Juan Castillo to hit into a fielder's choice for the final out, becoming the 20th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to record 300 career saves.
 
2007: Six-time Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest champion Takeru Kobayashi was upset by Joey Chestnut .  Chestnut won by downing a record 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes.
 
Dotson’s note: If you know of any memorable sports events that happened on July 4th, please call the Benchwarmers, ESPN Corpus Christi AM 1440, weekdays 4-6 pm, 361-560-5397.Listen/call in  for the best in local sports talk. 
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     On August 27, 2012, the New England Patriots signed him to a five-year extension running through 2018 that includes a $12.5 million signing bonus.

 

 

     Hernandez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in Bristol, Connecticut. He attended Bristol Central High School in Bristol, and played for the Bristol Central Rams high school football team as a wide receiver. As a senior, he was the Connecticut Gatorade Football Player of the Year after making 67 receptions for 1,807 yards and 24 touchdowns on offense, and 72 tackles, 12 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four blocked kicks on defense. The 1,807 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns were a state record and his 31 touchdowns tied the state record. He also set the state record for receiving yards in a single game with 376, which was the seventh best total in national high school history, and set a national high school record for yards receiving per game with 180.7. Hernandez was considered the top tight end recruit in 2007. 
 
     Dotson’s Note: I believe that he is one of the best I have ever seen at his position (Tight End). He has/had great future as an NFL player.  The following is information that may be of interest to those who are following the story. Please let me know your thoughts on this headline maker. Does it hold a candle to the OJ debacle? Call the Benchwarmers at 560-5397.
 
     News continues to pour out regarding the murder of Odin Lloyd and the connection to Aaron Hernandez and girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins. As police have continued executing search warrants on an almost daily basis at Hernandez's mini mansion, speculation and circumstantial evidence continues to mount against the Patriots Tight End.
 
Avielle Janelle, Aaron, Shayanna
 
     By now most of us have heard about the fact that Hernandez and Lloyd were hanging out the night before Lloyd was killed and that surveillance footage shows the two together in Dorchester approximately an hour before gunshots were heard by neighbors near where Lloyd's body was recovered and a mile from Hernandez's home. There's also the news of Hernandez destroying his cell phone and home security system while also hiring a cleaning crew to scrub down his home the morning after the murder took place. 
 
     There's still plenty more evidence to come forth, but many continue to return to the connection between Hernandez and Lloyd and ask the questions. While Hernandez and his friends have seemingly been tried, sentenced and executed by social media, there's still plenty more to come. What happened in Dorchester, and between the time they were seen and gunshots rang out? How much of a part did the sister of Aaron Hernandez' girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins and her dating relationship with Odin Lloyd play into the events from the early morning of June 17? 
 
     For their part, the Patriots have created distance between themselves and Hernandez, turning him away from team facilities when he came to work out on the morning of June 20, while his white Audi was followed by news helicopters. There's still plenty more to come out, and while things certainly seem bleak for Hernandez, there's yet to be comment from him, his camp, or the New England Patriots. 
 
     Things continue to develop and likely cause more concern for Aaron Hernandez's girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins. According to reports, the victim in this case is Odin Lloyd, who also happened to be dating the sister of Jenkins. While Hernandez has not been ruled a suspect, most current information as reported by WBZ-TV says that Hernandez has not been ruled out as a suspect yet, either. WBZ is also reporting that Hernandez has remained uncooperative despite investigators being on his property for hours and removing a box from his home. More information is sure to come out on this one.
 
     Aaron Hernandez's girlfriend Shayanna Jenkins has to be a bit concerned right now. Hernandez is all over the news right now after police searched his home in connection with the murder of a man who was said to be an "associate" of Hernandez. While Hernandez is not listed as a suspect, he was initially uncooperative with police - which has led to some degree of suspicion.
 
     Shayanna Jenkins graduated in 2007 from Bristol Central High School along with Hernandez. She currently resides in North Attleboro, MA, presumably in the same residence that the police have been searching. The couple was engaged as of November 2012, but not word on whether they were ever officially married.
 
     Aaron and Shayanna have a daughter together, Avielle Janelle, born in November of 2012. Hernandez gave an interview around the time his daughter was born and addressed how he thought his behavior had to change:
 

 

“Now, another one is looking up to me. I can’t just be young and reckless Aaron no

more. I’m gonna try to do the right things, become a good father.”
 
Dotson’s note: I don't know about you, but this whole mess with the police has me questioning whether he meant what he said. Stay tuned.
 
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     As long as there have been sports, there have been men playing sports — and passing on their knowledge and love for the game to the next generation.

 

     The Norman Rockwell-like image of a father teaching his son how to grip a bat or toss a spiral extends all the way to the professional leagues, where plenty of players can look back on a father’s influence in helping them develop as athletes.

 

Payton, Archie & Eli Manning

 

     But just because someone’s father reached the top of his sport doesn’t mean that the son is guaranteed the same success. Many sons of famous athletes have to deal with the extra expectations that come with their fathers being sports legends.
 
     Throughout history, though, a few sons have to risen to the same prominence as their fathers, etching their own name in sports without upstaging the cachet that their fathers’ names still hold. 
 
     Here are those who made my list of the best father-son duos in sports history. 
Mario & Michael Andretti; Bob, Bret & Aaron Boon; Gus & Buddy Bell; Felipe & Moises Alou; Clay Jr. & Clay III Mathews; Kellan & Kellan Jr. Winslow; Kyle Sr. & Kyle Jr. Rote; Al & Little Al Unser;  Rick & Brent Berry; Ken Sr. & Ken Jr. Norton; Calvin & Grant Hill; Ken Sr. & Ken Jr. Griffey; Archie, Payton & Eli Manning; Bobby & Bobby Bonds; Gordie & Mark Howe; Ned & Dale Jarrett; Dick & Pete Weber; Lee & Richard Petty; Bobby & Brett Hull; Andy & Josh Pettitte. 
 
If you have more please Email their names to Dotson (dlewis1@stx.rr.com)  or call the Benchwarmers, ESPN Corpus Christi,  KEYS AM, 1440 weekdays 4- 6 pm at 361-560-5397. 
 
What about Father-Daughters In Sports?
 
     Dotson’s Note: A number of years ago when my daughter was in high school I hoped that she would participate in sports, unfortunately, the only sport then open to try-outs was track and field.  Our daughter decided to participate in the 440 yard run.  This was the longest running event back then for girls (after all, girls’ basketball during that era only allowed players to stay on one half of the court depending on if they were offense or defense). To prepare her for running track, we would do road work together very early every morning.  We had always had a great relationship and this activity together was great!

 

 

Annie-Dotson’s Daughter

 

     Daughter’s Note:  I usually proofread my dad’s articles for grammatical and writing errors before he sends them off to the Benchwarmers.  But after reading the above note, I am compelled to correct the content of his article this time, as well.  First off, in my heart we have always been very close.  And yes, sports, or at least physical activities are probably what we most often shared.  Here is a short list of just some of the things that Dotson taught or shared with me:  first, he taught me how to swim before I could walk.  He began teaching me to hold my breath naturally at 6 weeks, as he would allow me to gently go below the surface of the water.  Back then (1950’s) this was probably unheard of, although in the past few decades, many other parents also have their kids water-confident before they can walk. He also taught me swimming strokes, how to dive, and how to ride a bike.  When he was teaching a golf class, I was the guinea pig learning how to hold the club, same thing when he taught tennis or trampoline.

 

     Do you know what it is like to have a dad who participates and/or coaches and/or officiates every possible sport on earth?  I do; and I’ve always said I believe that I had attended or witnessed more sporting events by the time I was 18 than anyone else in the world.  I literally grew up beneath the bleachers of baseball and softball fields while Dad played and Mom cheered him on.  Don’t all kids hang out with other kids and play under the bleachers until all hours of the night?  Anytime Dad either played/coached or officiated a sport, I was there.  When he ran the USAEUR (United States Army Europe)sports in the 1960’s, I was at every event when I wasn’t in school.  I would sit through as many as 10 basketball games in a row, learning to keep score before I was in junior high.  I would attend boxing tournaments that went until midnight or later.  I would be at badminton or volleyball tournaments that had multiple courts all going at the same time under one large facility’s roof. And I also was the ball girl at some of the longest, sweatiest tennis tournaments ever played. 

 

     Maybe I never became the great professional athlete my dad dreamed I’d be, but I have had more exposure and therefore respect for the game, officials and players than just about anyone on earth.  And because I was raised on sports, I became the perfect wife for a sports enthusiast.  After all, when you first meet your future in-laws and go to a restaurant where Tex Schramm nods his head and says, “Dotson” as you pass by and that future father in law acknowledges with a nod, “Tex,” you know you can’t go wrong.  I never realized that radios played music; I thought they only broadcast sports.  I also thought it was normal for a TV to always be tuned in to a sporting event. See why my husband thinks he is in heaven?

 

     So thanks, Dad, I learned everything from you, became a better wife because of you, and share a bond with you that may have begun with sports, but ended with total admiration and respect.

 

Want to strengthen your father-daughter bond?

 

     A recent study suggests that when Father-Daughter take up a sport together, relationships between them significantly once they engaged in a shared activity.

     Published in the Journal of Human Communication and released this week, the study out of Baylor University in Texas found that the most commonly cited event that served as a turning point for the 43 fathers and 43 daughters questioned was participating in a sport together.

 

 

     The participants were not related to one another. Women were a minimum of 22 years old, and fathers between 45 and 70.

     Female respondents who participated in a sport with their father said they learned to compete, take risks and stand up for themselves, and enjoyed having their father all to themselves.

     When asked to pinpoint the moment their relationship entered a turning point, women also mentioned working and vacationing together, marriage, and physical distance.

     Among fathers, participating in a sport was likewise the most frequently cited activity they identified as marking the turning point in relationships with their daughters.

     For some, throwing around a ball or coaching their daughter’s softball team established a unique bond with their daughter that couldn’t be shared with the mother or other sibling, while other dads added that the shared activity helped open up the lines of communications.

     Other activities identified that helped bring them closer to their daughters included church functions, household projects and teaching them how to drive, while events included marriage and the moment their daughter started dating.

     Meanwhile, a 2011 study published in the journal Development and Psychopathology found that girls who receive ‘lower quality fathering’ tend to engage in more risky sexual behavior during their adolescence, while the opposite was true of girls who were brought up by engaged, supportive dads.

 

Dotson’s questions: Fathers of daughters, are you working at being a complete father?

 

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Benchwarmers Blog

Special to Island Moon

Dotson's Note: With all of the Major League Baseball stories of performance enhancing drugs, it is refreshing to hear the story of the Pettittes' (father Andy & son Josh) success in baseball.  Andy had his run-in with performance enhancers, but admitted his mistakes, cleaned up his act and kept working as a Major League baseball player. Andy pitched in two Texas High School state baseball championship games.

Andy Pettitte won his first game in the major leagues on June 7, 1995, when his son Josh, the first of four Pettitte sons, was seven months old.

Josh Pettitte 3.jpg

Josh & Andy Pettitte

Nearly two decades later, Andy Pettitte has 250 wins and Josh Pettitte is, for now, a member of the New York Yankees organization, having been selected in the 37th round of this year's MLB draft.

The fact that both happened on the same day, at virtually the same time, made Saturday a memorable day in the history of the Pettitte family of Deer Park, Texas.

"It's special," said Andy Pettitte, who pitched into the eighth inning of the Yankees' 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field. "I'll remember this one, that's for sure."

"It's a great honor and blessing getting the call from the team that you've grown up watching and all the big leaguers play for," said Josh Pettitte, a slightly smaller and decidedly younger version of his soon-to-be 41-year-old father.

Josh Pettitte 1.jpg

Josh Pettitte

If genetics holds up, Josh Pettitte -- who pitched two no-hitters this season -- will still be pitching and winning major league games in the year 2037. And the way Andy Pettitte pitched on Saturday, he might be, too.

But even if it turns out to be a short-lived story -- both father and son insisted that 18-year-old Josh, a senior at Deer Park High School, would attend Baylor University before re-entering the draft three years from now -- it put smiles on the faces of everyone in the postgame clubhouse beyond what would be expected after a win over the rather harmless Mariners.

Even if it was done more as a symbolic gesture and a courtesy, the drafting of Josh Pettitte by the Yankees was probably the only event that could have eclipsed an accomplishment as important as Andy Pettitte's 250th win, a milestone achieved by only 42 other pitchers, 31 of whom are in the Hall of Fame.

Andy Pettitte.jpg

Andy in his 250th Major League Win

The news arrived via telephone to the Yankees clubhouse during the eighth inning of the game, while Andy was in the shower, having just been removed from the game, and Josh was sitting on the clubhouse couch watching the conclusion and hoping that the Yankees bullpen could preserve the two-run lead.

"I was actually shaving, and I come walking out here and he was on the phone," Andy Pettitte said. "He told me he had just spoke with [scouting director Damon Oppenheimer]. I just gave him a big hug and a kiss and told him I love him and I'm proud of him and said let's see what happens three years from now. Dad wants him to go to school."

Dad is likely to get his way, since the money for a 37th-round draft pick is not likely to dissuade Josh from pursuing a course of study in sports management along with his baseball career, even if it means that, three years from now, he might well be drafted by a different organization.

Josh Pettitte is listed as 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds but appears a bit smaller. Andy Pettitte, of course, is fully grown (6-foot-5 and 230 pounds) and as maturely developed as any pitcher in the game.

Andy mowed through the first nine hitters he faced on Saturday before Jason Bay led off the fourth with a single. The Mariners wound up with a run that inning because what looked like a double play ball was bobbled by Jayson Nix, which lengthened the inning enough for Michael Morse to drive Bay in with a sacrifice fly.

Pettitte then retired the next 10 hitters he faced before allowing a leadoff single to Nick Franklin in the eighth. After retiring Michael Saunders on a foul pop, Pettitte left the game for his memorable clubhouse moment with Josh, and Joe Girardi (Yankees manager) went to his bullpen, from which first David Robertson and then Rivera put the final touches on win No. 250.

"It's definitely a huge day for Josh," Andy said. "It's all tied in together now for me, though. It's like I can't separate them because they're both together. It just all happened right here, and the game was ending, so it's just really cool."

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     Saturday, Moody had to win two games against Alamo Heights in the Region IV final. The Trojans had dropped the opener 3-2 in eight innings Friday at Whataburger Field. 

 

 

     The Moody baseball team learned Sunday what lies ahead in the Trojans’ quest for a third state championship.

 

     Tenth-ranked Moody (32-6-1) will face Whitehouse (31-8) in a Class 4A state semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at Dell Diamond in Round Rock. That game follows the first 4A semifinal between No. 2 Tomball (33-4) and Wichita Falls Rider (32-8).

 

     The Trojans will be making their 12th state tournament appearance, by far the most of the field. Whitehouse and Tomball are making their first trips at state, with Rider a four-time participant.

 

     Whitehouse is located 10 miles southeast of Tyler in East Texas. The Wildcats enter the state tournament on a 12-game winning streak.

Whitehouse cruised through the Region II bracket, going 10-0 with only two games decided by one run. The Region II final against Liberty saw Whitehouse romp to 6-0 and 6-1 victories.

 

     The Trojans  are returning to state for the first time since 2009. Except for junior catcher/pitcher Michael Cantu, who went to the 5A tournament with Carroll the past two years, every Moody player will be making his first state appearance.

 

    It was reported that there was a little anger circulating among Moody’s baseball team late Friday and on the bus ride Saturday on the way to the conclusion of the Region IV-4A championship series. It started with junior pitcher-catcher Michael Cantu and circulated throughout the dugout.

 

 

     Coach Joe Curiel’s Trojans swept the Alamo Heights Mules in two games, overcoming a possible record number of runners left on base in the series, to beat the Mules 9-2 and 5-2.  This will be Moody’s 12th trip to the state tournament.

 

     “I came out there with a mission. I’ve been in this place before,” said Cantu, who becomes the first area player to appear in three consecutive state tournaments with two different teams. “We knew if we beat (Alamo Heights) the first game they’re not going to want to play us the third game. So I just told Coach, I said, ‘Coach, you worry about who’s pitching the third game because I’ve got the second one.”

 

     Cantu (11-0) had the first one, scattering eight hits and striking out seven. Sophomore Aaron Hernandez had the second one. Hernandez drove in six runs in Game 2 and then, after not having pitched since the 6-0 win over King before the playoffs, tossed seven innings of eight-hit ball in the final game, making his overall record 3 wins and 1 loss. Despite leaving 32 runners aboard in the three-game series, the Trojans came up with enough key hits in Game 2. They were 6 for 19 with runners in scoring position accounting for nine runs batted in.

 

     “We were angry at ourselves for letting (that happen) in Game 1,” said J.D. Garcia, who was 4 for 5 in Game 2 and added two more hits in Game 3. “It was, ‘You know what, let’s get it done and get it over with and go to state.’”

 

     “I said we had to capitalize,” Moody third baseman Ricky Gonzalez said. “We capitalized today.”

Hernandez paved the way in the finale. The Mules (24-12-1) touched him for two third-inning runs to pull within 4-2. But the sophomore settled in, throwing 117 pitches after catching Cantu for six innings in Game 2. Hernandez allowed only three hits after the third inning.

 

     “Me and (Hernandez) were on the same page the whole day, the whole night,” Cantu said. “We just switched positions and he went out there and he threw his butt off. It’s a great feeling for him to get there and to have done it the way we did it.”

 

     Three second-inning Alamo Heights errors and an intentional walk to Kenny Saenz — it was one of five free passes Mules pitchers issued in the game, three to Saenz, to keep Moody’s more proficient hitters from having an opportunity — led to four Moody runs. Three scored on Cantu’s deep fly to center field that the Mules’ Cole Bailey couldn’t handle and the other on Chris Estrada’s RBI bunt off Cameron Mineo (11-4), the Mules’ ace who picked up the win in relief in Game 1. 

 

     Moody (32-6-1) will play Whitehouse (31-8) in the State Semi-Finals at Dell Diamond in Round Rock at 7 pm, Thursday, June 6th. The winner of this game will play the winner of Tomball (33-4) vs. Wichita Falls Rider (32-8), Dell Diamond at 7 pm, Friday,  June 7th.

 

Go Trojans!

 

Tickets: Session passes are $5 (students) and $10 (adults). All-tournament passes are $30.

 

Television: Semifinals will be on Time Warner digital channel 888 and streamed online at FoxSportsSouthwest.com. Final will be televised on Fox Sports Southwest Plus and streamed online at FoxSportsSouthwest.com.

 

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     It's hard to imagine Derek Jeter or Tiger Woods heading to Iraq to join the U.S. armed forces. But in World War II no American man between the ages of 20 and 45 was too big to serve—except for the basketball players who exceeded the Army's 6'6" limit for recruits.

 

Jack Dempsey- WW II (Age 47)

 

     Tales of Yogi Berra storming Normandy, Jack Dempsey invading Okinawa and Ted Williams maneuvering fighter planes are riveting and moving. Consider the role of the black soldier during the war and the influence that had on the integration of baseball. In 1945 commissioner Happy Chandler declared, "If they [black ballplayers] can fight and die in Okinawa, Guadalcanal and in the South Pacific, they can play baseball in America."

 

Yogi Berra (right) with his Father & Brother John-1944

 

     During World War II, baseball was undoubtedly the most popular sport in America. It was during the 1940's and 1950's that baseball became known as America's pastime. Just days after the attack on Pearl Harbor, baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis was unsure whether baseball should continue to be played, with America's involvement in the war now inevitable. President Roosevelt sent the commissioner a letter saying the game should continue--even though many baseball players would enlist or be drafted into the military--because it was best for the country. 
 
     While Major League Baseball continued play during World War II, many of its players were in the armed forces. Over the course of America's involvement in World War II, more than 500 major leaguers--including 35 future Hall of Famers--served in the United States military. Two major league players, Harry O'Neill and Elmore Gedeon, died in service.
 
     It is extremely important to realize the sacrifices that so many people made during the time of the war. It is unlikely that we will ever see so many professional athletes who lived in the spotlight give it all up for their country. In today's age, where many athletes will not represent their country in the Olympics due to potentially jeopardizing money down the line, it is important to understand that so many athletes were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for their country.
 
Ted Williams-WW II
 
     All-time greats such as Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller and Hank Greenburg gave up time during the prime of their careers to serve. Many have the opinion that if not for World War II, baseball's history books would look far different. Williams may very well have retired as the all-time home run leader and gone down as the greatest player in baseball history if not for the years he missed while serving his country.
 
Bob Feller being sworn in to the US navy by former heavyweight boxing champion, Gene Tunney, at the Chicago courthouse in December 1941.
 
     Even without some of its biggest stars, Major League Baseball continued to play during World War II. While there is no doubt that the talent level was lowered, baseball continued to flourish in America as people sought it out as a way to maintain some normalcy. The Yankees and Cardinals each won multiple World Series and were the dominant teams during this time.
 
     At the beginning of World War II, there was much talk that baseball should suspend operations just as it had during World War I. Those talks quickly subsided after The Sporting News printed an article in which soldiers who were overseas were interviewed. The soldiers gave a huge amount of support to the sport and said that America's pastime must continue to move forward.
 
     Some of those players include Hank Greenberg, Ted Williams, Bob Feller, Yogi Berra, Hoyt Wilhelm, Warren Spahn, Red Schoendienst, Leon Day, Nester Chylak, Joe DiMaggio, Pete Gray, Bart Shepard, Phil Rizzuto, Stan Musial, and many, many more.
 
Nestor Chylak-1955
 
     Nestor Chylak (1922-82), the eighth umpire elected to the Hall of Fame, was the dean of umpires of the American League during the later years of his career. He was proud of his technical ability as an arbiter, but he was also a superb teacher, helping new umps, such as Dave Phillips, learn the ropes. Of his mentor, Phillips said, "[Nestor] ate and lived umpiring." 
 
     In World War II, Chylak saw action in the Battle of the Bulge. Gene Karst tells the story in telegraphic style in Who's Who in Professional Baseball: "Badly shot up in WWII Battle of the Bulge, spent many months in Veterans Hospital. After getting out, money didn't last long and wound up broke. Ran into friend who offered him a chance to umpire a college game. 'I got enough troubles,' replied Chylak. 'People hate umpires. Who wants to be an umpire?'"
 
Dotson's note: This is a special tribute to my friend Nester Chylak who was awarded the Silver Star for his bravery under fire during the Battle of the Bulge.
 

 

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Dotson’s note: How would you like a job as a major league baseball instant-replay umpire?

Sounds like a great job…do you think you could handle the pressure?

 

     The Oakland Athletics' overruled home run this week shows again that subjective on-field rulings are numerous.

 

 

 

     Inaccuracy is inevitable in a game with as many intricacies as unreliable, often unfair ways to officiate MLB games. Balls will be called strikes, checked swings will be debated, and the infield fly rule will confound fans forever. But one of the goals of Major League Baseball is to ensure the game is officiated as correctly as possible and offer an effective in-game remedy for the human mistakes of umpires. Last week’s night's debacle at Cleveland's Progressive Field showed once again that the MLB is failing at that goal.

 

     With two outs in the ninth inning between the Athletics and the Indians, Oakland infielder Adam Rosales hit a game-tying home run that was incorrectly ruled a double on the field. The ruling was upheld even after four umpires, including crew chief Angel Hernandez, reviewed the replay.

 

     That's the short version of the “Catastrophe in Cleveland.” The larger takeaway is that baseball's instant-replay system, introduced in 2008 to prevent the type of missed call that occurred on

 

     Wednesday, is not working. Baseball needs a replay umpire, or more games will be decided by human error.

 

     It's still unclear how exactly Hernandez and his crew missed what everyone in the stadium—including both teams, both sets of announcers, and everyone in the press box—clearly saw. Rosales's hit bounced off the railing about nine inches above the yellow home-run line at the top of the padded wall in left field and ricocheted back onto the outfield grass. That couldn't have happened had the hit not been a home run, because the ball would have hit the soft padding below the line. After the game, Hernandez told a reporter that the crew did not believe there was "100 percent certainty" to overrule the call on the field, which sounds ludicrous to anyone who's watched even one replay of the "double."

 

     Joe Torre, the league's executive vice president of baseball operations, released a statement Thursday afternoon that unwittingly identified the basic problem with baseball's current replay system:

 

     “In the opinion of Angel Hernandez, who was the crew chief, there was not clear and convincing evidence to overturn the decision on the field. It was a judgment call, and as such, it stands as final.”

 

     Torre's statement, like the MLB's current rule book, conflates an objective fact with a subjective review. Whether a ball crossed the home-run line is an objective question, and a review system that allows subjectivity to so easily override objectivity is fatally flawed.

 

     This isn't the first time in recent years that a game has been marred by inept umpiring that could not be properly reviewed. Armando Galarraga's perfect game on June 2, 2010, was ruined when first-base umpire Jim Joyce called the last out of the game safe. And after erroneously ruling that then-Yankee Nick Swisher left third base too soon in the 2009 American League Championship Series, umpire Tim McClelland said: "In my heart I thought he left too soon... after looking at replays, I'm not sure I believe the replay."

 

     The MLB instituted its current instant-replay system precisely to avoid the unreliable subjectivity that has tainted so many games over the years. But even given the opportunity to rely on that failsafe Wednesday night, Hernandez and his crew doubled down on the wrong call instead.

 

     A replay umpire could solve many of the problems that plague the current system. Right now, field umpires must head into the clubhouse to watch the replay, often on a tiny monitor, facing intense pressure to complete the review as quickly as possible to keep the game moving. And replays are only used when there's reason to believe an umpire made the wrong call the first time, which sometimes causes umps to stubbornly stick to the original call in the face of opposing evidence—as Hernandez did on Wednesday.

 

     But put a replay umpire in a room with a large monitor that gets the feeds of both teams' television broadcasts and the ability to quickly communicate with the umps on the field—similar to the system currently in use in college football—and those problems will go away. A replay ump would have no skin in the game, access to more replay angles, and the impartiality of being at least one step removed from the action. That way, all disputed calls that should be based on objective results—fair/foul balls, disputed home runs, safe/out tag plays on the bases—could be funneled through a single observer with a mandate of impartiality and access to replay technology befitting of the 21st century.

 

     Detractors may argue that adding another umpire would only complicate an already thorny process, but it would actually make things simpler. Despite what the umpires' union might say, a replay ump could keep the men in blue from making destructively bad calls they have to live with forever—just ask Joyce how that feels. It would benefit teams and players, who could trust that a bad rapport with an ump or a fuzzy picture on a replay screen would not cost them any more games. It would certainly benefit the fans, who don't want to see their team miss the playoffs in October because of a horrendous call in early May. And it would benefit the game by removing a layer of potential inaccuracy.

 

     It's worth noting that Rosales's hit would have only tied the game, and Cleveland could have prevailed in the bottom of the ninth or in extra innings. Ultimately, though, that's not the point. We have the technology to almost completely eradicate objective errors from baseball. Until the MLB installs a replay umpire or makes some other tweak to its obviously compromised review system, the stain of games like last night will linger over the sport.

 

     Do you remember the “pine tar” incident? Tim was the rookie umpire behind the plate when this happened.   

 

 

Tim McClelland

 

Interested in applying to be an instant replay umpire?  Contact Dotson: dlewis1@stx.rr.com to get started. 

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     Dotson’s Note: I am past president of the National Association of Sports Officials, a charter member of NASO, and a member of the original Board of Directors.

 

    The death of a Utah soccer referee who was punched by a 17-year-old player puts focus on a growing problem: teens and parents losing control – and in many cases physically assaulting sports officials – when they think bad calls have been made.

 

 

Ricardo Portillo

 

     Police have accused the teenage player in a recreational soccer league of punching 46-year-old referee Ricardo Portillo on April 27 after he called a foul on him and issued him a yellow card. Portillo began vomiting blood and was rushed to a hospital, where he slipped into a coma and died on Saturday.

 

     The teenager was playing goalie during a game at Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville when Portillo issued him a yellow card for pushing an opposing forward trying to score. In soccer, a yellow card is given as a warning to a player for an egregious violation of the rules. Two yellow cards lead to a red card and expulsion from the game.

 

     While the death of a referee is a rarity in the U.S., say there is a growing trend of physical assaults on game officials in recreational sports that is very troubling.

 

     It's been a serious concern of the National Association of Sports Officials, ever since this association started.

 

     While verbal assaults have always been common, we have seen the frequency of violence go up at the recreational level, violence – like in the Portillo case – rarely occurs on the high school, college and professional level.

 

     Referees have been bumped, pushed, knocked down, hit with chairs and sent to the hospital, in recreational games. There have been a number of incidents where officials leaving a tough contest are accosted in the parking lot. You don’t get to smack somebody because you felt you were wronged.

 

     Portillo, for instance, had been attacked by players twice before in his eight years refereeing soccer matches – even having his ribs and legs broken – his daughter, Johana Portillo, told The Associated Press.

 

     The numbers of arrests at recreational sports games have increased significantly over the years. A 43-year-old referee was seriously injured after he was punched in the back of the head by two angry soccer players after making a call during a game in Clearwater, Fla., in July of last year. In another Florida game, 41-year-old referee Jayme Ream was reportedly attacked in 2011 by coaches and players from the Sarasota Gators football team – a felony in Florida. The brawl, which was caught on video, occurred after a disputed call in the game among the two junior teams, ages 13 and 14.

 

     There is only one other known case of a referee death in the U.S.  Gregory Vaughn, a 33-year-old high school basketball coach and volunteer referee, was shot and killed in Queens, N.Y., on July 30, 1988, after he made a call someone disagreed with.

 

     Security is an absolute issue. People need to invest money in having more security on site so that it removes that responsibility from the sports officials.  

 

     The suspect in Portillo’s death, whose name is withheld because he's a minor, has been booked into juvenile detention on suspicion of aggravated assault. Authorities will consider additional charges since Portillo has died. An autopsy is planned. The cause of death has not been released.

 

This tragedy could have been prevented if game management had provided proper security for the officials. Each state should have a law with very severe penalties for assaulting sports officials.

Please call the Benchwarmers (560-5397) and give us hear your thoughts on this very serious matter.

 

dlewis1@stx.rr.com or 361-949-7681

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Do you like it rough? I thought the NCAA Basketball Tournament was, to say the least, loosely officiated.  This is said at the risk of being accused of trying to change basketball to a “sissy” game.  I believe that this year the fans of the NCAA and NBA are seeing the roughest play in the history of the great game of basketball.

 

Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin, left, grimaces as he is fouled by Oklahoma City Thunder forward Serge Ibaka, right, in the first quarter of Game 1 of their first-round NBA basketball playoff series in Oklahoma City, Sunday, April 21, 2013.

 

Already this year's NBA playoffs has seen its fair share of rough play. Josh Smith is plunking Pierce, Carl Landry is losing teeth and D-West can't stop slapping Dirk around. It's like the 80's in long shorts out there. But which has been the hardest playoff foul to date? Cast your vote below. The other four of the top five candidates:

 

Jason Kidd flips Jannero Pargo, Game 4. Instead of trying to make the block, a lazy Jason Kidd grabs Pargo by the back of the neck and swings him to the court. Incredibly, Pargo wasn't injured on the fall, but Kidd was ejected thanks to a flagrant-2 foul.

 

DeShawn Stevenson decapitates LeBron, Game 3. OK, so that's a stretch. DeShawn tries to decapitate LeBron. Still, DS came across the lane and swiped his right arm across the top of James' skull. The hit was enough to knock off the All-Star's headband and send him dropping to the court.

 

Brendan Haywood shoves LeBron James, Game 2. Following a Game 1 semi-fracas, Haywood pushes LeBron with both hands while the Cavs star is in the air. Haywood was assessed a flagrant foul and ejected from the game.

                 

Raja Bell semi-clotheslines Manu Ginobili, Game 2. Raja drops Manu to the floor knowing the Suns are 15 seconds away from losing Game 2. Did Manu flop a little? It's tough to tell anymore. Was that little crying boy ever eaten by the wolves?

 

This type of play is not what Dr. Naismith had in mind when he hung the peach baskets on the balcony at Springfield College.

 

Dr. James Naismith shows his invention to the public in 1893.

 

Naismith designed the game in 1891 as a non-contact sport,* where agility, speed, dexterity and lightening reflexes would prevail. Having a functioning brain aided greatly to a player’s success on the hardwood.

 

*Vince Lombardi’s (former Green Bay Packer Coach) definitions:

·      Kissing is a contact sport.

·      Football is a collision sport.

Your thoughts/ideas: dlewis1@stx.rr.com and/or 361-949-7681

 

Dotson’s Note: What do you think? Please call (361-560-5397) or send your thoughts regarding this matter to the Benchwarmers….Thanks

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Or the behavior of anyone in a position of leadership: parent, teacher, sports official, sports reporter?  How does one learn "boundaries"? Images of head coach Mike Rice conducting basketball practice at Rutgers University left no doubt his behavior was detestable. 

 

MIKE RICE

 

That practice session took place several months ago and was the cause of closed-door discussions and mild discipline by the university. But recently the video was released and went viral on the internet; if you're a sports fan you've probably seen it. It features Rice violently cursing at his players, throwing basketballs at their heads and feet and being viciously demeaning. All in the name of-get this-- "motivating" them to do better. Be aware that in today's world everything can go viral!

 

Rice has since been fired by Rutgers University and the athletic director, who had suspended and fined Rice when the behavior was first discovered, has now resigned. Others are calling for the university president to step down. Do such firings help change behavior? Granted, there is no excuse for this type of behavior in coaching, teaching, or parenting. But if you think physical abuse of others is a new motivational tool, you got another think coming. Coaches have for years used physical means to motivate their players, though perhaps not to the extent Rice did. Was it the right thing to do? Only if you believe humiliation should be used as a measurement of success.

 

Motivation comes from within. Worthy coaches, teachers, or parents inspire others through their words and actions. Walk your talk! As we wrote in "It's the Will, Not the Skill": "Excellence is good, exemplary is better"! If your goal is to teach for better performance, then we believe coaching from the "inside-out" is the way to do it. It's one thing to avoid abhorrent examples such as Rice's; but better to observe positive models and say "that's the way I want to do it".

 

 

There’s little argument about the fate of Rutgers’ former basketball coach Mike Rice: he had to go. A large majority of those who took part in a recent Monmouth University/Asbury Park Press poll viewed his firing as an appropriate outcome to his behavior…But not all.

 

Twelve percent said Rice should not have been fired after a video surfaced showing Rice physically abusing players and calling them gay slurs and other names and 6 percent were unsure, leaving 82 percent of respondents agreeing with the decision to terminate Rice.

 

And six percent of those polled found that Rice’s behavior was acceptable, while 93 percent said it was not.

 

Most also were not surprised that it occurred.

 

“While the public disapproved, they didn’t think it was all that uncommon in college-level sports,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

 

Fifty-two percent of those polled believe it is either very common or fairly common for this type of behavior to take place in college sports with 46 percent saying it is either not too or not at all common.

 

The poll shows that the New Jersey public by and large agreed with the administrative moves taken after both the incident and the delay in firing Rice.

 

A majority – 56 percent – said Athletic Director Tim Pernetti, who at first defended his decision not to initially fire Rice, should have resigned, while 35 percent said it was unnecessary. Fifty-one percent of those polled said Rutgers President Robert Barchi should not have to give up his post while 36 percent believe he should step down because of the delay in dealing with Rice.

 

The poll was conducted by phone, with 806 New Jersey adults taking part from April 11 to 14.

 

The controversy did not put much of a dent in Rutgers’ reputation on the whole as a university.

 

Not many participants said it changed the way they perceive Rutgers. Only 6 percent of those said they would “actively discourage” a high school senior from attending Rutgers because of the incident.

 

The poll also cast light on how Garden State residents feel about sports at Rutgers. Forty-four percent of those polled say Rutgers puts the appropriate amount of emphasis on sports compared to 31 percent who maintain that it places too much emphasis on its athletic programs.

 

Dotson’s Note: What do you think? Please call or send your thoughts regarding this matter to the Benchwarmers….Thanks

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Dotson’s note: With all the attention on the NCAA Basketball’s Men’s National Championship which was won by Louisville Monday night in New Orleans, your attention is invited to the behind the scenes story of another National Championship (NAIA). This championship was won by Westmont College’s women’s team. Thanks to my good friend Jim Tunney (NFL Referee Retired) who sent me this story.

 

When the final buzzer sounded on Tuesday night, Westmont players and coaches rushed into each other’s arms, celebrating a 71-65 win over Lee of Tennessee (34-3) and their first NAIA Women’s Basketball National Championship. Tears and smiles abounded as the Warriors’ quest to win five games in six days in the 32-team national tournament came to a successful conclusion.

 

WESTMONT BASKETBALL COACH MOORE WITH DAUGHTER ALEXIS

 

“I am really happy for my players and the journey we have been through as a group,” said Westmont head coach Kristen Moore. “The perseverance we have shown through trials on and off the court seasoned us for all of the close games we have had throughout the entire tournament.”

Jim Tunney wrote-Westmont College, a small (1300+ students) Christian,  liberal college  located in Montecito, California won the 2012-13 NAIA Women's basketball championship. Not much of a big deal, most would say, happens to one of those small schools every year. Yeah, but ya gotta hear the "rest-of-the-story". A big thanks to my friend and colleague LA Times esteemed sportswriter, Bill Plaschke, who recently wrote about this for the Times. It bears repeating.

 

COACH KRISTEN DURING A TIME-OUT

 

Westmont's women's basketball head coach Kristen McKnight met Alex Moore, a Westmont kinesiology professor in 2003. Alex thought they were "made of each other", but Kristen didn't have time for romance-basketball was her passion. Alex was relentless. They married in 2008. On May 9, 2012 Alex underwent colon surgery for Crohn's disease during which he tragically died due to a pulmonary embolism. Kristen was eight months pregnant with their first child. Seven weeks later the baby was born. Kristen named her Alexis. Time for a sabbatical; I mean, come on, a grieving widow and a new born, not Kristen-she barely took a day off.

 

Standing in front of her team  in August, 2013 preparing for the season, she said, "I'm here and this is going to be a hard road, but I'm here". Kristen continued, "I'm going to be real; you're gonna see me cry a lot, but I have to do this." She didn't have to do it at all! Do courage, dedication and commitment come to mind?

 

Winning 24 of 27 games for the Warriors to be the Golden State Athletic Conference champions along with NAIA champs would normally be the story; but it was actually the easy part. Members of the athletic department, the community, and the dozen or so players all pitched-in to take care of Alexis. Changing Alexis' diapers on an aluminum bleacher in the women's bathroom, asking the men's team players to turn their heads (since both teams travel together on the bus) while Kristen breast feed Alexis, was just some of the many trials she endured.

 

Even Alex, then deceased, contributed. Two days after his death while rummaging through Alex's office preparing for his memorial service, Kristen found these Bible verses on two Post-it notes: "Encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of fatherless, plead the case of the widow" and "Be strong and courageous and do the work, do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord God, my God, is with you". These were Alex's final words to Kristen.

 

Will you use the strength of your courage to help you carry on?

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The month of March is now history, but the "madness" still continues in college (NCAA) basketball as we approach the “final four” this Saturday and Monday. We'll steel ourselves for a last round of the constant "Dee-Fence" cheer, or the letter D with the picket fence held up by fanatic fans. Does that continuous shouting really help their team play better defense? Do the players on the court become more technically aware because the fans are reminding them to do so?

 

 

Maybe that endless yelling and screaming is a way for the fans to let off steam and create excitement for their players.  You never hear the word "offense" or "dribble-pass-shoot" chanted; those skills are essential to scoring. Defense has become the Holy Grail in college basketball. How did the plan of preventing an opponent from scoring vanish? With a few exceptions, there's not much evidence of defense throughout the NCAA.

 

The style of play is far different in today's game than it was several years ago. Speed, agility, finesse and outmaneuvering the opponent has been replaced by a physical contact game which is not what  Mr. Naismith had in mind when he hung the peach baskets on the balcony in Springfield. The "dunk" is not my favorite style of play. If you are six feet, it takes only a minimal amount of jumping ability with your hands up to dunk a basketball. The lay-up, if any of you remember the term, is gone. Even a player in the clear on a fast break is likely to try to slam the ball through the hoop, which originated the term "slam-dunk"--so much for the skill of throwing the ball through the hoop. The accent now is on individual feats of athleticism.

 

When I was on the rules committee, I campaigned tirelessly to have the dunk value reduced to one point. That would have put an end to this type of shot which requires little or no basketball skill. Needless to say, I lost the battle, but “he who fights and runs, lives to fight another day.”

 

Most of those who participate in sport are superstitious. Those who say they are not still “play it safe” by repeating certain actions.  A player about to shoot a free-throw will bounce the ball several times and spin it or take other actions according to his ritual prior to the throw. These days toward the end of a close game, you will see players on the bench locking arms. While it may not help their teammates on the floor, they believe it is a show of unity. Moral support perhaps, but isn't that sort of behavioral voo-doo best left to the fans?

 

The TV monitor at the scorers' table plays a prominent role in today's game. Some replays are acceptable for accuracy. However, for determining whether or not a foul is flagrant, the replay used in today's game may open a door that might remain open needlessly. I believe it’s best to keep the game active among the three teams on the court…the two basketball teams…and the officials.

 

Please Email or call me with your thoughts/concerns about today's basketball madness?

 

To contact Dotson Email: dlewis1@stx.rr.com or call 361-949-7681.

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Dotson’s note: Having work with the officials for more than 20 NCAA tournaments, I thought you might be interested an inside look at the “Third Team” on the court. 

 

 

 

John Adams Coordinator of Officials for the NCAA explains how officials are evaluated and chosen to advance to later rounds in the NCAA tournament:

·      Mobility. We're looking for guys that can keep up with the game.

·      Probably even more important than keeping up with the game is you've got to get the plays right. Every time they blow a whistle, we're looking at them. We have an evaluator on site. We are in a control room the first week in Atlanta watching all the games all at once, with ability to call producer to show us any call of any game at any time.

·      Being an adequate communicator. During the NCAA tournament, we stress to the officials we do not want prolonged conversations with coaches. It works two ways. We want the coaches to be able to coach, but we don't want our officials to what we call babysitting coaches throughout a tournament game. If a coach has a specific question and he's entitled to an answer, we want it to be concise but get back to refereeing the basketball game.

·      Manage major moments. You get some obscure situation comes up, did the officials handle it properly? End of the game, a crucial call, did we get it right?

In addition, four officials will work the two First Four games in Dayton. The other 96 officials selected to work the NCAA tournament will work the first weekend sites. Each site has one of four regional advisors, who will grade each official on every call by noon the next day.

Seven officials are pre-assigned by the NCAA tournament to stay to officiate the second day of games (the round of 32). The six who perform best in their opening-round games will officiate, with the seventh referee being on standby.

After the first weekend of games, Adams and his regional advisors have a conference call discuss the performances of officials and choose referees for regionals by Monday afternoon, at which time they notify officials. The same process is duplicated a week later to pick Final Four officials.

 

Talk about pressure…this is it!

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The NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament selection is complete and play begins today among the field of 64 teams vying for the National Championship. March Madness is officially underway. I attended the final four every year from 1977 through 2002. It was the best show in town, even better than the Super Bowl.

 

 

Below is trivia about college basketball coaches, players, teams and Final Four performances. Ask these questions at dinner tonight or if you know the answers, impress your tweens with your basketball knowledge.

 

 

March Madness Trivia Questions (varying degrees of difficulty):

  1. Who invented basketball?  What year?
  2. Who coined the term "March Madness"? And did it first refer to the NCAA Tournament?
  3. How many teams played in the very first NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament? Who won?
  4. Where was the first tournament played? Where will this year's Final Four be held?
  5. Which TV network first showed March Madness games? Which network will televise the games this year?
  6. Who is the first and only player to win the MVP award at the final four on three occasions?
  7. In 1984, which team lost to Georgetown in the championship game, marking its third loss in the Final Four in three year?
  8. This year Rick Pitino coaches the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals. In 1996, he led the Kentucky Wildcats to their first championship since 1978. Who did Kentucky beat in the final game?
  9. Which team has the most number of championship titles?
  10. What player has scored the most points in an NCAA tournament game? How many points did he score?

Dotson’s Note: Call the Benchwarmers’ Thursday for the correct answers, if you can’t figure them out for yourself. 

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NCAA FOOTBALL RULES COMMITTEE

2013 Rules Changes

 

 

True Texas High School Football fans know that in Texas we have only two sports, Football and Spring Football.  As most of our  listernes/readers know in Texas High School Football, we use college rules because our high school football players are more skilled than most players on college teams. We are one of only two states who use NCAA (College) Football Rules, all the other states play by the NFHS (National Federation of High Schools) Football Rules. Your comments regarding the changes or any comments pro or con regarding Football Playing Rules will be greatly appreciated.

 

Here are the new rules which apply starting with the 2013. 

Dotson’s Note: Most of the Rules Committee’s time is spent discussing safety issues.

 

Here we go:

                            

1.    Targeting an opponent with the crown of the helmet and striking him above the shoulders will result in disqualification.  The penalty for this personal foul will be the same as for fighting. 15 yards plus an automatic first down (if by the defense) and disqualification of  the player:

NOTE: If this occurs in a college game, the player will have limited participation in his team’s next game.

 

 

2.    Blocking below the waist will now be allowed only the zone seven yards on each side of the ball extending five yards beyond the neutral zone and back to Team A’s end line.

 

 (a) Offensive players who are on the line of scrimmage completely within this zone and backs who are stationary completely within the tackle box at the snap may legally block below the waist inside this zone until the ball has left the zone.

(b) Players not covered in a (above) while the ball is still in the zone, and all players after the ball has left the zone, are allowed to block below the waist if the force of the initial contact is from the front, but they may not block below the waist if the force of the initial contact is from the side or back. “From the front” is understood to mean within the clock-face region between “10 o’clock and 2 o’clock” forward of the player being blocked.

(c) Once the ball has left the zone a player may not block below the waist toward his own end line.

(d)) Defensive players may not block below the waist against an opponent who is in position to receive a backward pass.

(e) Defensive players may not block below the waist against an eligible opponent pass receiver beyond the neutral zone unless attempting to get to the ball or ball carrier. This prohibition ends when a legal forward pass is no longer possible by rule.

(f) During a down in which there is a free kick (kick-off) or a scrimmage kick, blocking below the waist by any player is illegal.

(g). Change of possession

After any change of possession (team), blocking below the waist by any player is illegal except against the ball carrier.

 

3. This rules change was caused in the most part  because of Texas A&M’s violations  of the numbering rule during the 2012 season.

 

Uniform Numbers

 When a player enters the game after changing his jersey number, he must report to the referee, who then informs the opposing head coach and announces the change. Such a player who enters the game without reporting commits a foul for unsportsmanlike conduct.

 

Two players playing the same position may not wear the same number during the game.

 

4. Helmet Off: Timeout Allows Player to Remain in the Game

Dotson’s Note:  In 2012 if a player’s helmet came off during play, he had to leave the game for at least one play.

 

a. If a player’s helmet comes completely off through play, other than as the direct result of a foul by an opponent, the player must leave the game for the next down. The game clock will stop at the end of the down. The player may remain in the game if his team is granted a charged timeout.

 

5.  Allow Wireless Communication for Officiating Crew

Dotson’s Note: This is great! It will really help the officiating crew on the field. We are planning to use this in high school games in the Corpus Christi area if it is not too expensive.

 

 A protected wireless communication system open only to the officiating crew and conference officiating observer is allowed.

 

The following changes were recommended by the Rules Committee but were not approved by PLAYING RULES OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE:

 

Dotson’s note: For the first time since the Playing Rules Oversight Committee was formed (about 10 years), the have not approved some of the Rules Committee’s changes. This will make for some interesting discussions during the season. I was very much in favor of both of these changes

 

Uniform and field colors must contrast

 

 Either the color of the uniform pants or the color of the body of the jersey must clearly contrast with the color of the surface of the field of play.

 

Operate the chain and down box on opposite sides of the field in each half

 

The official line-to-gain (yardage chain) and down indicators shall be operated approximately six feet outside the sideline, except in stadiums where the total playing enclosure does not permit. These shall be operated on the press box side during the first half and opposite the press box in the second half.

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