Before a co-ed IM soccer game in college, a student referee completely changed the way I view refs in sports.
Prior to the game starting, the official was going through his pregame spiel (wear shin guards, no slide tackling, etc.) and he finished with a simple request. Don't yell at him if he makes a mistake. Well, what ref wouldn't say that? It was what he said after that has resonated with me since.
"If you guys make a stupid play or kick the ball over the net, I'm not going to tell you how much you suck," he said. "So give me a break if I miss something. I'm trying my best."
Having never been a ref, I never looked at it from that perspective. And it's a brilliant point. I've never experienced a ref ripping me for all the poor plays I've made throughout my life. I've never seen a ref tearing into anybody for their poor play, so why are we so quick to not only tear them new ones, but blame them for our losses?
This memory has been on my mind recently with the replacement officials in the NFL and the recent controversial call in the NL Wild Card game between the Atlanta Braves and the St. Louis Cardinals.
The former was really highlighted at the end of the Week 3 Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle won on a last-second hail mary where the Seattle receiver should have been flagged for pass interference and most observers will tell you that Seahawks' Golden Tate did not have duel possession as the refs ruled.
The replacement officials messed up on the final play of a game, which is pretty rare. Usually people screw up, but teams have time to overcome it. This was different, but it still didn't cost the Packers the game. The Packers offensive line gave up eight sacks and their high-octane offense didn't do squat. Their defense let the Seahawks get to the 30-yard line and have a shot at the endzone.
The refs screwed up at a vital part of the game, but the Packers had 59 minutes to make that last drive irrelevant.
As for the umpires in last night's Wild Card game, it is a lot easier to defend. Now I don't know how a fly ball to the middle of left field could be an infield fly rule, but that is what the umps decided. I don't care what Joe Torre says, it looked wrong to me.
But once again, the umps didn't decide that game.
The fact the Braves couldn't get timely hitting when they had runners in scoring position is a reason they lost. Three errors certainly didn't help the Braves either. The umps made a bad call, they didn't cause the Braves to lose.
That how it is with pretty much all blown calls. Like the Packers games, the call may be the last play of the game and cause a win or loss. But these games are four quarters, nine innings, three periods, whatever. There is plenty of time for teams or players to win or lose the games. They have vastly more control from the refs, and those who blame the refs need to look at themselves or their team more closely.
Weezer - Teenage Victory Song