Friday 4: The last Expo, the last game, the last straw, and last but not least

Hey, look, it’s Friday! It seems that means another installment of “Friday 4”, where I talk about the four things I’ve been thinking about the last week and the upcoming weekend in sports and the world in general.

Exactly one year after he retired from the NFL for the first time, on Wednesday former Patriots quarterback Tom Brady announced his second retirement, saying it was “for good” this time. A couple weeks ago I talked about how he probably should retire before he turns into the laughing stock that Brett Favre has become. Well, the “on the field” laughing stock that Brett Favre is, it would take some doing to match Farve’s idiocy off the field.

Soon after the retirement announcement the factoid that Brady was the last active Montreal Expos draft pick to retire from pro sports started popping up, and while that’s worthy of a chuckle the last thing Brady’s career needs is some artificial superlative thrown on top of the pile of actual accomplishments he has legitimately racked up. It’s also a massive disservice to former Expos players like Chad Cordero and Ian Desmond.

Cordero is one of those “could have been” kind of players, leading Major League baseball in saves with 47 in 2005. But soon after control problems hit, and played just nine MLB games between 2009 and when he retired in 2013. But Cordero has one notch in his belt Montreal baseball fans will know, he was the last Expos draft pick to play for the team. After being drafted in the first round in 2003 he made his Expos debut just two months later.

With the Expos moving to Washington in 2005, no one picked after Cordero ever played for Montreal. He also threw the final pitch for the Expos at Olympic Stadium on September 29, 2004 and was the final Expos pitcher to earn a win on October 2 against the New York Mets.

Until the last few days, it’s likely that most didn’t know who Desmond was until his name started popping up in a few of those Brady articles mentioning the Expos. Montreal baseball fans know that Desmond is the last Expos draft pick to play in Major League baseball. While he never actually played for the Expos he did stay in that organization, making his Major League debut on September 10, 2009, for the Washington Nationals.

In looking up the date I saw he went 2-4 with a double and a homer, and knocked in four against the Phillies, and that seems worthy of being mentioned. Also worth talking about is his last two games, where he again went 2-4 for Colorado against Milwaukee on September 28, 2019, and also hit a home run. His last appearance in a game was the next day, where Desmond was at the plate as a pinch hitter in the bottom of the 13th, and batting in the pitcher’s spot saw Jake Faria uncork a wild pitch, scoring Sam Hilliard and ending the game.

Somehow that seems like a fitting end to the Expos draft picks in MLB, with Desmond officially announcing his retirement from professional baseball on April 16, 2022.

Oh, and the last player to ever play for the Expos to retire from MLB? Bartolo Colon, who last appeared in the Majors in 2018 at age 45. The same age Brady retired.

Just another odd factoid.

If you’re a hockey fan that follows an AHL team there are two words that often will make you shake your head: Terry Koharski. If you were to take a poll of AHL fans in years past and ask them to list the three worst referees in the league, Koharski’s name would likely appear more often than any others.

That’s probably because he’s been an AHL referee for longer than anyone else in the modern era. After a few seasons as a linesman Koharski’s first appearance as a referee was in the 1988-89 campaign. I’m sure the AHL has the number of games Koharski has officiated since then, but if they released it I missed it. Suffice it to say it has to be well over 1,000.

Now I’ve done my share of yelling at Koharski from the stands, and some of it I believe was well deserved, but nowhere in the world do you get to officiate in a second-tier hockey league as long as Koharski did by being terrible. The AHL only puts its best officials in the Calder Cup Finals, and Koharski was called upon in 11 different seasons to officiate in them.

But as bad as fans think Koharski is, officials who have gone through the AHL say he’s been an awesome teacher and mentor. Now obviously no referee would publically badmouth another official, and no one should expect them to, but many of those referees say the same thing after a couple of beers have gone down, and they’re adamant about it.

Think what you will about Koharski, but for someone to be involved on-ice in the game of hockey for 40 seasons is an accomplishment worth highlighting. While others may cheer his departure the AHL and hockey have lost a bit of their history this past weekend. Shae Koharski, Springfield Thunderbirds Coordinator of Social Media & Digital Marketing and daughter of Terry, tweeted, “Sunday was the first time since 1975 that a Koharski was not employed as an official in the sport of hockey.”

Thank you for everything you’ve done for hockey Terry.

First off, I’m going to start with a disclaimer: fans should not throw anything on the ice. Not while play is going on, not while the play has stopped, not ever. Unless fans are directed to by the public address announcer because of some promotion, don’t throw stuff on the ice. It’s dangerous.

With that out of the way, you can probably guess this has to do with fans throwing stuff on the ice.

Last Sunday was the Hershey Bears “Teddy Bear Toss” game, where fans bring stuffed animals to throw onto the ice after Hershey scores its first goal of the game. Here in Worcester all three of the pro hockey teams have run that promotion before, and yes, a couple of times they got shut out and the animals were thrown post-game. It’s become quite the joke here to mention those shutouts when the promotion comes up. Luckily, the last few times Worcester has scored fairly early, and off go the bears.

So, yes, your guess that Hershey got shut out Sunday is accurate.

No team wants to give up a goal any night, but on a “Teddy Bear Toss” game teams seem to work extra hard to avoid it. And Bridgeport, at the end of a road three in three that saw visits to Hartford, Wilkes-Barre, and then Hershey, was working as hard as they could. And it was working. And the fans’ frustrations began to grow.

It was 2-0 entering the final media timeout of the third period when the public address announcer alerted fans to not throw the bears if Hershey scored. With it being so late in the game regardless of if Hershey scored or not the teddy bear toss would take place post-game. Friends that were at the Giant Center have told me this only added to the fans’ angst, to the point where many were getting angry.

With 5.4 seconds remaining, and just after a faceoff in the Bridgeport end, some fans had had enough and threw their bears on the ice. Despite the pleadings of the public address announcer, the wave of bears got larger and larger. And yes, there are videos.

The grand total: 67,309 stuffed animals, a new franchise record, and a delay of game minor officially served by Bears captain Dylan McIlrath.

I’ve really had enough of rules analysts on NFL broadcasts.

It would be OK if they actually brought something positive to the broadcast but in both conference championship games last weekend FOX’s Mike Pereira and CBS’s Gene Steratore were really not needed, although for vastly different reasons.

It seemed like Jim Nantz or Tony Romo would go to Steratore every third play, even when what was going on was obvious and needed no rules explanation. Perhaps that was because Romo was terrible and they wanted to take time away from him, which if that were the case I guess they did what they had to do. But in the fourth quarter, it seemed like we heard more from Steratore than from the two announcers. That’s just way too much.

And I’m not certain Pereira was watching the same game I was. You need to look no further than the “roughing the kicker” penalty called on the Niners, a call that kept an Eagles’ drive alive while it was still just a two-score game. Jordan Mason got blocked into the kicker, and while that’s a penalty to the defense in the NCAA it’s not a penalty at all in the NFL. And yet despite it being completely obvious that’s what happened Pereira either didn’t see it or didn’t want to call out referee John Hussey for being wrong.

Either way, that’s a huge problem.

Look, I get the NFL has some wonky rules that occasionally require someone to step in and explain them. They’re also needed when something looks like it should have been a penalty and isn’t or wasn’t called and should have been. But they need to do it openly and honestly, not trying to protect the guy in stripes who made the call. We also need announcers willing to question these analysts on specific points without fear of making that analyst look bad. Because if the analyst is right, he won’t look bad answering any question.

But for run-of-the-mill calls, most fans can see if it was a penalty or not. Of course fans rooting for one of the jerseys will likely see and believe what helps their team, but they do that now even with a rules analyst spewing information at them.

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