There’s a reason the outrage among fans and media usually far exceeds the level of fury among those in the actual arena.
It’s called accountability, and in almost every case, the team which came out on the short end of a bad call or bad break understands it was within its power to furnish a different outcome.
The St. Louis Blues are smarting Thursday as they process a 5-4 overtime loss to the Sharks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final. The sequence that ended in Erik Karlsson’s game-winning goal 5:23 into overtime began with Timo Meier appearing to pass the puck with his hand to Gus Nyquist. Nyquist then directed it to Karlsson, who put the Sharks up 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
Yet their anger, in contrast to fans, media and outsiders, was almost muted in comparison.
Part of it has to do with the simple fact that life isn’t fair and was never intended to be fair. Every coach in every sport harps on what it means to battle adversity. Stuff happens, you control what you can control and move on.
And that’s the thing — the Blues had the game within their grasp and didn’t deliver. They understand that in a way no one else can possibly can. They were the ones on the ice, with the power to win anyway.
St. Louis played a nearly perfect second period to take a 4-3 lead, couldn’t sustain it and let the game go to overtime. The Blues couldn’t deliver on an empty net when they could have closed the deal and allowed the Sharks and Logan Couture to score the game-tying goal with 1:01 to play.
Longtime sportscaster and social commentator Keith Olbermann went so far as to say they overtime should be replayed or no Stanley Cup should be awarded in 2019.
I’ll assume Olbermann is exaggerating to make a point, but even if he’s not, his sense of justice far outweighs his sense of reality.
As long as sports are played, there will be bad calls which will contribute to who wins and who loses. Even with more technology, it still comes down to the human element. Someone sitting in a booth then has to interpret what is seen on the screen and deliver a proper outcome, and that doesn’t always happen.
My reaction to what happened to the Blues Wednesday night is similar to what happened to the Raiders on Jan. 19, 2002. Charles Woodson . . . Tom Brady . . . Greg Biekert . . . “Tuck Rule.”
The Raiders are angry about it and remain so to this day, but not to the level of the fan base.
That’s because the Raiders realize if they’d converted a third-and-1 from their own 44-yard line with 2:24 to play the game was over. It was called “14 blast” with Zack Crockett, it had worked all season, and the Patriots stuffed it. Then Troy Brown returned the ensuing punt 27 yards, setting up Adam Vinatieri’s 45-yard game-tying driving field goal in a driving snow.
Then the Patriots drove 61 yards in 15 plays on their first possession of overtime for Vinatieri to kick a 23-yard field goal.
The Patriots got a break, even with the “Tuck Rule” in effect, because there’s no way the replay was conclusive enough to reverse the call.
But it was the Raiders who didn’t stop the third-and-1. It was the Raiders who gave up the 27-yard punt return. It was the Raiders who didn’t block Vinatieri’s low-line drive field goal in regulation, and it was the Raiders who couldn’t come up with an overtime stop.
They know this and understand it. It was within their power to win anyway.
All of New Orleans remains in an uproar after the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman blatantly interfered Tommylee Lewis and there was no call in the NFC championship game with the score 20-20 within the final two minutes. The Saints settled for a field goal, the Rams tied it, and then won in overtime.
It was the Saints who let the Rams get into field position, and it was Drew Brees, hit while passing, who threw the overtime interception that the Rams used for Greg Zuerlein’s 57-yard field goal to win the game.
A year after the “Tuck Rule” game, Steve Bartman interfered with a foul popup which Moises Alou was about to catch for the second out of the eighth inning and the Cubs up three games to two against the Florida Marlins.
Then the Cubs proceeded to melt down, lose that game and get blown out the following day.
When the Athletics lost 6-5 to the Seattle Mariners Monday night, Lou Trivino looked to have a called strike three on Daniel Vogelbach, only to have it called ball three instead. Trivino then served up a game-tying home run, manager Bob Melvin was ejected, and the Athletics lost 6-5.
Bad call by the home plate ump? Sure looked that way. But in no was Trivino contractually obligated to give up the home run. That was on him.
St. Louis lost a game it could have won. Maybe should have won. That the Blues didn’t win, though, had as much to do with their own failings as those of the referees and the NHL’s regulations on what is and what is not reviewable.
Or to look at it another way, the Sharks put themselves in position to get that break and then took advantage of it. The same way they did against Las Vegas in the first round, scoring four times in what looked to be an unwarranted five-minute power play in Game 7. They eventually won 5-4 in overtime.
Did the Golden Knights get screwed by the the officials, or by their own inability to prevent the Sharks from scoring four times during a single power play? The answer is obvious.
For the Blues’ sake, the good news is the immediately infamous “hand pass” occurred in Game 3. Win three games, and St. Louis can make the hand pass a footnote.