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Why are Referees Blowing So Many Calls?

Last week the Chicago Blackhawks saved the NHL from major controversy. During game seven of their Western Conference semifinal it appeared the Hawks had scored the go ahead goal with less than two minutes to go in regulation against the Detroit Red Wings. The goal was waived off because of a pair of offsetting penalties called behind the play. Brent Seabrook scored a few minutes into overtime, Chicago advanced, no harm, no foul. If this was the only officiating issue, it wouldn't be a big deal. However, it seems in all major sports referees are missing a lot of calls.

Social media, not exactly a court of law, has convicted Joey Crawford of greatly impacting and maybe even fixing NBA games. Perhaps it is because of Tim Donaghy that fan are quick to call for conspiracy theories in pro basketball, but everybody in the building and watching on TV is aware when Crawford is on the floor and whether it be ejecting a star player or calling a crucial foul, he is frequently involved.

The number of mistakes by umpires just this year seems jarring. Guys hitting doubles that go over the yellow line, batters being called out at first base when the throw never made it all the way to the bag, and of course a pitcher being allowed to enter a game, and then be replaced, without facing a batter.

The NFL has controversy every week. Whether it be pass interference, holding, the tuck rule, or a strategic inadvertent whistle, constantly refs impact the game. Replacement officials were much worse. Do you need to be reminded of the Seahawks victory over Green Bay?

So why are we seeing so many blown calls? Interestingly, the answer comes from the “seen” part of the question not the “blown calls.” When every game wasn't on TV, we didn't know when a call was missed. Since every league now has their own television network, we have a lot more focus on the individual sports and more time to dissect every game played. The advent of HDTV and improved production and direction of sports broadcasts gives fans instant replays from a whole bunch of angles in in such a clear way that we all have become our own replay booth.

Furthermore, because fans now watch sports while spending time on twitter via their phone or computer, the outcry from blown calls comes immediately and with the passion from the heat of the moment. Without social media Blackhawk fans around the water cooler would not have voiced incredible frustration on Thursday morning since their team won. When the goal was disallowed, the outcry was loud and heard around the globe instantly. 

If Mike Pereira can sit in the Fox studio all day on Sunday's watching football and quickly examining replays of controversial calls making judgments on whether they were right or wrong, why can't pro sports find a replay system that works efficiently. The hockey system, where all close calls are reviewed in Toronto, with Pereira type professionals quickly rendering verdicts, seems like the best model we have. That being said, they couldn't have changed the penalty call in Chicago. In the end, officials are human beings, and humans make errors. The more closely we examine the refs, the more mistakes we find.


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