Ready to rip
Readers chime in on bad announcers, much more
Posted: Thursday February 22, 2007 5:08PM; Updated: Thursday February 22, 2007 6:20PM
Pretty soon I'll be on my sabbatical from Sports Illustrated, the six-months break to write my memoirs, as previously explained. These are the rules. I'll still do a mailbag column once every week or so, just to keep my hand in the game. And now, to kick off this installment, we have Sarah P. from Brooklyn, who submitted the following:
"Huge fan. Hey, don't you usually take a vacation after the Super Bowl? Did you get to go away this year? My birthday's coming up and I need a wine suggestion for a party we're having."
Yes, the Flaming Redhead and I took a short trip, as usual (we take a longer one in May). Yes, I'll suggest a wine for you. But trips and wine and stuff have been relegated to their own house on the prairie, so as not to clutter up the football stuff, and to get there you have to hit the link, or the clink, or whatever the technicians dream up to get you off and running.
I'm not going to lead with the feedback on my announcers ratings, which constituted the most popular topic. I'm not even going to come in with my E-mailer of the Week, who poses a thorny and provocative ("Aren't they the same?" the Redhead asks. Yeah, right, it's repetitive ... please select one of them to go on waivers) point. Instead my leadoff hitter, football variety, is Mark of Atlanta, who likes honest reporting when it comes to officiating, and asks the following: "What's the most crooked officiating in an NFL game you ever saw? I dare you!"
Come on, man. You think I'm a-scared of a mousy little question like that? That's an easy one. Jets-Bills in Shea Stadium in 1973, refereed, and clumsily covered up for, by my least favorite ref, Pat Haggerty. Rookie back judge blew a call and later admitted it ... got no help from veteran crew ... Haggerty did the Gestapo number on our pool reporter afterward and wouldn't let him near the guy. But this isn't why I put your query so high. I'm going to answer it with a story I've never told, and in so doing, I'm shortstopping my own memoirs, because this is a personal one ("I wish you'd start writing these already, instead of just talking about them," Linda says, and my answer is, all in good time, my child). New paragraph for long, boring ... I mean long, intriguing story.
Crookedest officiating ever, in any sport. This is in the early 1960s. Our team, the Columbia Rugby Football Club, is playing at West Point for the division lead. I've read all the legends about the Point ... The Plains and the Thin Grey Line and Benny Havens Oh, and I even saw the movie, The Spirit of West Point, twice. You know what that place REALLY is? It's the home of the most outrageous screwings any visiting teams ever have received, anywhere.
We're down by one point and the game's winding down. We're on the attack. Pat Moran, our outside center from Ballyhaunas, Ireland, kicks ahead, but he gets too much foot into it. The ball smacks into one of the uprights. It ricochets back, on a line, and is fielded on the dead run by our winger, Tommy Haggerty, an All-East halfback for Columbia when the Lions were good, and a guy who'd been in the Giants camp, and Haggy runs it over for the try that gives us the lead. Tweet! Whistle. Game's over. We celebrate hysterically. The Cadets hang their heads and glumly prepare for the final handshakes.
The referee, a big, fat guy wearing what looks like old fashioned white knickers or pantaloons, the kind of crap golfers once wore ... I'll never forget him ... makes the following announcement: "Final score, West Point 23, Columbia 22."
Now waaiiit just one minute, podnah. I wasn't great in all phases of mathematics, but I did know how to add. I approached the gentleman. "Uh, pardon me, your grace, your excellency, but can we just go over the scoring for a moment?" He turned his back on me, began walking and snarled, "I announced the score." My mind snapped.
"You dirty mother-------! You're stealing the game from us!" A couple of guys, including our captain, grabbed me by the arm. "Take it easy, Zim."
"Take it easy? TAKE IT EASY! You sumbitches are so dumb you don't even see what he's doing! He's stealing our game, waah, waah waah."
And the score stood. Afterward, at the traditional party where the teams drink beer with each other, a few of the cadets came over and apologized and shook their heads. "I"ve seen bad ones up here," the prop forward I'd played against told me, "but this was the worst ever." I'm getting all worked up even writing about it. Linda, another sandwich, please.
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