Saturday, November 04, 2006

Why Critique Referees...

One question is why fans would want to critique referees. In many sports, the people who could say the most about referees and their accuracy are banned from saying anything negative, so they are banned from expressing their views on this crucial topic. For example, the NBA fined team owner Mark Cuban $500,000 in 2002 for his disparaging remarks against the NBA director of officials. The NFL fined team coach Mike Shanahan $20,000 in 2005 for criticizing a ref's call. The NHL fined team owner Ed Snider and coach Roger Neilson a total of $75,000 for making public statements criticizing referees.

When players are banned from commenting on referees, it should be up to the sports journalists to analyze how well the refs did. But for some reason, most journalists do not criticize referees. One possibility is that they don't think referees make mistakes. Or maybe they don't think the mistakes are worth talking about. Or maybe they don't want to upset the sports leagues that give them the power to attend press conferences.

Analyzing the performance of referees is something that can be done with respect for how difficult it is to perform a referee's job. Let's call things as we see them -- if a referee makes a mistake, let's study it. Even the most honest and fair-minded ref will make a mistake once in a while. Making a mistake does not mean a ref is trying to help one team over the other. Remember that when an honest ref makes two mistakes in a game, there's a 50% chance that both mistakes will go against the same team.

But let's also criticize the sports where there are too many mistakes. Some sports have realized that there are too many mistakes and tried to fix their sport. In some sports, the NHL in 2000 adopted two referees (not just one) in each game. After the January 2003 playoff game between the Giants and the 49ers, the NFL revised how referees position themselves on field goal attempts. So criticism can be a good thing, a very good thing.

Justin Bloom, a columnist at, also wonders why criticism of referees is punished by professional leagues. He posted a column on October 31, 2006 titled "Invective directive: Why is criticizing officials so roundly criticized?"

Jeff Walker of the Avalanche-Journal is a Texas Tech supporter who believes coaches should be allowed to criticize referees. He wrote about it on November 4, 2006 in "Game Officials Should Be Called Into Account."

Criticism can get you suspended. Weber State football coach Ron McBride was suspended by the Big Sky Conference because he said "I think the guy just made a mistake" about a referee and that "I think it was an inadvertent whistle." Sounds like a small comment to get you suspended.

$12,500 fine against Titans coach Jeff Fisher for criticizing referee Jeff Triplette and umpire Jim Quirk for calling Mike Anderson of the Ravens down by contact and upon further review saying it was a fumble but no clear recovery. Fisher said it was a bad call by the umpire He also said that "we all saw it, everybody saw it" and "Now how you get down by contact I have no idea." Wow, $12,500 fine...


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