Hosed! Vexed! Etc!

Submitted by Brian on February 2nd, 2009 at 12:57 PM

1/31/2009 – Michigan 49, Purdue 67 – 14-8, 4-6 Big Ten
1/31/2009 – Michigan 2, Notre Dame 3 – 19-9, 13-7 CCHA

argh-fry  argh-picard

One of the eternal mysteries of sport to me is why no player has ever lost his mind and gone Tropp on one of the referees. I put myself in their position, having worked so hard my entire life for this one goal only to see some gym teacher ruin it all, and just can't imagine the white-hot blinding rage I'd feel in their situation. You'd think self-control would fail at some point, and there would be An Incident. But, no, apparently not.

The closest thing in my memory is Rasheed Wallace threatening a ref on a loading dock behind some NBA reason or another, but that doesn't quite fit. This is Rasheed Wallace we're talking about here. 'Sheed is one spaced out cat, and it's one thing to clock a guy in a fit of pique during an event and something entirely different to calmly wait for the game to end, shower, get dressed, and then scare the ever-living hell out of some guy with your Cheshire Cat grin and weird bald spot you take everywhere with you because it is attached to your head. (Is there anyone on the planet you would less like to be threatened by on a loading dock? This is a 6'10" man nicknamed "Roscoe" who looks slightly deranged even when he's happy.)

I digress. Saturday was a bad day to be a Michigan fan. It's one thing to lose. It's another thing to lose partially, largely, or entirely because of the incompetence of a referee. And in two separate, critical games refereeing incompetence ruled the day, costing Michigan dearly.

Incident one:


This is a foul and was adjudged one until such point as Scrappy Heady IQ Head For The Scrappy Eckstein started gushing blood out of his nose and the Purdue crowd cried out, at which point it was cause to boot Manny Harris. From there Michigan imploded. Given the results of the past few weeks, they were probably going to implode anyway. But good God.

Incident two has not found its way to the internet, but incident three has. Collectively were even more damaging. One was a Notre Dame goal obviously kicked in that not one of the four people employed to observe these things noticed. The second was a puck lying in plain view of one of the four people employed to observe these things that was blown dead the instant before it was stuffed into the net. By a guy at the blueline. Who then reviewed the play and told Berenson the reason the goal was no good was because the net had been dislodged. A quick calculation reveals that 2 + 1 is larger than 3 – 1.

Red Berenson came as close as he ever does to losing his cool:

"I'm not here to discuss the officiating, but this was a big series, and obviously you want top officials here, but they were two great college hockey games."

Which, you will note, is not very close at all.  The Wolverine has some elaboration:

"That's the part as coaches – you can't question the officials but there was definitely a question about the goal that went in off the player's skate," head coach Red Berenson said. "It wasn't under the review camera so they couldn't see it and we had to go by the referee's judgment and that's not always as accurate as it might be. It's disappointing because it was a close game and came down to one goal.

"[On the disallowed goal] that's a tough call because the puck was loose."

Meanwhile, Michael Spath—normally very professional—declared the ruling "ridiculous" in that article.

Both of these games, then, were vexing. Extremely vexing. The fact that one followed right after the other and a spectacularly irritating Notre Dame fan was seated directly behind me at the hockey game combined to make Saturday night one spent searching for a local farm with an emu to punch. Or, you know, basically any sort of flightless, eminently punchable bird. I would have taken a chicken or an ostrich or, I don't know, a cow with big ears. No luck. I was just vexed.

It's not like this stuff is ever going to get better. Someone's got to do these games and if all you've got are Aaron and Hall and Wilkins and Hightower and Bova, you're just going to get hosed periodically. And that's all you're ever going to get because these guys have full-time jobs at which I hope they are considerably better than their weekend ones. (Otherwise there are a lot of crappily organized floor hockey teams around, let me tell you.) But even if regular vexing at the hands of college referees is a given that doesn't make it any less frustrating when it happens.



  • Jevohn Shepherd's lack of playing time is even more totally inexplicable now. Maybe he can't shoot, but no one can so let's play the 6'5" guy who's scoring pretty efficiently, eh?
  • Manny Harris was like 1 for 6 and had five turnovers by the time he was booted. I don't think that's a major reason Michigan lost; they were always likely to regress to their mean and get run out of the gym. Harris is going backwards in a major way. There can no longer be any serious debate about it.
  • That spectacularly irritating ND fan was a punk high school kid and, I'm 99% sure, one of the three NTDP players playing for ND next year. At one point he attempted to respond to someone heckling him by saying "if my grades go good [sic] you'll see me on the ice next year." Also, there were a couple other kids with him who were just obviously hockey players. Everything from their 100% Hollister wardrobe to their lingo made it obvious. Also obvious: punk high school kid was attempting to memorize the details of his fake ID.
  • Aside from the vexing hose job, the hockey weekend was a productive and encouraging one. They won on the road solidly. They outshot and outchanced Notre Dame at home. Michigan is now tied for fifth in the Pairwise and still has a shot at a top seed if they maintain their level of play over the homestretch of the season. Plus, Mitera should be returning in two or three weeks.
  • Okay, the last time we saw Scooter Vaughn he was taking a major for delivering the year's dumbest hit, and the time before that he was responsible for two Michigan State goals in the 5-3 game at Munn, but surely Tristin Llewellyn could use some time on the bench to reflect on the dumb roughing penalty he takes every game, no? Llewellyn's getting walked on a regular basis and doesn't seem to bring much other than the occasional hit.
  • There is zero reason to limit review to the goal cam when there are other options available. The concern about "inconsistent enforcement" is a weird one: surely a system that gets as many calls correct as it can is more consistent than one that ignores plain evidence a goal was kicked in because Lake Superior State's game isn't being televised this weekend. More correct calls = good.


Enjoy Life

February 2nd, 2009 at 1:04 PM ^

This whole "controversy" about instant replay in all sports is a total CYA. They are afraid the refs will look bad too often.

In the super bowl, Arizona faced the real possibility that they would run out of challenges even when every challenge was upheld!!

Imagine if they had run out of challenges and an obvious referee error occurred. To bad? You lose?

All sports should follow NCAA football. Every play is reviewed.


The NCAA should also review all games for unsportsmanlike conduct (like the NFL does now). Suspend the players that got away with one.


February 2nd, 2009 at 1:57 PM ^

Yeah but even the NCAA system is flawed, they often don't stop play and the coaches have to take a timeout in the hopes that a review will happen.

Same thing that people are upset about with the non-review of the fumble at the end of the game...that was during the 2-minute period when every play can be booth reviewed. And it wasn't. In that case I don't think it mattered because there wasn't evidence to overturn, but you can see the controversy inherent to every system.


February 2nd, 2009 at 1:06 PM ^

If the NCAA gave a damn about anything other than exploiting student athletes for monetary gain they would pay their refs enough to make it a full-time job and hold them accountable. College sports are a disgraceful money grab and the best team isn't going to win as much as it should with the way it is currently constructed. This weekend was a microcosm of the larger issue.

When is the last time the best team won in hockey? Minnesota a few years back?

When is the last time the best team won in CBB?

The fact is that the NCAA doesn't care about the best team winning. They care about money and not much else.


February 2nd, 2009 at 1:52 PM ^

Um ... last year, according to Pomeroy's rankings. And 2006. And 2001. And 2000. In fact, the only time (going back to 1999) the team that won wasn't ranked at least #2 by his system was 2003 (Syracuse was #5). (Caveat: These rankings include the tournament games, but as far as I know there's no extra weight on those games.)

Yinka Double Dare

February 2nd, 2009 at 2:27 PM ^

I think it's appropriate to use the tourney results in the rankings, and I'm pretty sure you're right that those games aren't weighted in his ratings. It's more data. More data is good when you have about 30 points games pre-tourney, especially since you have teams playing extra OOC games against good teams in the tourney.


February 2nd, 2009 at 1:59 PM ^

Totally agreed on the Harris ejection - that was a foul but not a flagrant. Turning with your elbows out is a totally normal play, although a foul if you clobber someone as a result. (Using your elbow up high in a box-out, as Novak did, is not, and his ejection was correct. I don't think it warranted a suspension, though, unless it was much worse than it looked on the one view I saw.)

Yinka Double Dare

February 2nd, 2009 at 2:29 PM ^

I think most of us here agreed with the suspension of Novak. It was an intentional act. It deserved severe punishment, especially since an ejection in the closing moments of a game you aren't going to win isn't much of a penalty.

Now if the Big Ten suspends Manny, they can eat a bag of dicks, because he shouldn't have been ejected in the first place. The only action the Big Ten should take, if any, is an apology to Harris, Beilein, and the Michigan program for such an awful call. Since I don't see pigs flying outside my office right now, we'll assume that won't happen.