Argggh….I feel the weight lifting off my chest as I get down to the business of writing on this topic. Every sports fan cannot deny that there have been times when they felt like the referee of a game they are either involved with as players or fans of their favorite team, should be blindfolded by well-built thugs dressed in black, wearing face masks and kicked in his/her behind and shoved in the back of an unlicensed truck… Taken to be never seen again.
Yea ok, a bit over dramatic. But then again, is it? I mean do you know how many people had their hearts experience a technical glitch when the football referee called a goal for what was clearly a handball by Thierry Henry during the 2009 world cup?
I’m sorry if you are not a soccer fan, I probably should have researched relevant applicable examples for other major sports such as cricket, basketball, hockey, tennis etc… Excuse my laziness but part of me feels like a true sportsman can relate no matter what the game is. After all, we’re all in this life together and life, is another game isn’t it?
With that being said, this article is in support of referees and not an indictment against them. As a result of the competitive nature of sports, it is understandable that tempers will flare up, egos will be bruised and it is inevitable that disagreements over the call of the ref will happen.
However, this article puts forth five reasons why it is wrong for players and fans alike to met out their frustrations on the ref.
#1. The most important role of a ref is not to give fair or good calls but to simply be an impartial/neutral officiating party
Yes, you read that right. And you thought it was to uphold the rules. Jokes aside, though, think about it. Everybody involved is actually well aware of the rules most likely; and even if someone was not, chances are the other players are. Heck even if most are not aware of the rules, at least, one player is or else you will not be able to play the game! Now if this is the case, it should stand to reason that players can then officiate themselves. However, as soon as one considers this thought, inevitably they come to the conclusion that players cannot be trusted to be fair and are likely to be biased towards their team or against a player they do not like etc.
So I’m hoping by now you see my point, which is that the referee is meant to be neutral first and foremost. I would suggest that neutrality itself takes primacy over getting the call right. Why? Because no one will get it right all the time.
What if the ref is clearly not impartial I hear you say? What if the ref is clearly intimidated or taken in by the charms of a player like all humans can be, and is clearly ruling for or against a player I hear you say?! Fair enough that brings us to my next point.The calls of the ref in 99% of cases does not make a material difference to the outcome of the game.
#2. The calls of the ref in 99% of cases does not make a material difference to the outcome of the game
Yes, when you stop to think about it, to what extent did really bad calls actually contribute to you losing the game? Stop and think for a moment before you say “Hey wait a min, you brought up the Theirry Henry situation yourself”. A goal in a football (or soccer game for my American readers) obviously makes a material difference. Yes, this is fair, for a game like football where scoring a point doesn’t come as easy as say tennis or basketball.
Then again, was it the ref’s fault that the game was tied neck and neck until the very end when his bad call made all the difference? What credit is to be given to the other team for actually being tied in the first place? How much credit goes to Theirry Henri’s team for getting that corner kick in the first place? Is the ref responsible for the sequence of events that lead you to that vulnerable position in the first place?
I guess the multi-million dollar question we need to ask ourselves is, is to what extent can the ref be blamed for the outcome of the game… I mean really? Like really?
#3. It is actually impossible to get a ref that is infallible
Now, before you say “I have had enough of this holier-than-thou crap’, just hear me out.
I’m not saying you should not complain. By all means please do because we all know sports would not be what it is if it weren’t for the emotions involved. So if you think you should display your disagreement, why not?
Always ask yourself this, how much of a human error margin have I actually given the ref? 50% of all calls? 30%? 10%? 0%? Then ask yourself how much should you actually give them? As humans, I would suggest that most refs will fall within a 10-30% margin of error depending on how trained they are. No amount of training can bring you below 10%. That I do not believe. But we all know the player or fan who gives 0- 1% margin of error, quick to flare up over any possible oversight of the ref. So we then turn the spotlight on these unreasonable and miserable creatures and ask them what about you? Are you infallible?
#4. You are infallible so you might be wrong
At the end of the day, the ref is not as emotionally invested as you are in the game. What are the chances that you are actually seeing what you want to see? In other words, you could be wrong. This means that in addition to giving the ref a 10-30% margin of error, you should also give yourself a margin of error that reflects the fact that the ref may have seen something you did not or perhaps what you saw is not what actually happened.
#5. Sports, like life, is not necessarily fair
When it is all said and done, the aim of the game for both fans and players is entertainment, to witness and partake in the miracles and demonstrations of the human spirit that is displayed on the sporting grounds. In case, you do not know how come sports can be responsible for raking in millions, drawing the attention of fans who devote themselves with a zeal that surpasses that of their fellow religions, it is because the saying “sports is life” is true. It is because the saying “life is a game” is also true…
“There is a lot more going on than a bunch of grown men and women chasing or watching adults chase a ball“, I would often bark at my mom who is wondering what all the fuss about sport is.
Because what is being displayed on the grounds are acts of bravery to draw inspiration from, when a smaller boxer knocks down his bigger opponent or when a small player takes a charge in basketball. There are displays of brotherhood and teamwork when a player loses a game-winning free throw or penalty and he’s crying his heart out for letting the team down, and his teammates surround him/her and tell him it’s ok. There’s a real feeling of ecstasy and passion when a team comes from behind to win in the dying seconds of the game, to show you that when you think you are down in life just stay in the zone, and you might come out winning too.
Sport displays the importance of every individual person but reminds us that it is the skill of the team as a collective that wins the game. At the same time, it allows us to see the power of one individual when the odds are stacked against his team, but he/she alone says “No- I AM NOT LOOSING TODAY”- this nothing short of the heroic stories of the ages. We see him/her take more than his/her fair share of the burden, playing his/her heart out as opponents ravage his/her team. Like the soldier who refuses to leave a man behind under heavy enemy fire, he gives it all his got.
So yes, why shouldn’t we go nuts when Solskjær, coming in as a substitute in the 1999 UEAFA champions league final, scores two goals and wins the treble for Manchester United… Why shouldn’t we jump on our seats and kiss each other when Senegal beats their former colonial power France during their first world cup game and went on to the semi-finals during their first world cup?
Like the good books of the world religions, there are great lessons to be learnt from sports for those who have foresight.
Like life itself, it has a dark underbelly of racism, fanaticism, and corruption. Like life itself, it is not always fair. We see some gifted players who bless us with their talents for only a short period before they get injured, never to play again. There are people who never got a chance, to play at the highest levels despite being just as good, and are out there carrying a heavy load of whatever you want to imagine, toiling under adverse weather conditions to make ends meet, while you are reading this in comfort. Let’s not forget, that it’s supposed to reflect life. That’s why it’s real. Let’s not forget that the ref is also human… and that’s real.
#6. Exceptions to every rule: The Ref is Dirty
Like life, there are exceptions to everything. We have heard of match-fixing cases and this tarnishes everything about sports. But again, there are a few bad apples in everything, and they do not deserve me writing about or your time and attention as the dirty slime they are. However, this is not the case most of the time. Some of us display primordial rage at a referee even during a pick-up game. But is it really about the ref? or our own short-sightedness to consider that 99% of the time, the ref has no interest and, therefore, no intention to rule against you just for the hell of it? It is actually crazy to think this to be the case. In my opinion.