well, it sure is good to have mags and shecky back in the mix of things as i am more than certain you lot were well and truly tired of reading my posts for longer than a week straight. even so, leave it to mags to return from his near death experience in what sounded like a casting call for next christmas season's feel good movie: anka mueller, the loving nurse of treblinka, only to stoke the grass or turf controversy. for a fella who is repulsively politically correct, he sure can step into a turd.
not even while the populations of washington and colorado were arguing over whether to legalize the fragrant foliage had i seen so much controversy over a little grass. seriously, it is grass. but as much as i prefer grass over the fake turf with rubber pellets that spray along the surface of the pitch, it is the fake stuff we play on and that is unlikely to change. all of this controversy began with the desire of northwest sides to host the us men's national team and world cup qualifiers. allow me to throw a pipe bomb out there--who cares? while it may do wonders for the stadium income and finances for the club in general, i could not care less about where qualifiers for international competitions take place. as much as i enjoyed reading john doyle's the world is a ball, i cannot find the same passion he has for the international game. so, while i prefer grass for aesthetics and overall benefits to player health, i really do not have a dog in this fight.
which brings me to something i had been pondering the last few days--controversies surrounding the timbers this last season. sure there was the trade of kenny cooper, the sacking of john spencer, the assumption of gavin wilkinson, the transfer of mike chabala, but as much as the timbers needed a fashionista train wreck, the loss of chewy was not the subject of my contemplation. looking back at the controversies of the last season, i am still mystified by the owner's explosive response regarding the distinction of being the only team to not have a penalty last season and, more specifically, the quality of the officiating in the mls.
no supporter of any team within any league will ever tell you that the officials of the league are worth their paycheck. it goes without saying that the officials are the enemy and that they are also the recipients of every supporters ire. yet as much as we like to gripe about officials, overall we would be hard-pressed to find specific moments where they so affected the outcome of a game by their decisions. but then san jose was awarded one of the softest penalties i have seen, so i would assume it would be beyond controversial for a relative footballing novice.
chris wondolowski was looking to match a 16-year-old, goal-scoring record when he arrived at the jw. this was not the first poorly awarded penalty kick, but was one that drew a response that, if the league were to follow its own guidelines, should resulted in a fine.
obviously, the decision did not sit well with horst, the team, and the supporters. neither did the lenhart penalty. in his post game interview, horst flippantly stated that he felt the san jose game was rigged, claiming
The MLS, they like things to go their way and so I probably saw that PK coming before the game started
surprisingly, he did not receive any rebuke or fine. i would think that should anyone impugned the mls and the legitimacy of the competition their complaints would have resulted in a fine, but these did not.
before we look at the response for the wondolowski penalty, it might benefit us to look at the response to the penalty awarded to dc united, when david horst was called for a handball. horst had jumped with his arms raised in an attempt to block a cross into the box from kitchen. kitchen had lobbed the ball in, which was quickly pushed out to the top of the 18 yard box. play continued until the linesman called a penalty. see, david horst was standing within the 18 yard box when he jumped with his arms raised. a poor poor decision. but the odd thing about the call is that, though it traveled near horst's outstretched left arm, the ball's trajectory was never diverted. that little bit of evidence indicated to every person in that stadium and several many pundits that the called handball was a truly poor call.
looking at it from my place in the northend, and in discussions with several of my seat neighbors, it looked a stone cold penalty. horst should not have raised his arms, but he did, and the ball went deceptively close to his arm. in replay, the ball actually appears to brush his kit--but it does not touch his arm. but the linesman did not have the benefit of multiple replays and multiple angles, nor did he have the benefit of time--he was required to make a decision on what he saw at that moment. considering the evidence, i can understand his decision. does it sit well? no. was it a reasonable decision at the time given all the attendant circumstances? likely.
however, this did not sit well with the owner. he exploded, stating:
Let’s be real…nfl replacement refs have nothing on mls primary refs. Sick of this garbage. I will happily take the fine. Its atrocious. Should balance out. Guess policy is to balance atmosphere. All season long…not a single damn pk awarded to us. Numerous cut/dry blown calls. And let’s give DC a gift for good measure.
which was followed up by this:
I don't like complaints about refs, always sounds like excuses. But this season has been unique. Literally no pks. We haven't controlled what we can control to max for sure. But also haven't had many breaks. Is what it is. From my end, I'm not making a habit of this. Owner shouldn't be part of the story. We will keep seeking to improve and eventually we will succeed.(And maybe someday I won't tweet angry).
i think we all understand and can even support merritt's frustration with the way calls went against the timbers this last season, but there are to voice your frustration and then there are appropriate ways to voice your frustration. obviously, the mls cannot have an owner impugn the legitimacy of its officials or the legitimacy of the league as a whole--and that is what merritt did.
to his credit, merritt did acknowledge the simple fact the timbers did not manage their destiny as well as they could. it goes without saying that the club was not just a shambles, but an omnishambles throughout the season. but acknowledging that the club stunk does not sufficiently atone for the simple transgression the soccer don should have instructed any owner in mls ownership 101--do not call into question the game. that is what merritt did when he stated the results were intended to nullify the jw home field advantage.
this point goes beyond just the legitimacy of the results--it confronts the ability of a relatively new league for a relatively unpopular sport in the states to make its way and create success. suggesting that the on field product is deficient and sub-par to the product of leagues already tainted by controversy could have potentially devastating effects to the longterm health of the mls. is what merritt said enough to topple the tower? no. but, regardless of the inferior officiating, if the league were to allow any one of its owners to suggest the results are rigged the slope towards popularity could get too slippery to climb.
which brings me back to horst's comments regarding the wondo penalty. he was not fined, but his comments were as much of an indictment of the league and the league officiating as merritt's were. so why the difference in approaches? if i knew half the things that went on in garber's head i might be a millionaire. but perhaps it was the tenor of the statement. horst made his in jest, where merritt was pointed and condeming.
eh, these are just some thoughts i had roaming through my noggin' last night. at any rate, it looks as if merritt hit the twatterverse, again.
enjoy the sunday show.