A Red Card?   2 comments

Loved watching the US play Costa Rica in soccer yesterday.

This was the Men’s National Team playing in the CONCACAF championship tournament … the regional championship of North America, Central America and the Carribbean. It’s been held 11 times, and Mexico has won 6 times, USA 4 times, and Canada 1 time. The USA is favored to win the tournament this year.

The problem came at 54:33 of this pool-play match. The Costa Rican goal keeper, Pepperton, rushed out to the edge of the box, knocking one of his defenders down to head a ball away. The problem came on the rebound: he handled the ball outside of the goalkeeper’s area.


Handling the ball deliberately.

You can see in the picture that he handled the ball. Let’s go to the rule book:

A foul occurs when a player in the field of play “handles the ball deliberately.” In this case, the player is the keeper, who has left his special area – meaning he is the same as a field player – and then he, clearly, handled the ball deliberately.

Cobi Jones, the color commentator, exploded with “It’s gotta be a red card.”

He continued, “It was an intentional handball.” (Cobi, that was spoken like the great player that you were. It must be intentional to “handle the ball deliberately.” But thanks for trying!)

JP Dellacamera, the play-by-play announcer, was entirely supportive of Cobi’s slanted perspective. American viewers watching the telecast knew that a red card was the right call – and they were about to believe that America had been robbed.

A red card, you see, would have resulted in the keeper being sent from the field of play. Costa Rica would have been forced to bring on another keeper for the rest of the match, and to play with only ten men on the field. The USA would have had a major advantage.

The referee, Courtney Campbell, issued a yellow card, which was “only” a warning to the keeper. That was the proper call, in my opinion. A red card would have been appropriate if the keeper committed the foul to end an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Did the handling keep a goal from happening? Perhaps, but it was not obvious. That’s what the referee thought, and I agree. I’m hardly a FIFA referee, but I do have a bit of referee training and experience. Yellow card, as called.

Fox Sports however, played the role of the homer. They stated the red card was the right call.  Their expert on the laws of soccer, Dr. Joe Machnik, agreed that a red card was the right call. In no case did they explain why a yellow card might be the right call.

And that’s why they were wrong. I hope their coverage improves … they should listen to Vin Scully call the Dodgers sometime; perhaps they would then understand how a sports announcer should handle controversial calls by the referee. Until then, viewers better bone up on the laws of the game, because Fox isn’t helping them.

USA won their group outright by defeating Costa Rica. Now, it’s on to the CONCACAF quarter finals … watch the USA take on El Salvador in Baltimore this Sunday at 3:30p ET. Fox Sports, of course. Just don’t take the commentary too seriously.

2 responses to “A Red Card?

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  1. You are wrongl they did explain when a yellow card could have been possible- if there was not an imminent scoring possibility or if the play was deemed a pass. They clearly explained this, but did not feel that in any way, shape, or form, that this was a pass or that it wasn’t an imminent scoring possibility. I congratulate the commentators for not taking the milquetoast road of saying “maybe the ref had a point” and clearly called him out on a horrendous call. Sometimes the refs screw up- they are human- but they need to be called on it!

    • Cobi Jones did not allow that the referee might have been right. That is my point: the commentary was not neutral, it was 100% slanted towards the opinion that the referee was wrong. The other announcers climbed on board with the same opinion. Personally, I disagree … but the important point here is that my note objected to the commentators not allowing for a contrary viewpoint. That is bad play-by-play, IMHO. I agree 100% that when video playback shows that an error happened, it should be discussed. Play-by-play announcers should tell the truth … but they should also allow for the neutral opinion that intelligent people can disagree about what happened in a controversial play. This play calls for a judgement by the referee, so there can be no definitive “factual” opinion – such as whether the ball was in or out of play, for example. You can disagree with his judgement, but in the end, it’s his opinion against yours, and his counts more than anyone’s.

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