On Thursday I blogged all about the refereeing controversy over in Scotland – here’s the update:
The Daily Mail reports that seven foreign officials will be brought in to take care of this weekend’s games after Scotland’s 31 ‘category 1’ refs decided to go on strike. Two Israeli, three Polish and two Portuguese refs will watch over the six SPL games plus a handful of other action.
(Oh, hold on a second. As I write this, it turns out the Polish refs have actually just pulled out because they are "needed for domestic games." What, did somebody call in sick? Sky Sports reports all matches will still go ahead though...Uh oh! The Portuguese officials have also decided to go back home!)
This, after the football associations of several countries refused to send people as a show of solidarity with the plight of the striking refs.
If you missed it, Scotland’s top officials are basically on strike because they are fed up with the constant criticism they take from players, coaches and the media. The last round of controversy involved a ref giving a penalty, taking it back and then admitting that he lied about the whole thing – so it’s not like all of the scrutiny is unfair…
You know at the end of the day, the refs should just be happy that people aren’t driving their cars onto the pitch!
The Special One Strikes Again
People are talking after some curious moments late in Real Madrid’s Champions League clash with Ajax Amsterdam this week…
Real manager Jose Mourinho has been charged with “unsporting conduct” and UEFA is investigating the actions of two of his players after they were accused of getting “deliberate” red cards in the 4-0 win. You’re probably asking yourself, “What would be the point of a deliberate red card?!”
Here’s how it works: If a player is shown a red card, or is cautioned in two different games, he is forced to sit a one-game suspension. Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso both saw yellow early in this week’s game, a win that clinched top spot in Group G for Real. Since they’ve still one more game before the knockout phase begins in February, the second yellow card (and subsequent red card) shown to each player means they’ll miss a meaningless game while ‘wiping the slate clean’ for the next round.
When I first heard about this incident I thought to myself “how do people know that these guys were trying to get sent off?!” Then I saw the video:
Is this brilliant strategy by Mourinho, or an incident that has damaged the game’s reputation, as suggested by Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger?
Honestly, I don’t think it’s as bad as people are making it out to be.
What makes this worse than a player throwing himself onto the ground in an effort to draw a penalty or a free kick? How is this worse than a player trying to kill time by faking an injury and writhing in pain on the ground while clock ticks away, only to get up and join the play a minute later?
It’s not the most ethical thing I’ve ever seen, but I think it’s actually pretty funny!
In fact, the funniest part of that whole video is when we see Luis Suarez throw his arms up in protest and complain to the ref – yes, the same Luis Suarez who was just handed a seven-game ban for biting an opponent; the same Luis Suarez who helped Uruguay go through to the semi-final of the World Cup by using his hands to keep a ball from crossing the line. Yes, he’s upset that someone else is wasting time in a 4-0 game. Come on!
If you’re an NBA fan, I would advise you to watch as much basketball as you can this winter…because there might be a drought coming!
The executive director of the NBA players association said this week that he is “99 per cent sure” that there will be a lockout next summer and that he’s been instructing players to start saving. Billy Hunter told The Associated Press he’s preparing for a lockout because he doesn’t see the two sides coming together for a deal anytime soon the way things have gone so far.
The league wants to slash salaries by up to $800-million and install a “hard” salary cap, like the one used in the NHL. The league says it’s losing in the hundreds of millions of dollars per year, something the players say they don’t quite believe.
Hunter says he doesn’t really find the NBA’s argument in favor of those changes “all that compelling,” adding that the owners are being “unreasonable.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that the players union is being proactive just incase there is a lockout, providing its members with a ton of information on how to save money, including lockout-themed podcasts by Derek Fisher of the LA Lakers. It’s tough to fathom a league full of millionaires struggling to make ends meet, but I guess when you’re accustomed to a certain amount of money coming in every two weeks, you’re not used to worrying about money!
Around the Rinks
It was a big week for Ottawa Senators forward Alex Kovalev - he picked up his 1,000th career point with a power play goal in a 3-2 win over the LA Kings on Monday, the 76th player to hit that milestone.
Kovalev is only the third Russian born player, behind Sergei Fedorov and Alex Mogilny, to put up 1,000 points.
The Detroit Red Wings pulled out a dramatic come from behind win over the Calgary Flames this week, which included a last-second tying goal from Henrik Zetterberg and a dirty dangle from captain Nick Lidstrom in overtime for the “W.”
The reason I bring it up is because Lidstrom’s goal is a must-see:
Believe it or not, the 40-year-old comes into today’s action tied for second among defensemen with 20 points in 19 games. The only thing more surprising than that is the fact that John-Michael Liles is the defenseman with the most points so far!
Speaking of the scoring race, there’s a healthy battle brewing between Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby. Right now it’s Stamkos leading the way with 38 points to Crosby’s 36 – but in terms of just goals, the third-year forward is six goals clear of everyone else!
With 21 goals in his first 22 games, Stamkos has the hockey world buzzing as he looks to become the first player since Brett Hull in 1992 to join the 50-in-50 club.
Can he do it? Absolutely. He went from 23 goals in his rookie season to 51 last year, why not over 60 this time around?
One last thing – the NY Islanders host the NJ Devils today, riding a 14-game losing skid (0-11-3). How bad are they? In 21 games, the Isles have been held to a goal or less on 10 different occasions and they haven’t won since October 21st!
If you don’t think they’re frustrated, check out this tweet from Michael Grabner (@Grabs40):
Manny Pacquiao says he’ll retire in three years. Floyd Mayweather Jr. immediately releases a statement saying he’ll agree to fight Pacquiao, but only in four years…
Korean baseball player Shin-Soo Choo avoids mandatory two-year stint in the military thanks to Asia Games win…
You’ve heard of road rage, right? That’s old news – bench rage is the new thing…