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Bob Lobel: Why Can’t We Get Players Like That?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

 

Bob Lobel, sports legend.

How much influence do you think officials in various sports have on the outcomes of games?

Too much? Just enough? An annoying amount, but not all that bad? Just enough to be an excuse?

Well, just pick one and you’ll probably be right depending on the sport. Basketball is the popular choice at the moment, probably because the calls all mean a lot. During the football playoffs, there will be an inordinate amount of focus on the men in stripes because of the rules in place to limit defensive backs from bumping or pulling on receivers. It seems no sport seeks to control the outcome of its games more than football.

Also no other sport seeks to convince its audience that the officiating gets certain things right while refusing to review the infractions that really matter, such as defensive holding and pass interference, sending a mixed message. We review plays to prove that touchdowns are indeed touchdowns, but turn a blind eye to the replay of any judgement call.

It’s so easy for us to see when a referee is wrong, the replay plays a hundred times after the fact, and now we are realizing just how human these guys are. It is certainly harder to be an official today than ever before.

Another league exercising some annoying control is Major League Baseball with the digital balls/strikes zone. Either the computer generated strike zone stinks because it shows us just how many mistakes umpires make, or it shows us how far off batters can be when they take a called third strike that looks “obvious” to us at home.

Being a referee is harder today than ever before.

Baseball judges the judges. Basketball judges the players. Football does a little of both, while hockey is just flagrant . I say flagrant because only they seem to know when an infraction happens.. Either the fans lose site of the puck or have no idea what the difference is between a cross-check and boarding, and really don’t care to learn. All they seem to know is to look for blood so that 2-minute minor becomes a 4-minute major, or that maybe somebody gets a penalty shot because the other team was observed throwing the puck into the goal.

Will fans, players or leagues ever become satisfied with officials? Probably not. While trying to get it right by tinkering, some of these leagues, have just made matters worse. The NBA is getting bigger, faster, stronger but not necessarily smarter. It’s almost impossible to officiate and exercise any control with the current pace of the game.

Same goes for the NHL. Bigger, stronger, faster, which has also been encouraged by rule changes, by the way, doing their referees no favors. Also, they say they have cut back on fighting, yet they know that fighting is a big drawing card to their fan base. Football is all of the above, and is ruled by a one-man judge and jury. 

Too soon to turn the eyes of a lonely nation to a National Commissioner of Sport? 

 

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