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Referees – A Necessary Evil

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Over the past couple weeks, I have been absolutely captivated by the College World Series. Watching these youngsters play their hearts out for a chance to win the coveted national championship was truly a memorable experience. From epic, extra-inning battles to the traditional victory dogpile at the pitcher’s mound, the College World Series had everything to offer a sports fan. However, over the course of the tournament, one particular moment left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

UC Irvine and Cal State Fullerton were deadlocked in extra innings during one the tournament’s numerous elimination games. Everything that the players had done during the season boiled down to this one moment. Then, in the bottom of the 13th inning, it all came crashing down – a UC Irvine player blatantly stepped into an inside pitch, putting him on base and eventually creating the winning run. The Cal State Fullerton players must have been experiencing a combination of heartbreak and complete outrage. The umpire had a perfect view of the Irvine player as he leaned into the inside pitch. But, instead of penalizing UC Irvine for the infraction, the player was allowed to take first base. Even in the face of a furious complaint from the Fullerton coach, which evetually resulted in his ejection, the umpire refused to reverse the call. 

This instance reminds me of all the absolutely horrific calls over the years. It seems as if referees make critical mistakes on a consistent basis year in and year out. Remember Diego Maradona’s infamous “Hand of God” goal against England that eventually led to an Argentine World Cup victory? Or, I don’t think anyone can forget when George Brett was called out for having too much tar on his bat, when the rule clearly states that the bat can be removed from the game but the player cannot be called out. There have been so many crucial blunders over the years that a question inevitably rises to surface of sports fans’ minds – What can be done about the problem? Can we simply say that the players will police the game themselves? No, that would never work. Referees are a necessary evil without which there would be even more controversy.

So, how can the the various sports commissioners ensure that these types of occurrences do not continue happening? In my opinion, the only way to resolve the issue is to treat referees and umpires like players. When a player does something outrageous, he or she if fined, and if the situation warrants it, suspended. The same thing should happen to referees. If they make an absolutely ridiculous call, they should be fined and/or suspended. Maybe then, in the face economic punishment, referees would begin to wise up and start limiting the number of ghastly calls they make.

This is one sports fan who cannot take any more lackadaisical outings by referees. I think that implementing some kind of new regulatory regime, devoted to scrutinizing and punishing referees who make mistakes will go along way towards correcting the current problem. If you think I am wrong, just ask Joe Crawford. Do you think he would have given Tim Duncan those ridiculous technical fouls had he known he was going to be suspended indefinitely? I think not. Putting referees on such a short leash would definitely improve the quality of their decision makeing and, in turn,  improve the quality of sports.


Nishan Wilde is VP of Sales at Robbins Sports and Athletics, an online resource for athletic apparel and equipment, featuring Gym Bags and Portable Scoreboards.