Feb 022003
Authors: Reed Saunders

Ever have one of your buddies barge into your conversation when you’re about to seal the deal?

Ever listen to a decent hip-hop record, only to have P. Diddy suddenly pop in for a guest rap?

How about enjoying your morning poppyseed muffin, only to find the last bite is covered with mold?

Take any situation like this, where something unwanted and annoyingly unnecessary pops into the situation right at its peak, and you’ll understand the embarrassment the sports world has been caused lately by referees.

Officials have always had a mini-microscope fixed firmly on their performance. But never before in recent memory have so many sports seen a breakout rash of poor officiating.

Oddly enough, it’s not officials blowing calls they should have made. It’s officials jumping in to make a call that SHOULDN’T have been made, and at the end of games, no less.

Referees need to take a lesson from legendary economist

Adam Smith, who made the call for free enterprise in economy, or laissez-faire.

In order to avoid a full transformation from zebras to, well, mules, to put it nicely, officials need to learn to butt out when the game is ending.

Too often, refs are looking for the spotlight, trying to make the pivotal call in the pivotal moments of games. Can’t blame them, really. For the work they put in, refs never usually get positive attention.

But instead of making themselves stars, refs inadvertently open themselves up to ridicule and give otherwise great athletic contests unwritten asterisks of controversy.

Take the Fiesta Bowl. One of the closest and most intense championship games ever was marred by a questionable pass interference penalty, which eventually cost Miami the title.

As much as Ohio State played a great game, when I think about that night, I’ll always see that penalty as making the difference, not the players. You’ll probably find a few Ohio State fans who agree with me.

Saturday afternoon in Laramie, officials made two poor calls down the stretch at pivotal times, granting the Wyoming women’s basketball team a time-out falling out of bounds and bailing out an off-balance shooter with a foul call on CSU’s Jasai Ferrucho with one second on the shot clock. In a two-point game. In overtime.

Plain and simple, officiating calls are becoming way, WAY too memorable in athletic contests, and that’s a problem.

Instead of last-second heroics and plays so memorable they have their own name (e.g. “The Catch,” “The Immaculate Reception”), we now have penalty flags and whistles draping the memory of games.

When I think Ohio State-Miami, I think “pass interference,” not, “What an amazing game!”

When I think Steelers-Titans, I think “roughing the kicker,” not, “One of the best playoff finishes I’ve ever seen.”

Understand, of course, officials are only human. Just like the players and coaches, they’re bound to make mistakes in high-pressure situations.

Most of the men and women wearing stripes and blowing their whistles are part-time employees — bankers and business-owners by day, zebras by night. Until college conferences (and the NFL for that matter) are able to shell out the dough for full-time officials, mistake-laden officiating is inevitable.

Sometimes, officials NOT calling something is the error. Last week, Seton Hall won a men’s basketball game in overtime after finishing regulation with six (SIX!) players on the floor. Could have used a whistle there.

But the most important thing referees (and the leagues who oversee them, for that matter) need to realize is that the end of a game is the time for the players – not the refs – to shine.

And that sometimes, you can do your job better by doing nothing at all.

Reed is a senior journalism major.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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