UP THE UMPS
At its very best, officiating of quick-moving team sports is not a very exact discipline. In professional basketball, for instance, application of "judgment calls," such as those regarding the laying of hands on an opponent, can be mysterious, yet in the charged atmosphere of the arena there seldom is a major rowdydow between teams and referees.
Which cannot be said for professional hockey, where officials at times appear to take a worse beating than the performers. To paraphrase the ungrammatical TV commercial, being shouted at and shoved is not a completely unique experience.
The reason may lie in the officials themselves. Basketball referees try to establish a certain consistency to their calls early in a game, brook no lip from anybody and keep control throughout. Hockey officials too often let the game control them, as was readily evident last week in the NHL semifinal playoffs between Chicago and Boston, and Philadelphia and New York.
Seemingly unable to establish a pattern in either series, the officials would work their whistles for a span of 10 minutes, like engineers on a runaway freight, then apparently forget that they had ever owned a whistle. Whichever team yelled loudest last got the break next time. The Rangers were butchered in Philadelphia, a fact that received a fine, all-round airing. When New York returned home, it drew 27 minutes in the penalty box to the Flyers' 81.
No doubt the style of game the teams played had a strong bearing on the calls the officials made. But it remains true that the referees were beleaguered men. As the Rangers' Ted Irvine said of Referee Dave Newell after the first game in Philadelphia, "He was scared out there. You could yell at him, swear at him. He didn't call anything." This may be a carryover from the days when the NHL did not mind a melee or two to hype the gate, but it is out of place today. For their peace of mind and safety, let alone the integrity of the sport, the officials ought to take charge and the league should back them. Among other benefits, they might dampen the fire of those flame-eating crowds that, at last look, were not noticeably awed by the dignity of the officials' calling.
It was Cushion Night in White Sox Park last Saturday, a soft promotion, so to speak, following the end of Chicago's hard times, which bottomed out the week before. But Detroit was not cooperating and soon the free seat cushions were flying around the stadium like Frisbees in a tornado. Before the crowd stopped bombing, Tiger Manager Ralph Houk yanked his team from the field, which is a lesson for the Oakland A's. They play in Chicago May 18 and had better wear their helmets at all times. Coffee Mug Night.
"Oft expectation fails, and most oft there/Where most it promises," the Bard wrote in All's Well That Ends Well. And in this case 'twas a far better thing that it did.
The trouble began when Atletico Madrid went berserk before a capacity crowd of roaring, hissing Scotsmen in Glasgow during the first leg of the European Cup soccer semifinals against Celtic. "It was not football, it was Armageddon," said one English critic. Tripping, pushing, body checking and obstructing—committing in fact 50 fouls—the Spaniards raged through the last 25 minutes short three players who had been sent off. The game ended in a near riot and a 0-0 tie, which said little for Celtic. But it also resulted in the banning of six Atleticos from the second-leg match last week in Madrid's Vicente Calderon Stadium, which said a lot for Celtic chances.