My Take: Replay Puts Pastime into Past Time


The News: Major League Baseball owners unanimously agree to expanding instant replay during games. Managers will effectively have one “challenge” they can use through the game, and if their challenge overturns a play–they receive a second challenge (much like the NFL).

My Take: Baseball has a problem, but the owners/front office running the show don’t understand the problem. MLB Commissioner, Bud Selig, believes setting up instant replay to be played on scoreboards in every stadium, hiring more umpires to overview challenged plays from an off-site location in New York City, and getting the call “right” are effectively the solutions to a given problem.

They’re solutions; however, they’re not solutions to the problem at-hand.

To understand where I’m coming from would mean that you’d have to understand my philosophy on the sport. I’m a purist. Now, what does that mean? Simply–I prefer the game to be played much like it was decades ago. In a perfect world, I want umpires to make the calls (right or wrong), players to not cheat/gamble, and the game to be played with heart.

Purists look at the issue at-hand a bit differently than what the MLB front offices will when it comes to instant replay.

What’s baseball’s problem? It’s not sexy. There’s no appeal…And what little appeal it has given the fact that the market prefers the National Football League–it squanders in its shortcomings.

Take television ratings from the past decade and compare them to that of the previous two decades. In the past 10 years, TV ratings have dropped significantly for the World Series. In 2012, ratings hit an all-time low of a 7.6 rating. These numbers are significantly lower than the numbers produced 20-30 years ago.

So how can baseball be sexier? How about a shorter season. Cut the number of games from 162 to 120 (just for example). Make the playoff system similar to how Minor League Baseball is setup: The top team from each division in the first-half of the season automatically grabs a playoff position, while the second-half of the season will have another team make the cut from each division. Essentially, you’d be giving fans two seasons, and doubling the chances for teams to make it to the postseason.

I digress. Back to the problem.

Instant replay is a wonderful thing for ensuring accuracy of any given play. Its centerpiece is clearly defined by the NFL. What the NFL has done with instant replay and challenge plays is acceptable and effective; however, I believe its success in the NFL won’t translate over to the MLB for one key reason:

–Games are already long enough. Weekday games (when most teams experience lulls in attendance), which begin typically around 7pm and last for three hours on average, will take longer to finish. How many families will be able to spend an entire night out at the ballpark during the week if the game doesn’t finish until 1030-11pm? Let’s not forget traffic and parking struggles post-game.

As a purist of the game, I’m not about to support video replays. Whether the call is right or wrong, umpires have the ultimate say, and should look to each other for reviews without the use of instant replay.

My Take: Changing the Structure of Alaska Football


West Anchorage High School

West Anchorage High School (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First things first: Alaska football. It’s the itch on your back you can feel, but just can’t quite reach. You know it’s there, you know it’s there for good reason–but you also know something just doesn’t feel right about it.

Allow me to entertain you for a minute. This article is dealing in hypothetical situations. While I’ll throw around my opinion, I’ll back it up with everything I’ve seen in my short year I’ve been here in Anchorage.

Before I get too in-depth, let’s take a trip down memory lane.

I went to Conner High School in Hebron, KY. It’s a suburb of Cincinnati. Kentucky high school football is operated under KHSAA. It’s an organization (much like the ASAA), that oversees all prep sports in the state… And while Kentucky prides itself on its basketball programs at the collegiate level, at the high school level football reigns supreme.

When I graduated high school in 2008, Kentucky had 4 levels of football competition (1A, 2A, 3A & 4A). Overcrowded schools gave way to newer schools opening up, and soon there were 6 divisions–I won’t name them out for you.

The number of high schools with a football team in the Bluegrass state–it’s in the hundreds. That’s right, hundreds of schools fight for 6 different classifications of football.

Alaska has 38 high schools with a varsity team this season. Those 38 teams fight for 3 different levels of play.

3 conferences.

Eight of the 13 large school division teams make the postseason tournament, including five (of 8) teams from the Anchorage area (Cook Inlet Conference).

The 2012 football playoff teams (large division) consisted of: South Anchorage, Service, West Anchorage, East Anchorage, Palmer, West Valley, Juneau-Douglas and North Pole.

There were a lot of movers/shakers in the football off-season months this year. In italics from the above teams are North Pole and Juneau. The Patriots of North Pole went 7-2 during the 2012 campaign. They outscored opponents 383-260. Their lone loss, a 7 point defeat to Palmer.

While Juneau-Douglas went 4-4 only a season ago, the Crimson Bears did have state championship teams in 05-06 & 07-08. A lot has changed since then. The addition of Thunder Mountain has taken away some of their talent, but the team still competed well at the large division level.

Both Juneau and North Pole bowed out of the 2012 football playoffs after 1st round losses to West Anchorage and Service.

I dug into the guidelines to find this: Article 14, Section 1 (Part C) of the 2013 ASAA Bylaws and Regulations states, “Changes in Regional/Conference placement may be initiated by the Board of Directors or by member school request.”

And just like that–Juneau & North Pole raised the white flag to escape the clutches of the large school division. They now entered the medium division.

Alright, history lesson is over. I digress.

Now let’s get to the facts. According to USnews.com–North Pole has a student population of 783 students in grades 9-12; Juneau has 846 in the same grades.

Let’s branch out to other schools:
–Palmer (774 students)
–Eagle River (895 students)
Soldotna (544 students)
–Kenai Central (524 students)
–Thunder Mountain (643 students)

The first two schools I listed are in the large school division. The latter three are in the medium division. Does anyone notice something fishy? Palmer’s 774 students is a lower number than Juneau-Douglas (846), yet Juneau is in the medium school division now.

Why doesn’t the ASAA have set guidelines in place for student population dictating which division they go into?

Just a thought.

If you leave it to me–If a school has 725+ students, they’re a large school. 724 and lower, you’re playing in the medium division. Problem solved? Not quite. We’ll get to travel expenses in just a bit.

Restructuring the Conferences

More facts: 38 teams, and 3 playoff bracket conferences is simply too much. I propose a change.

2 conferences, instead of 3. You can name them 1A and 2A… Anchorage and Rest of the World… Big guys and Little Guys… That makes no difference to me.

2 conferences broken down as follows…
Conference #1: 16 large school teams–All 8 Anchorage schools, Palmer, Wasilla, Colony, Lathrop, West Valley, North Pole, Juneau-Douglas and Soldotna. Eight teams advance to play in a post-season tournament. The CIC and the Railbelt remain intact, with 8 teams a piece. Top four from each conference go to state.

10-Team-Single-EliminationConference #2: The remaining 22 schools are broken down into 3 classifications (featherweight, lightweight, heavyweight….just for an example). 10 teams make the postseason (4 heavy, 3 light, 3 featherweight).
First Four: #3 heavyweight vs. #4 heavyweight (Game 1); #3 lightweight vs. #3 featherweight (Game 2).
Quarters: Game 1 Winner vs. light-weight #1; Game 2 Winner vs. featherweight #1; #2 heavyweight vs. #2 lightweight; #1 heavyweight vs. #2 featherweight.

…The rest is history.

I know what you’re thinking already–But, Jake…22 plus 16 equals 38. You said there were 39 schools.. AND If you take Soldotna away from the Peninsula talent, you ruin the rivalry with Kenai Central.

Soldotna’s about to get a little bit more talent with the dissolving of Skyview High School. This should bump up the numbers for the school’s enrollment, and also help give the Stars some talent to play with the large division teams. As for the rivalry, Soldotna would get 1 non-conference game every year. They could easily schedule them.

Figuring the Travel Expenses

The next step in this mumble-jumble mess is figuring out how teams are going to afford for travel expenses. Alaska is the only state in the country that has this problem. Juneau-Douglas is inaccessible unless by plane.

Say hello to Alaska Airlines. The airline frequently sponsors local events–The Iditarod, the Prep Basketball Shootout at West Anchorage High School, Legion Baseball tournaments…The University of Alaska Anchorage is getting a new $100+ million arena called the “Alaska Airlines Arena” for crying out loud. They’re invested. Find a way to get them on-board with the idea, and players will be on-board with traveling to play panhandle teams (or vice-versa).

Saving Some Dough

Have you been to the Anchorage Football Stadium? I’m liking the field renovations. The turf feels like real turf, and not something straight out of Minnesota’s Metrodome.

But for such a nice facility, AFS is only used for a small portion of the year by the Anchorage School District. That’s fine, I get it.. It’s Alaska, and nobody wants to play outside. Let’s just let this be for now.

But hypothetically speaking–how much do you think the School District spends to host soccer games, baseball and softball practices and track meets at “The Dome”? How much do you think the ASD spends for tennis teams to play indoors in several Alaska Club locations? State is held their, too.

The Anchorage School District relies too heavily on outside sources. I know they’re in a budget deficit, I get it–but let’s thing long-term.

How can we solve the problem? How about this.

That, my friends, is a recreational dome (much like what many Universities have in place currently). With one of those bad boys on a large plot of land, you could easily fit an indoor track, and soccer field sized dome that already exists (think, West High School has two turf fields already), and save the District money in the long-term.

Tennis? How about a seasonal air-dome? It’s a thought.

School Spirit

If you go to a football game in Anchorage–you’ll notice a few things.

1. They’re almost always played at Anchorage Football Stadium.
2. Every team has a turf field (with the exception of Bartlett, but it’s on the way), but only Dimond, Eagle River and Chugiak actually play games on them.
3. Fan support? Fans show up, but it’s nothing like Valley/Peninsula games.

I’ve always wondered, can you really have a Homecoming game when you’re not playing “at home”?

Priority #1 should be for each and every school to grab zoning/building permits for bleachers at each of the facilities that don’t currently have them (South Anchorage, Service, West Anchorage, East Anchorage and “soon-to-be” Bartlett.

Once those are in place, traditions can develop–and home field can once again be claimed. Until then, the only home-field advantage that exists is whichever team has more fans that show up (and even then, they’re not necessarily “loud”).

A Leaving Note

It’s my hope that I’ve raised a few eyebrows with the article. This is obviously my opinion, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of anyone else. My goal is to always question how things can be done better, more efficiently, more effectively…So that Alaskan athletes have the best opportunity to succeed on the field, and have the potential to continue their athletic avenue throughout college and beyond.

By the way…North Pole and Juneau, the two teams that dropped from the large division to the medium level, combined to outscore their opponents in Week 1, 103-14. North Pole held a large division team in Eagle River to 2 yards of total offense.

Just think about it.

26.2: Mayor’s Marathon Race Day (June 21st, 2013)


Taken at the end of April 2008 in Anchorage, A...

Taken at the end of April 2008 in Anchorage, Alaska.

For those hoping for a sports-driven blog post, you’re out of luck. Instead, if you’re reading this and it’s Saturday, June 21st–say a prayer for me.

The line, “Well, here goes nothing,” can fit perfectly with what I’m about to do.

I signed up for the 40th Annual Mayors Marathon on Wednesday evening (the day before the deadline for registering). I did so after having completed an 11 mile run on Anchorage’s Coastal Trail–part of which will be included in the 26.2 mile race.

I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes. I’m a moron.

But I’m a moron who likes to take calculated risks. This was a risk I couldn’t quite pass up.

As for what I’m about to say–well, occasionally I can come up with something that’s relatively deep. So here’s my thoughts, at midnight–5 hours before I wake for my first ever marathon race.

Am I marathon-ready? I’m not exactly sure such a thing exists; however, running has taught me one very, very important thing–just “go”.

One simple word: Go. Yet it packs so much meaning, so much inspiration. Many from my generation, easily the “social-media” generation, live on the cusp of greatness, yet retreat into solitude. We feel so comfortable in our online box, with our online profile, and our online biography. What are we actually sharing? I look down at my phone all the time to check Twitter. It’s a habit. But it’s what I’ve become accustomed to. We need to know what’s going on on now…And never in any other point in human history, have people been so needy to have what they want instantly.

Go.

One word with such a great impact. If you know me on a personal level–you know that I’m not the guy who’s going to smash a Bible in your face, or force you to believe anything. My Christian roots have given me a foundation for who I am, and who I’m becoming. The Bible has served as an excellent source for knowledge, wisdom and guidance.

Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” –Mark 16:15

The word itself, “go”, is seen in the Bible 1,303 times. It’s not just a word–it’s an idea. It’s an action.

I think our generation, and our world, needs to “go” more often. When I say this, I’m not merely reflecting on always being on the go, but rather–actually getting out and living life to the fullest.

Hearing people tell me they’ll start something tomorrow only induces mediocrity. I simply refuse to accept mediocrity. Which is why I’m taking today’s risk.

Today, I know there will be hardships. At around mile 16-19, I’m probably going to want to quit…But perseverance may be the strongest quality of all. At the end of the day today, I’ll have a story worth telling.

Go. Go create your story. Go do what you want to do. Go live your dream. Go be what you want to be–because life’s too short to say otherwise.

I know at the finish line of today’s race, and of life I’ll look forward to saying this–”I have fought the good fight. I finished the race. I have kept the faith.”

Just…Go.

ARU: May 29th, 2013 (All Things UAA)


University of Alaska Anchorage

University of Alaska Anchorage (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First things first: I received a mix-bag of reviews for my story on the UAA stadium, and its lack of sheet of ice back about a month ago. I want you to know this–this article isn’t about a biased opinion, but rather, an opportunity for me to share with you my thoughts.

In order for me to explain my thoughts about UAA, we have to take a quick journey back in time to yesteryear. In my 4 years of college at Western Kentucky University, I went through three different changes in the athletics department. Wood Selig was there my freshman year. He made quite the impact at the university; however, WKU was as prone to change as a kid in middle school. All of its sports were Division 1, with the outlying exception being that of football–which played at the Division 1-AA level.

Our school was in the middle of a transition. I was a member of the football program (not a player, obviously), and WKU had just built a multi-million dollar football stadium addition. For those there before me–this addition signaled the beginning of something great. The beginning of an opportunity for the university to reach the next level of competitive performance.

The transition from Division 1-AA to 1-A is a daunting one for any school. It just so happened that in the 3 years it took to make the transition, the Hilltoppers went from a 7-5 season (2007), to losing 28 straight games. When students say the pride of a school can often be found in the football or basketball teams–well, let’s just say it wasn’t the easiest of times to cheer for the former of the two.

David Elson was the football coach at that time. I don’t remember much from him outside of the fact that he was a nice guy. He genuinely was a good man; however, the team slipped to a 2-10 record my freshman year with wins against Murray State and St. Teresa’s School for the Blind. Elson was canned.

Why?

The nature of any athletics department thrives on success, but that success is all relative toward time. Many, many athletic departments insert new jobs like a revolving door. It’s the nature of the business. If you’re good–you get a raise, or you move to a place where they’ll pay you more. If you’re bad–well, your school accepts your mediocrity or you get the ax.

Selig, WKU’s Athletics Director, decided to jump ship to accept the same position at Old Dominion. Looked like a pretty lateral job move, but if it floats his boat–so be it.

Ross Bjork, an up-and-coming guy relative to the sports world, became the youngest Athletics Director in the NCAA when he accepted his position as the new AD at WKU. Bjork came from UCLA. His background was in recruiting, and fundraising. He was exactly what the University needed in its darkest hour.

I’ve already stated what happened to Bjork, and you just don’t know it yet. The football team went 7-5 in the regular season, with wins against in-state rival Kentucky, and Southern Miss.

Bjork left the Bluegrass state for America’s least educated state, Mississippi, to take a job at Ole Miss. Good for him.

Enter Todd Stewart. A man with a heart for the university, and a man that knew exactly where he wanted to see the state of the athletics programs. Stewart snagged Bobby Petrino off the coaching market. Bobby Petrino. For Bowling Green, Kentucky–that’s a big hire.

I prefaced you with that to tell you this–While WKU received no direct communication from the governor (much like UAA has had happen in the previous week), the Hilltopper staff adapted and overcame adversity.

The University of Alaska-Anchorage is in its dark hour. No Division-1 hockey coach. No Athletics Director. For the time being–a clear vision of the future is about as easy to see as zero-visibility fog.

Alumni, fans and supporters took to social media on Wednesday when the announcement was made that AD Steve Cobb would be fired from his position. What I found was a lot of resentment toward the man that became the face of the program…And a lot of doubt surrounding the future of what Seawolf Athletics will become.

To those people–I simply say, be patient. Patience was the hardest thing to keep when my football team lost 28 consecutive games. Patience is hard when you expect nothing short of excellence in your Division-1 hockey program which has excelled in years past.

Patience.

When the time comes, and the hire is made–your patience will pay off.

And maybe, when that day comes, the face of the program won’t be the Athletics Director, but rather–it’ll be the student-athletes that make it all possible.

Your Take: How Much is Too Much? (The Mercy Rule)


First things first: I preface this entire article with the reasoning behind why I’m writing such a piece. Earlier today, I received word of a local high school girls soccer team whooping (and I mean–whooping) up on another team by a score of 15-0.

Simply put…The question I pose is this–should high school sports incorporate a mercy rule?

The response I received was fairly straight-forward. It’s hard not to be anymore when you’re only given 143 characters to type. For those who are new to the blog–welcome. So you know, I take some of the best tweets from a question I pose on Twitter…Publish them here, and save my opinion for the very bottom. 

Here we go.

@NicoleSween: no way. Respect your opponent by playing them hard 90 minutes.

This is a pretty interesting take, and one I can definitely understand. When I played sports–the last thing I wanted to know was that a team was “taking it easy” on us in order to not run up the score. In this sense–running up a score is showing respect because you’re not taking it easy on a team.

From the perspective of the team that’s being told to “take it easy”–how do you tell a player to purposely strike out? Or to change your game strategy to accommodate to weaker opponents?

And @CharisseMillett added to the debate by saying “NO! The real world is a tough place- play till the end, hold your head up, own it -your in the game- play!”

This take brings high school athletics into a completely different element by connecting high school sports with what reality outside of high school is supposed to be like. This take seems to believe that the players on both teams should give their all 100% of the time and no matter what the outcome–it’s justifiable.

Many coaches and parents will justify the real-life learning lessons that can be taken away from playing sports. This take seems to melt those learning lessons back into the field of play, which will vicariously translate over to the real world. Interesting.

While @JaredOsgood said: “How is having a match cut short because your losing by 10 any less humiliating than being beat 15-0?”

This is one of my favorite takes on the issue. Jared poses the instance of humiliation from a defeat from which you were “run-ruled” or the mercy rule was imposed against you. For instance, if a mercy rule was in place for soccer which stated “if a given team was up by 10 goals at halftime, the game would be called”, and a team actually posted 10 goals by half…The other team would be just as embarrassed as if they actually finished the game and only lost 15-0. 

But some leaned heavily in favor of a mercy rule. @stacheflowsnarl said “there totally should be. There’s a ten run mercy rule in baseball which is way easier to come back from then 10-0 in soccer”

This take correlates a different sport to the mercy rule. Jacob states that in baseball, there’s a 10 run rule–which translates to being “easier to come back from than 10-0″ deficit in soccer. This take really brings to question if a mercy rule should be applicable for each sport, and what boundaries a mercy rule should have.

My take: To understand my take, you have to understand my background with the mercy rule. I played baseball for 14 years of my life. It runs in my blood. My dad played ball for the University of Kentucky. While there was no mercy rule at the collegiate level (nor should there EVER be), there was one at the high school level.

The rule is as follows: The mercy rule is enacted if a team is up by more than 20 runs after three innings, 15 after four, or 10 after five/six/seven innings. Remember–high school baseball only plays seven innings.

I firmly believe high school “team” sports should have a mercy rule. For me, the mercy rule isn’t a matter of respect or not. It’s a matter of both teams playing as hard as they can, but understanding that in given times (especially at the high school level) there will be differences in competitive levels. With that being said–certain sports obviously don’t need a mercy rule. Individual sports claim individual winners. There’s no need to cutoff a swimmer in the middle of his heat because he’s not keeping pace. 

My high school baseball team was mercy ruled only a handful of times while I played. Was it demoralizing? No. A loss is a loss. What’s demoralizing and degrading is running up the scoreboard to the tune of 20 or 30 to nothing; however, there isn’t nor will there ever be a rule book for this?

I’m suggesting that there is something wrong by intentionally running up the score.

This brings me to my next point: I’ve always grown up with the understanding that certain things in sports are “bush league”. You just don’t do them. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to prevent “running up the score”. In baseball, if a pitcher can’t pitch the ball across the plate, it leads to walks, which leads to runs. There were multiple times I could have grabbed a double, but chose to take a single because my team was already up 15-20 runs.

As for a matter of this being a “life lesson” that they just need to play until the end–I find that to be absolutely intolerable. High school sports aren’t designed to teach kids how tough the “real world” is. They’re meant to foster friendships, promote activity, develop sportsmanship and grasp teamwork. Sports are meant to grow individuals from a young age so they can live a better life, not bring them down in the process. If teaching them how rough the “real world can be”–can the same be said for middle school sports? What about any competition? Can we say the same to elementary school quick recall teams which lose 38-2, 40-0?

I can see how that conversation would go down now:

“Sorry Billy, you’re just less intelligent than those kids over there. But that’s part of life. Way to try hard. You just don’t always get what you want. Get used to it.”

One student from the school that lost 15-0 put it pretty simply, “Brb while I go cry.”

Here’s what I do know–if a team routed my school in baseball by 30 to 40 runs, I could only hope that in every single other sport we trounce them… You couldn’t score enough points in football for me to be happy. Tennis? Why not. Golf? Yell when they’re teeing off. 

So let me ask you this–What if?

What if that soccer game had a mercy rule? Would the losing team care? What’s there to lose by adding a mercy rule?

What if they made the mercy rule just an absurd amount? For soccer–what if it was 12 goals by the 12th minute of the 2nd half? Spare the losing team from putting up with more goals scored, and the possibility that one or more of their players could get injured during that time. How about for baseball–20 runs after four, 17 after five, 15 after six?

Why not?

After all, I’m a firm believer that there’s a way to win with class.

Do you think there’s such a thing as “too much”? Should high school sports enforce a mercy rule? Why or why not? I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment below, or tweet at me @RyleJake.

Day 1 Workout (4/16/2013)


Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in We...

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in Wellesley, just after the halfway mark (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey friends:

If you’re anything like me–you may have felt a call to action after the incidents which occurred in Boston during the Boston Marathon. This is my call to action.

I’ve decided to start a new portion of my blog. I’m giving it the simple title of “26.2″. For the less knowledgeable–26.2 is the number of miles in a marathon race. 26.2 is meant to be a place where you can share your running experiences, and have a running partner to give you a little bit of enthusiasm and encouragement along the way.

Here’s how it works: I’ll post my workouts before I actually go accomplish them. I’ll log my times, and then record them in the first portion of the next workout, and then post the next workout following those results.

Let me first give you a little bit of my running history (cue the time machine): Throughout high school, I spent almost every day running through the halls, or on the track to stay in conditioned shape for baseball and basketball. That training dealt more with running shorter distances in a faster time (i.e. running a lap around the track in 1 min, 4 seconds).

In college–I focused more on running for distance. I ran in several 5k’s before stepping up to a 10k, and then eventually a half-marathon.

Now, my goal is to run a marathon–and I really do believe we can work together to attain this goal. Notice….We. I want you to share this journey with me.

I’ll be following a 29 week training regimen. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday/Sunday we’ll be going for a run. If you aren’t comfortable with the workout–send me an email… jacob.ryle801@gmail.com. I’d love to help personalize a running regimen you’d be able to do no matter your skill level.

Ready to begin?

Day 1: Run 45 minutes.

The pace should be that so you can keep a conversation with a friend without feeling winded. The goal isn’t to rush through and see how many miles you can log, but to just finish.

Before you run, make sure you stretch all of your muscle groups.

After you run, make sure you stretch all of your muscle groups. ((This is the most important…While you’ll probably be sore after your first few days of running, this will help alleviate that soreness))

So get out there, and log your miles. Let me know how you do.

In the upcoming  blog, we’ll cover what a “magic mile” is–and how it can impact your run.

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