Lay Off the Stripes: Despite Popular Opinion, Referees Do Not Determine the Outcome of Games

Advertisement

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.


Email This Story






Referees walk on eggshells for a living. They live in a world of tenths of a second where decisions to blow the whistle or throw the flag must be made in an instant. These decisions can significantly affect the outcome of the game and can bring jeers and boos from a crowd and endless analysis on SportsCenter the next morning. Officiating is a tough job with unnecessary hate raining down on the referees.

Officials do not deserve the blame for deciding the outcome of the game. An entire game preceded that one controversial call in which the losing team could have changed their fate and played well enough to avoid a close ending that rode on the blow of referee’s whistle.

The Seattle Seahawks benefited from a bad call from the referees in a 2012 game against the Green Bay Packers. (Photo courtesy of Brandan Schulze)

The Seattle Seahawks benefited from a bad call from the referees in a 2012 game against the Green Bay Packers. (Photo courtesy of Brandan Schulze)

Take, for instance, the recent Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Detroit Lions. Towards the end of the game, there was an incorrect non-call by the referee when a Seattle defensive player batted the ball out of the end zone after a fumble at the goal line. If the correct call had been made, the ball would have been returned to the Lions for a first down at the one yard line.

This missed call has been torn apart for days on ESPN and on numerous talk shows. The “illegal bat” rule is not very well known,  but the official should have known about it as a professional. According to ESPN, the non-call led to a 70 percent shift in win probability towards the Seahawks. While this incompetence by the referee is completely unacceptable, as these officials are supposed to be the best in the world, the entire outcome of the game should not rest on this one situation.

The Lions had the entire first three quarters to score more than 10 points and to ensure the game would not be close at the finish. Missed blocks, missed tackles, inaccurate throws all contributed to this loss; not just the referee’s decision.

Yes, one could argue the Lions put themselves in the best possible position to win at the end of the game and that the referee took that away from them, however, in the 55 minutes prior to this moment the Lions could have put themselves in that position multiple times.

Referees are not to blame for the outcomes of games. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

Referees are not to blame for the outcomes of games. (Photo courtesy of Keith Allison)

The referee is at fault for making an incorrect call but he is not at fault for changing the outcome of the game.

A similar situation arose several years ago with the infamous “Fail Mary” play during a game between the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers. Seattle was once again on the winning side of the call in question and this play actually had playoff implications later in the season for the Packers.

At the end of the game, a deep pass by Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was caught by both a Packers defender and a Seattle receiver. The defender clearly had possession of the ball first, however the officials ruled that the play resulted in a touchdown. This was the last play of the game so Seattle won, which eventually kept the Packers out of the playoffs.

Like the recent Seahawks-Lions game, the Packers had the entire game to play better defense to prevent the game from being so close at the end. Instead, they allowed the Seahawks to score enough to make it a tight score at the finish of the game.

While the outcome of the game has now been pinned on the referee, this game, like so many others, has many other points to blame for the Packers’ loss instead of just that one call.

Referees are a part of the game for one reason: to enforce the rules of the sport. They do not intentionally miss calls to try and alter the outcome of the game. Occasionally a referee makes a bad call by accident and it is excusable because they are only human. Mistakes are part of the game and, unfortunately, some are more costly than others.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email