Surprise: Refs Aren’t Always Right

This is an issue that has been bothering me for some time.

In the age of technology, commentators and spectators have the privilege to watch a moment in sports frame-by-frame, inch-by-inch, in order to see if the officials on the field made the “right” call.

If so, the ref is given credit for getting it “right”. If not, the referee, or group of officials, are blamed for missing it.

Stop it.

This issue came to a head for me during (at this time) tonight’s Seahawks/49’ers game. A Seahawks player ran into the planted leg of the 49’ers’ punter. The flag came out, and the officials declared it “running into the kicker” rather than “roughing the kicker.” A substantial difference- “running” is a five yard penalty, while “roughing” is a 15-yard penalty and an automatic first-down.

Fox (which I hate watching sports on anyway) brings a former director of officiating and lambastes the group of officials for the five-yard penalty because it was the planted leg. A player going into the planted leg is- according to Fox’s in-house guru- always considered roughing the kicker.

When you look at the series the 49’ers played, and you look at the penalty, as a sports official myself, I think I came to the conclusion the refs did on the field- the team didn’t deserve the “roughing” call.

The cool thing about being a sports official is that penalties and fouls are at the discretion of the sports official. It’s not a foul/penalty unless its called.

So for networks like Fox (don’t get me wrong, I’m picking on Fox but broadcasters like NBC Sports, CBS, and those covering Premier League are just as guilty) to bring in experts and go according to the book, are simplifying and not giving due respect to the position of the official.

Another example: as a soccer referee, I have seen plays “worthy” to be called fouls in the penalty area. Coaches yell, players throw their hands in the air, but I- with common sentiment of other referees- leave the tic-tacky fouls alone.  In a situation where the goal keeper has an 18% chance of saving the goal, something game-changing has to happen for me to award a penalty kick.

Officials can’t win. On the flip side, if the referees were calling every single thing- everything in the book that’s a foul- Fox sports would have their guy on it explaining why officials need to cater the game and let the players play. He’d explain why rules are in place and the highest responsibility of a game official is game management.

But that’s not a sexy story. Officials coming to the “wrong” call, therefore creating a missed opportunity is the story.

And lastly, yes- sometimes officials don’t make the right calls.

Think you can do it better?


Shut up and enjoy the game.


Dem Pittsburgh Pirates Are Dangerously Close to…


1987–1996 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been trying not to write at all about our Pittsburgh Pirates. But their win over the Marlins got them to their 70th win.

70th win. In the beginning of August.

I know…breathe.

That means, you know. I’m not going to say it.

My good friend Jeff who writes about sports all the time and whose opinion on sports I trust more than nearly anyone, hasn’t even said it.

Ahh! How exciting. Living in Charlotte, I rarely hear people talk about MLB. So to see my hometown team do so well, though I barely get a chance to see the games, is awesome.

Pittsburgh needs those battlin’ Buccos.

But it’s only August, with too many games left with St. Louis, the Brewers and Cincy to make a jaded Buccos fan comfortable.

So, we’ll see. But keep it up Bucs; the city of Pittsburgh (and beyond) is behind you.

No Referees? No Games. Love Your Refs.

English: English football (soccer) referee How...

English: English football (soccer) referee Howard Webb (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have no idea what’s been going on in the world of sports recently, but it is getting out of hand. In less than a year, there have been three referee deaths in soccer, all in different parts of the world.

In December 2012, a volunteer linesman referee was beaten to death during an amateur soccer match in the Netherlands. The ref was 41 years old, while his assailants were two 15-year olds and a 16 year old; all players on the same team.

The linesman was officiating a match that his son was playing.

On April 27th, 2013, in Salt Lake city, Ricardo Portillo was assaulted while he was serving as the center ref of a match in a Hispanic soccer league. Portillo, who was 46, was punched in the face by a 17 year old player after Portillo gave the player a yellow card.

Portillo died later because of the internal injuries from being punched.

Now the craziest incident. This happened during the July 6-7th weekend. The center ref was 20yr-old Jordan Silva. He was officiating a match in Brazil when he showed 30yr-old player Josenir Abreu a red card. Abreu didn’t like it, and got in the ref’s face.

This is where it gets crazy.

Silva, the referee, pulled out a knife and stabbed the player, Abreu, which ended up killing him. The player’s family and fans captured the referee, tied him up, and when they heard that Abreu died, they tortured the ref and dismembered his body.

I’m going to need everyone to calm down.

This on-the-field violence, especially against refs, should not be tolerated. Players need to understand that without referees, they wouldn’t have a game to play. Referees instill rules. Referees instill fairness. When there is violence directed at the referee, no one wins.

Who knows why that situation in Brazil escalated so quickly. Why was the ref carrying a knife in the first place? Was he attacked before, was he given a reason to fear for his life and strike?

I’m not condoning his action. I hope no one ever has to make a decision to take someone’s life for fear of losing their own. I’m trying to figure out why the ref felt that he needed to carry one.

How can we shift the view of referees from “necessary evils” to “champions of the game”?

One group is trying. In memoriam of the referee in Salt Lake City, a group created the site, Love the Refs. The site is meant to show the world that “passion does not equal aggression.”

How true.

Being a fierce competitor does not mean that you must also wield your anger out on anyone or anything on the field. That is not how things work.

I think that sports organizations need to make an even stricter stand when it comes to violence against referees. Let players who show aggression be automatically suspended for 2-3 games. If they act on their aggression, ban from the league for that season. After that, any other infraction they are banned from the league and leagues around the area/region for life.

Or, every time an act of aggression towards the referee happens, end the game. No one wins.

Or, provide the referees with security.

In any case, the worse thing we can do, is nothing. Love the game, love your referees.