In the world of Spanish soccer, the rivalry between Real Madrid and Barcelona is unmatched. The two squads faced one another over the weekend and Real Madrid won the game, but that was not the story of the game. Cristiano Ronaldo – considered by some to be the best player in the world – got a red card in the game, pushed the referee ever so gently after receiving the red card and then received a 5-game suspension for that act. Let me summarize how he got the red card:
- Entering the game as a substitute, Ronaldo scored a goal to put Real Madrid in the lead. As he went through the typical over-the-top soccer celebration of a goal, he removed his shirt. That got him a yellow card from the referee. [Aside: A friend is a soccer referee and he tells me that such a call is commonplace and not surprising. He said it is like the NFL where a penalty immediately follows if a player removes his helmet as part of a celebration.]
- Later, the referee made a call that Ronaldo “took a dive” in the Barcelona penalty box to try to get a penalty kick situation. I have seen the replay; he did indeed take a dive; however, in the cosmos of soccer players taking dives, this particular one was not outrageous in any way. Nonetheless, when the referee issued Ronaldo his second yellow card for his supposed fakery, that turned into a red card and Ronaldo was disqualified.
- The referee turned his back to walk toward the center of the field; Ronaldo came up behind the official and pushed the official in the back very gently. He now has a 5-game suspension that he will appeal.
Actually, he has only a 4-game suspension for “pushing” the referee because the red card he was issued carries an automatic 1-game suspension with it. Nonetheless, Ronaldo will appeal. Here is my position on the matter:
- The “dive” that created the situation that ended in the red card was a borderline call and the “push in the back” was not violent. However, Ronaldo’s suspension should be upheld because he is Ronaldo.
- Soccer is a sport where violence against officials has a long and sordid history. In baseball, fans shout “Kill the umpire.” In soccer, they sometimes do just that to the referee(s).
- The pooh-bahs who run soccer must not allow one of the best players in the world to do such a thing and get away with it.
I realize that my position here is that Ronaldo deserves punishment because he is so good at his sport. Normally, the impact of “justice” in sports works in the other direction; star players tend to get away with “stuff” that would not be tolerated from ordinary players. In some utopian construct, “sports justice” would be like Lady Justice – blindfolded to conceal the identities of the parties before her. That has never been the case and will never be the case.
Last week, we had an example here in the US of an “ordinary player” being judged more harshly that a “star player”. As we awaited the NFL’s judgement on Ezekiel Elliott regarding a domestic violence incident – an investigation that stretched out over a year and allowed Elliott to establish himself as a top performer – another Cowboy named Lucky Whitehead was released by the team for doing absolutely nothing at all. When a miscreant was arrested for shoplifting, the miscreant told the police he was Lucky Whitehead; basically, the Cowboys took that news at face value and cut him. “Sports justice” operates on a sliding scale depending on one’s talents and productivity.
I mention the Lucky Whitehead matter again because of news from earlier this week. He signed on with the Jets about a day after he was released by the Cowboys. Yesterday, Whitehead broke his foot in practice. It was not immediately known if he is out for the season; but clearly, he will be out for a while. If not for bad luck, it seems that Whitehead would have no luck…
As the MLB season heads into the home stretch, you are running out of time to get yourself to a ballpark to sample some of the culinary creations there. So, if you are in any of these areas, here is what you might be missing:
- PNC Park in Pittsburgh: You can enjoy a Cuban Pretzel Dog. This is a foot-long dog on a pretzel bun topped with ham, pork, cheese, pickles and mustard. This is essentially a Cubano sandwich on a hot dog. Shouldn’t this be on the menu in Miami?
- Miller Park in Milwaukee: This concoction begins with an 18-in bratwurst. Say no more, there will be Rolaids involved when you are done. Then add fried sauerkraut, fried jalapenos, cheese curds, sour cream, melted cheese, fries and gravy. For color, top all of this with chives.
- SunTrust Park in Atlanta: They call this creation a “Burgerizza” and that pretty much tells you what it is. Start with a 20-oz hamburger and top it with melted cheese; this is a simple humongous cheeseburger. Then you put that bad boy between two 8-inch pepperoni pizzas. I guess you should wash that down with a Pepto Bismol spritzer…
Finally, readers here know that I like to identify athletes with unusual names. Here are two comments from sports columns around the country that provide examples of unusual names:
“S. Santiwiwatthanaphong finished 11th in a recent LPGA tournament. The rookie is actually giving copy editors a break going by “S.” Her real first name is “Sgrtuuxezazgiiopvq.”
“Her biggest challenge as she embarks upon a pro career? Signing the scorecard.” [Brad Dickson, Omaha World-Herald]
“Iceland’s Thorir Thorbjarnarson is Nebraska’s last basketball commit.
“Pundits predict he’ll be a Scrabble All-American.” [Dwight Perry, Seattle Times]
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………