The Baltimore Orioles have been victims of poor umpiring in the past. Every team in baseball has. You’ve probably seen #umpshow on twitter. MLB, along with every other league out there, is usually fairly guarded in terms of how it deals with it’s umpires and officials.
In watching yesterday’s NFL games, I have to admit that I was outraged at some of the calls. The New Orleans Saints flat out missed out on a shot to go to the Super Bowl due to what should have been a clear pass interference call that was let go. In the AFC game, New England quarterback Tom Brady was the beneficiary of a phantom roughing-the-passer call when a defender’s hand passed in front of Brady’s face mask – without touching it.
These are all judgement calls – much like balls and strikes. I’ve never been one to suggest removing the human element from officiating in sports. Not only that, but if leagues introduced some sort of robotic officiating system that could always be hacked. Are we really thinking that some fan with the means and know-how wouldn’t hack and corrupt the system in favor of his favorite team?
However one thing I noticed on my twitter feed last night was that a lot of people were saying that the NFL has an officiating crisis. I might agree; officiating this season was atrocious. I’m not one to suggest games are fixed; however the two teams who benefitted from bad calls yesterday were New England and Los Angeles – both big media markets. Interesting twist to say the least.
I suspect that leagues can keep up the charade that these are judgement calls and so forth only until it affects their bottom line. When ratings start to go down, that’s when leagues will take notice. No, I’m not suggesting that people stop watching sports – because I’m not doing that myself. However that’s when leagues would take notice. And I’m talking something major – such as horrible Super Bowl ratings, or even a non-sold out Super Bowl or World Series game.
Of course, the alternative is that leagues could recognize the issues for what they are and fix them. Pool reporters are allowed in officials’ locker rooms across sports after games. The refs/umps have the option of giving statements if they so desire. That also means they don’t have to do so if they opt not to.
How exactly is it fair that players and coaches are required to speak to the media, but officials can hide? Perhaps a place to start is to force these guys to speak to the media. If the media wants to talk to them, that is (not every game is going to have blown calls and require a statement). Perhaps that would garner some accountability on the part of the officials. If they know they’re going to get grilled for their mistakes, that is.
Needless to say, all of this is a tough sell. Leagues don’t want to make changes, but as I said…the New Orleans Saints flat out lost a shot to go to the Super Bowl yesterday. As hard as teams work to get to that point, that’s tough to rectify.