Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Can't We Eliminate Referees?


This is 2010. Sports are different. They are huge money makers that fans get more on edge about than ever before. In a world where few things are sacred, your sports allegiances are some of our strongest loves.

So when we see someone make a mistake and screw over one of our teams, it's grounds to go.

Today's USA-Slovenia World Cup soccer game/match/round/whatever featured a goal that was negated by a bad call by an official. This comes a couple weeks after Jim Joyce robbed Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. And all of that comes after the Tim Donaghy gets pinched for tampering with games for gamblers' benefit.

Officiating is horrible everywhere. It isn't all their fault. Officiating sports is one of the toughest things to do. You have to be Armando Galarraga every day ... perfect. You cannot make a mistake or ... in this day and age ... it will be shown in 10 different angles and fans will be instantly upset. Dealing with angry players (who may or may not be correct) is another deal.

The only time I ever officiated anything was during a "charity" basketball game. I played in a youth league at my local YMCA when I was 17 years old. The "charity" game featured all the coaches of the various teams against the officials in the various leagues. It was all supposed to be in great fun and a couple of players, myself included, got to hold a whistle to at least attempt to act like a ref.

Big mistake. Those coaches and refs complained about everything. They wanted ticky tack fouls called but then would scream bloody murder when they assaulted someone and you blew the whistle. I never saw grown men act like babies in my life. Again, we were teenagers who never did this before ... and these were our mentors. From that point on, I never officiated anything in my life. I don't want to get involved.

That small sample has allowed me to be a bit sympathetic about officials. But I'm not on the biggest stage in sports. I was at some YCMA in Charlotte for a meaningless game. I'm not calling the World Cup or Super Bowl or NBA Finals or a Major League Baseball game. Those guys do that for a living and are the best in their business. And they get it wrong.

Why can't we just eliminated these guys? The linesmen at tennis matches. Officials in football. Umps in baseball? I mean, do we really need an ump tell me if someone is safe or out? You could sit a camera on each base (or even sensors) to determine that. Sure, we need humans out there for a quick call in baseball (we can't keep playing on if we don't know if there was an out or not), but we can get these cats a bunch of help.

Again, this is 2010 and still no one can get it right. Even the sports that use technology to aid their officiating can't get it completely right. Why isn't there a replay offical that makes the calls in the booth for the NFL? Why do we have to call down to the referee and have him put his head under a hood and watch the play? Pay someone to sit up there with all the equipment and make those calls. I can sit at my house and with my DVR make a decision quicker.

How hard is it to have someone sitting at each venue (or even one guy sitting at the main offices) who can quickly look at each play and then correct it when needed? I know there are piddly calls that may not need a change (did the clock stop with 9:37 or 9:38 left?; is it 2nd and 4 or 2nd and 4 1/2?) but the big mistakes need to be corrected. Obvious mistakes need to be overturned.

You owe that to us, the fans.