Lay off the referees

I’ve been covering high school sports for a while now, but more recently with and have noticed one glaring problem with the whole thing.

The gyms are becoming more and more full, especially during tournament time, which means they are louder and louder. The students are coming out in droves to cheer on their friends and classmates, dressing all the same and making clever signs and parents are coming to the biggest games of the season.

These are the most pressure packed, stressful games these kids have ever played in, but you know who else feels the stress and pressure? The officials.

These people are not professionals. Sure they have been around the game for a while, taken the classes and passed the exams to be a certified referee, but they are not professionals. They have day jobs just like you and I. They get paid a small amount per game to do something they enjoy, be a part of the game of basketball.

That is why these people don’t deserve to be ridiculed and insulted non-stop for 32 minutes a night.

Parents are the worst offenders.

The student sections can be loud and they can come up with cheers for their team or against the opponent, but they don’t trash the referees like the parents do. I can’t even count the amount of times a parent has yelled at a game official over the last few weeks while they can’t say anything back. They are doing their job.

How would you like it if you were sitting at your desk and someone stood their watching you the entire day and insulted everything you did wrong? Every time you made a mistake, when you didn’t do something fast enough? That’s what the parents are putting these referees through on a nightly basis.

If they made every call that they should, the games would last four hours and every single point would be scored at the free throw line. The players wouldn’t break a sweat.

The best is when I hear, “That’s a foul!” on one end of the court and then “Let them play!” when the call doesn’t go your kids way. Then the player goes up for a shot under the basket, is blocked and is called for a foul, the parent yells, “Awful call!” But when their child is blocked cleanly, it has to be a foul on them, because their kid can do know wrong.

You have to lay off these officials a little bit. Of course they are going to make mistakes, maybe more than you would like, but you have to remember, this isn’t the NBA, this isn’t the Final Four where the best referees in the country are working. These are men and women who enjoy the game of basketball as much as you and I and want to be a part of the game for as long as they can.

Here’s an idea for the parents who think they can make a better call from the bleachers than on the court, “Parent Referee Night.” Why don’t we have a night where a couple of parents officiate the game to the best of their ability and see what it’s like. Be right in the middle of the fast-paced game of basketball trying to decide between a blocking foul and a charge while hundreds of people are yelling and screaming. Try to decide if the block was clean or if the shooter got hit on the wrist. Deciding not to make a call, because it would slow down the game too much or it wasn’t obvious. These are all things that an official goes through numerous times each game, while getting taunted.

The coaches are to blame too. I was covering a game recently where the coach said it was the worst set of officials he had ever seen. Yes, they may have missed a call, I will admit that, but again, this isn’t the NBA Finals, this is the CIAC State Tournament. Yes it’s a big deal to players and coaches, but the officials also take it seriously, so lets let them do their job and enjoy the game of basketball that these kids love to play.

Correction: Farmington, Windsor football

I am writing about sports and getting paid to do it.

When someone expects you to produce a certain kind of story every time out, the pressure starts to build and that’s what I have been feeling recently.

A week or so ago I went to Portland to cover a Xavier boys soccer game for the Middletown Press. The field at the TD Bank complex is beautiful and I didn’t even know it existed. The game was as exciting as a blowout could be. SCC soccer is a little faster than a Shoreline contest like I’m used to, so I had to pay attention a little more. I thought I got good quotes from the coaches and had a good story going and it was a good story until I realized I made a mistake a day later.

I looked up the results of the Amity game to used at the bottom, because they are one of the other teams near the top of the SCC standings. I wrote their record in wrong and thus making the sentence meaningless. I tweeted the next day that I was wrong as a sort of correction and told myself to pay more attention and double-check my work. Well, it happened again.

Last night I went to Farmington for a big CCC-West D-II game. Both Farmington and Windsor came into the game undefeated and ranked in the top-10 of whatever poll you want to use. I felt more comfortable keeping stats and notes on the game and thought I had a good grasp on what was happening, even though for the second straight week I sat next to the great Tom Yantz of the Hartford Courant. I tried to follow his lead and cover the game the best I could and again, I thought I had a great story and I did, except for a bigger mistake.

I interviewed Jeremy Buck, the Farmington quarterback after the game and the coach, Chris Machol, but that’s where I went wrong. I was so excited and nervous about getting a good story on as fast as I could, I used the wrong name. I quoted Machol using the Windsor head coach’s name, Robert Fleeting.

This is something I can’t be doing and know it is a big mistake and take full responsibility for. This is something I will learn from and be more careful to avoid moving forward in my career.

I apologize to Chris Machol and the entire Farmington Indians football team for this mistake and it won’t happen again.

Why Tennis in New Haven Won’t Last Much Longer

The first time I went to the Pilot Pen tennis tournament at Yale in New Haven was back six or seven years ago, maybe more with my dad. Two days later I went with my mom and brother. This was a time in my life when I was really into the sport and playing in high school. A year or two later the tournament brought men’s tennis back and it seemed to be at an all-time high for attendance and buzz in the state.

James Blake, Marcos Baghdatis and some of the other top players in the world loved coming to the New Haven tournament, the grounds were buzzing and I even remember hearing a guy at the ticket window one year walk up and say, “I want to see Blake.”

It’s not like that anymore.

Two or three years ago the event lost it’s title sponsor and it became known as the New Haven Open. The men’s tournament also left and so did some of the better women’s players. Caroline Wozniacki won the tournament four years in a row and was #1 in the world, but she didn’t really have any competition. She’s back this year along with Sabine Lisicki, Sara Errani, Petra Kvitova and other’s, but they still don’t have the top player in the world.

The Williams sister’s used to play in New Haven; over 10 years ago and they won’t ever be back. Federer, Nadal and Djokovic will never play in Connecticut, it just doesn’t have the pulling power.

When I walked to the ticket window today, I paid $34 for the cheapest ticket possible and didn’t even get to see anyone special. Yes, I saw Kvitova in the Stadium Court, but even the box seats aren’t right on the court. If you want sideline seats, you have to fork over $84 PER PERSON.

I understand tennis is a “rich person” sport, but it has casual fans that want to see their favorite players and they can barely do that here. A 20-something guy walked up to the ticket window next to me and asked how he could get a ticket just to walk on the grounds and see the matches on the side courts? $34 for a box seat. He couldn’t believe it, walked away and thought about if it was worth it before turning around and finally buying the ONLY ticket available.

In the past, the three or four side courts always had matches being played and you could pick wherever you wanted to go to watch a match. Today there were two courts, the stadium and grandstand courts. The grandstand showcased four doubles matches, none of which were very entertaining and the stadium, about 10% to capacity showed some early round singles competition.

It was hot.

A large bottle of water cost $5 and food is even more outrageous.

You can tell the tournament is trying to make it more fan-friendly. After a couples of matches, the winners were brought out to the green area to sign autographs and play ping-pong against the fans; which is cool, but it’s not going to last.

If the tournament doesn’t figure out a way to attract the top players in the world and more fans, they will not last. The sponsors will continue to leave the way Pilot Pen’s did. They need to bring in better tennis. They need to make it affordable for the casual fan, like myself. I don’t think this will happen. I know it was a Tuesday, but the attendance seems way down. I’ll see what it’s like this weekend, but I expect it to be some of the lowest ever.

Connecticut’s Frozen Two

I stand here at the garden center entrance at Lowe’s in Cromwell wishing I could watch the NCAA National Championship Game between Yale and Quinnipiac tonight at 7 p.m. Not because I am a huge hockey fan, I haven’t ever followed college hockey and only watch the NHL during the playoffs, but because the two teams vying for greatness tonight are less than 9 miles apart, door to door.
I grew up playing NHL ’95 on my Sega Genessis with my brother, playing as the Hartford Whalers. We even went to a few games at the Civic Center as a kid (I was a member of the kids fan club).
I remember the day my dad told me the team left for Carolina. I was so upset, but didn’t understand why a team would leave. The Wolf Pack came in a few years later and it was cool having hockey back in Hartford, but it wasn’t the same. When the team was bought and the name changed to the Whale, the entire state thought something great wad happening to the state of hockey in Connecticut, but no. The Whale Bowl, the outdoor hockey festival at Rentschler Field  in East Hartford was cool…actually freezing cold. I met a few friends there after work, I remember wearing so many layers that I could barely rest my arms down the side of my body.
My friends left after the first period and as temperatures dipped below zero, the football stadium emptied out. I would say less than 500 people remained as the game went into a shootout. I couldn’t feel my hands or feet. The game ended and I literally ran almost a mile back to my car. That was probably the best thing I could have done. It got the blood flowing and I regained movement of my extremities.
I’ve been to a few games with my friends at the XL Center the last few years, they’re fun, but its not the same as a major league team or even minor league baseball, which I love.
Tonight at 7 p.m on ESPN, the Yale Bulldogs take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats for the national championship.
What does this mean for Connecticut?
Connecticut hockey is finally back on the map. I don’t have the numbers, but its been about 15 years since anyone in the state actually cared about a hockey game being played. Now the entire country and probably all of Canada is watching as well. I know there are a ton of people who say hockey is a boring sport, but I respect it. The strike a few years ago and then the most recent one didn’t not help the NHL, but hockey is again growing its fan base.
This does not mean the NHL should come running back to the state, but it will prove, if the fans show up and the teams stay contenders year after year, that they should consider it.
College sports have a more dedicated fan base than minor league teams anyway, but if continue to draw and produce NHL quality players at these programs, there is no reason why professional sports can’t make a comeback in the capital city.
I know this is just my thoughts, but believe it or not, tonight’s game is one of the biggest sporting events Connecticut has ever seen and the game is being played in Pittsburgh. Both student sections will be electric…
Oh, and one other thing. My editor at the Middletown Press is a Quinnipiac graduate. We watched the first Thursday night in the office and even though I left when
the Bobcats were up 3-1, I saw Joe freaking out. I have felt the same way about CCSU sports, but those weren’t even playoff games, let alone national semifinal. He was asked by the New Haven Register to go to Pittsburgh for the game tonight, but turned it down so he could sit home and watch the game on television. I don’t blame him. If my alma mater were playing, I wouldn’t want to be working, even though it would be an incredible experience.
I could go on and on about the game, but I’m going to leave it at that and probably listen to the first period on the radio during my break. The life of a retail employee.

Great Time of the Year

It’s finally that time of the year. The days are growing longer, the flowers are starting to bloom, you can go outside with just a sweatshirt on…it’s baseball season.

I have been waiting for this time for too long. The winter is nice, but I only got to go skiing once this year and spent another two days digging out after some of the largest storms I have seen in 23 years. I couldn’t be happier to have baseball back.

The beginning of March is when the college season started. Both of the Central Connecticut fields were plowed in time to have the home opener and even though it was still freezing cold, I was there supporting the men and women of the CCSU baseball and softball teams.

As most of you know, I have been covering the softball team for the last two years and it has been a blast. This year might be the best yet, not only because I have a great relationship with the coach and the players, but this is the best team CCSU softball has ever seen.

The baseball team is just as good. They seem to finally have both the pitching and hitting to get them back to the Northeast Conference championship game, it would be the first time since 2010.

But what I am really going to be paying attention to this year? High school baseball. I told you about my Middletown High and Xavier story the other day, but that’s not all. There are some great baseball players in the state of Connecticut that I hope to see; even the small Shoreline Conference has something good going. Marvin Gorgas from East Hampton can bring it from anywhere on the field. Low 90’s fastball, hits for power and can play the field as well. The Cromwell pitching staff could be one of the best in the state and they hope to return to the Class S championship game. Even Haddam-Killingworth should be good. The Class M runner-up from last year may have lost a couple starters, but my friend Kellie’s brother Brian Moskey is only a sophomore and should turn some heads this year with both his bat and right arm.

I have never been so excited for high school baseball in my life. I can’t wait to follow the stories and cover some games, it’s a great time of year…and of course I will be at my fair share of minor league games as well.

What Is Viper Live Sports?

Ever since I joined Twitter and with the help of my friend @kmosk3, I have been live tweeting all of the sporting events I have attended. These range from high school baseball to CT Whale hockey at the XL Center to New Britain Rock Cats baseball at New Britain Stadium and all the Central Connecticut State University events I have ever been to. I have tweeted so much that the Sports Information Office at the university hired me to live tweet their sports from the official @CCSUBlueDevils account. Most of my casual followers have enjoyed this transition, because I am no longer filling their timelines with Blue Devil softball tweets all spring.

I have recently began an internship at the Middletown Press newspaper as I complete my senior year of college and work my way towards a bachelors degree in journalism. I began at the paper last week and was immediately sent out with the staff photographer and a reporter to cover the Mercy High School basketball game. I was given the task of live tweeting the game using the hashtag #ctgb (Connecticut Girls Basketball) so my editor could retweet me from back at the office. I enjoyed the fact that many more people were going to be reading my tweets, but when I left the office for the night and looked at my account, one of my friends had asked me why I was at the game? I had to explain that it was for the internship and I don’t normally attend high school girls basketball games, especially if I have no connection, but this got me thinking…

Maybe I need a special Twitter account that I will only use for live tweeting sports, since it has become such a big part of my life. I posed the question to my followers and a few responded to me…

@jonstank: “@DCTViper89 pro: easier for followers to find you con: you’ll have two accounts to worry about. I say go for it.”

So I finally made the account last night (@ViperLiveSports), followed a bunch of local newspapers and sports reporters from around Connecticut and here I am, making a blog that will follow all the live sporting events I will go to and my internship with the sports editor at the Middletown Press.