Saturday, November 28, 2015

referee bashing

Last week especially, it was open season on the NFL refs.  Everyone was piling on grousing about how poorly they were officiating the games.

Fans have a short memory. A few years back the referees went on strike. The NFL brought in replacement referees to officiate the games.  They were awful. Keystone Kops. And it became glaring, at that time--since forgotten--how good the real officials are.

Football rules are far more nuanced than any of the other major sports. What constitutes a catch, being down, pass interference, holding, unnecessary roughness--are largely subjective decisions based on allegedly objective criteria. For example,  in order to claim that a catch has been made the receiver has to be able to make a football move. That is the objective criterion. But the official has to determine if a move is a "football move".  Not so easy.

Last week against the Patriots, the officials made a big mistake which they quickly admitted. In the Ravens game a week or so back, the officials made another error which did in fact cost Baltimore the game.  They were indeed bad calls.

But how about the overwhelmingly correct calls they make. And how about the fact that all the players make errors too. The officials are no more robotic than the players.  They are entitled, every once in a while, to some slack.

Some talking heads in a control room who couldn't remember a grocery list and barely know the rules themselves, get together and squawk about the outrageous officiating. "How could they not see that? Don't they know the rules?" I am not joking when I write that if I had a dollar for every time I have heard an announcer make a statement that reflects ignorance of the rules, I would be loaded.

Give it a rest. Look in the mirror.

My only problems with referees occur when I think they are being influenced by the crowd or, worse, are somehow prejudicial.  I have seen that happen and it is infuriating.  The Colts do not go to the super bowl for the 2006 season unless somehow Troy Brown is called for holding on a play when he was not in the same time zone as the alleged offense.  It was a crowd influenced call at best.

I do have a beef with referees when they do not know the rules.  With the NFL though it is amazing to me that they know all the rules they know. Occasionally, I will hear an official describe what took place and it is like a doctoral student describing a bit of research that nobody ever knew existed.

Get off the NFL referees backs. And try to remember what it was like when Harpo, Chico, and Groucho substituted for them.

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