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Archive for November 11, 2019

Nov. 11, 2019 — Swallowing the whistle

Yesterday, during our Final Third broadcast on our Facebook Live channel, we noted an uptick in physical play in some of the games we watched — physical play which often went unpunished via a penalty card.

I’ve noticed that there have been times during postseason play where umpires or other game officials in many sports tend to call games in elimination situations a little more loosely than in the regular season — letting the players decide the outcome rather than a striped shirt.

But just as often, I see players try to take advantage of a perceived reticence for game officials to call playoff games tightly, and it will often bite. Every other year or so, someone is thrown out of an NCAA women’s lacrosse Final Four game. It could either be a second yellow (more often than not) or a straight red (which has happened on a couple of occasions).

I want to focus on a situation that happened over the weekend that was captured on film and distributed on social media. In a field hockey game, a penalty corner unfolds, and a score was recorded on a shot which was from about two yards in front of goal. Seconds after the goal is signaled, the goalie takes a swing at the player with her blocker, and connects with the goal-scorer’s torso.

Friends, under most codes of conduct in sport — and not just high school — that’s a red card. I’ve seen goalkeepers get sent off before; I seem to remember an NCAA tournament game a couple of years ago when one team had to play about 60 percent of the game a player short because of indiscipline on the part of a goalie.

The punch was missed because the umpire on the play was in the midst of indicating that the goal was good.

Now, I don’t know whether there were conversations between the captains (one of whom was the player punched) and the umpire, but there was, on social media, a still shot of an official’s timeout during that same game where the umpire was discussing the situation with the team that was scored on, presumably to give the team time to calm down.

This, regrettably, put the umpire in the middle of the game, which is what game officials try to avoid. I’m hoping that everyone in this situation learns lessons from what happened, and the game can progress in spite of incidents like this.