20 Reasons Referees Are the Worst
Deep down, we love refs.
OK, that's a lie. We really don't.
LeBron fans aside, the average sports fans have been given very little reason over the course of their lives to honestly and genuinely appreciate the work of the officials. When they do their jobs right, we don't notice...because it's their job.
But when they do their jobs wrong, it can ruin our seasons. It can ruin our lives.
One blown call can be the difference between the playoffs and an early vacation. One blown call can be the difference between glory and damnation. It's not brain surgery, but sometimes, they sure make it seem like it is.
So here, we can all come together and share all of the things we hate about officials.
20. They Made This Roughing the Kicker Call
Depending on which side of the coin you're on, roughing the kicker calls can either be the most glorious calls in the world or the most devastating.
No matter what side of the coin you were on when this happened, though, you know it was a joke.
Note to officials: Uncoordinated kickers do not deserve roughing-the-kicker calls. Some people fall. I fall a lot and often trip over nothing. It's embarrassing, but it doesn't mean that people who happen to play football and also enjoy falling down should be able to capitalize on their shortcomings.
This call, heralded the Worst Call in College Football History, occurred in 2008. I can't say it any better than the genius who wrote this YouTube caption: "A phantom running into the kicker gives Fresno State another chance to beat Hawaii in OT."
During a tie game, Fresno's kicker failed to send a potentially game-winning 40-yard field goal through the uprights in overtime—or so we thought. The refs clearly hallucinated and saw someone run into the kicker, provoking the above fall and giving him another shot at the FG.
Kudos to the kicker for the Oscar-worthy performance. And for missing on the second attempt, too.
19. "They Affect the Integrity of the Game"
Rob Carr/Getty Images
What Joe Flacco says, goes. That's what happens when you are one of the league's "elite quarterbacks."
So when Joe Flacco said bad officiating was ruining the game he loves, the league had no choice but to listen up. And it did.
It didn't take a rocket scientist to see that the replacement referees were destroying the game of football early in 2012. Flacco even noticed. The replacement officials made a plethora of suspect calls early last season, one of which may have resulted in the Ravens' 24-23 loss to the Eagles in Week 2. You know that when the 2012 Eagles were getting calls, something was awry.
Flacco says the replacement refs are “affecting the integrity of the game.”— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) September 16, 2012
And what do you know? A couple of weeks later, the real refs were back on the job. Well done, Joe. We knew you were good for something.
18. They Flag Players for Swearing
Most people swear. It happens. Athletes even swear. In fact, you could even claim that an athlete is more likely to swear when he is the victim of a terrible call. It's understandable.
What is not understandable is why that player should be flagged for a penalty, just because at the moment he unleashed a dreaded curse word, the sound happened to be picked up by a microphone belonging to a ref.
In the fourth quarter of a 2011 game between the Rams and the Bengals, referee Jerome Boger whistled lineman Harvey Dahl for holding, and Dahl wasn't happy about it, as expected. Most players don't agree with the calls levied against them. Dahl even swore, as expected.
But then he was assessed an additional penalty for "unsportsmanlike conduct" because the whole stadium heard him swear, thanks to the fact that Boger's mic was still on.
Boger. Just turn off your mike, dude. Seriously.
17. Their Bad Calls Decide the Outcomes of March Madness Games
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
When a Cinderella team makes it all the way to the Final Four, nobody likes seeing that team's journey come to an end.
When it comes to an end partially due to a questionable jump-ball call, it's even harder to swallow.
That is precisely what happened last weekend, when ninth-seeded Wichita State's opportunity to advance to the national championship was squandered. In the waning seconds of the Shockers' matchup against the Cardinals, down 71-68, Wichita State's Ron Baker snagged a rebound of Luke Hancock's missed free throw. Prime opportunity for Wichita State, right?
Hancock stuck his hand in and merely grazed the ball as Baker held it, and immediately, the refs blew their whistles and called a jump ball. It was as though the second it looked like Wichita State might have a shot at pulling off the upset, the officials reflexively blew their whistles.
Needless to say, the possession arrow pointed to Louisville, and they walked away with a trip to the championship.
Who knows whether the Shockers would have scored, had they been able to hold onto the ball. Maybe they wouldn't have. But at least give them the chance.
16. They Let Players Fake Injuries so They Can Compose Themselves
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
It's the oldest trick in the book. Players fake injuries in order to give themselves a breather. Basketball players do it all the time—often when they miss dunks or layups, just so they can offer the illusion that there is a reason for their ineptitude.
When officials allow tennis players to do it, however, it is an egregious annoyance.
Most recently, favorite Victoria Azarenka—she who unleashes the most annoying noise known to man upon striking the ball—has become the biggest offender. And the officials just let it happen. During the 2013 Australian Open, while facing fan favorite and budding American star Sloane Stephens, Azarenka admitted to taking a medical time out just so she could get her head back in the game and avoid "the choke of the year."
And of course, it worked: She advanced to the finals with a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
15. They Inaccurately Decide the Fate of MLB Playoff Games
Not only do refs make terrible calls that decide the fate of second-week, regular season games (as we'll see later)—they also inaccurately decide the fate of critical playoff games.
Doesn't that just give you the warm and fuzzies?
Let's look back to the olden days of 1997 for a prime example. It was Game 5 of the NLCS, Marlins vs. Braves, and Florida's Livan Hernandez was on the mound. Umpire Eric Gregg—whose strike zone had been wonky all night, as evidenced by the video above—made what is widely considered to be one of the worst calls in the history of baseball with a called third strike against Fred McGriff, even though everyone in the free world could see, from virtually any vantage point, that the pitch was about a foot or two outside.
Of course, the Marlins would win the NLCS and the World Series, all with a little bit of help from their good buddy Gregg.
14. They Hand Wins to Undeserving Teams with Phantom Penalty Calls
A referee should never be able to take the game into his own hands and gift a win to a team that doesn't deserve it with a terrible call that never should have been made.
But yet, it happens every year.
Let's take a look at the NHL's worst call of the season in 2009—a call that would hand over a 4-2 win to a Blackhawks team that didn't deserve it, a call that would nonsensically snap a 2-2 deadlock, a call that would decide a critical second-to-last game of the season.
In the waning seconds of the game, Redwing Niklas Kronwall was whistled for a penalty he didn't commit—no, look at the video, he didn't do it—against Chicago's Dustin Byfuglien. As the commentator so aptly states, not only should Byfuglien not have been awarded a penalty shot, a penalty should not have been called at all.
Alas, Byfuglien scored on the penalty shot, and the Redwings walked away with a win they didn't earn. Love it when that happens.
13. They Can't See the Strike Zone, Even from Right Behind the Plate
Luckily, it's still early in the season, and hopefully this terrible game-ending call won't completely screw over the Tampa Bay Rays.
But you never know.
Umpires make bad calls all the time. We know that. But you have to figure that when you're crouched right behind the plate, you have the best possible view of the strike zone.
How, then, do you explain this bungled call by Marty Foster earlier this week?
On Monday night, Foster essentially handed the Rangers a 5-4 win they didn't deserve when he called a third strike that was clearly, blatantly, obviously low and in no way landed inside the strike zone.
Check it out:
Afterward, Foster admitted he blew it, telling NBCSports.com, "I saw the pitch and, of course I don’t have the chance to do it again, but if I did, I wouldn’t call that pitch a strike." But that's not much consolation to Rays fans (if those mythical creatures do exist), who had to see the potential tying run stranded on base.
GIF courtesy of Fansided.
12. They Get in the Way
There is perhaps no worse time for referees to get in the way than during a football game.
Every single yard counts. When a ref impedes play, it can have massive implications. It can result in a down when there shouldn't have been one. It can cause a fumble. It can provoke mass mayhem.
Fortunately, the players didn't let that happen this time. Luckily.
During an all-important divisional matchup between Miami and the Jets and 2011, New York was looking at third-and-five from about their own 20. Shonn Greene took the handoff and was looking at an open field—a relatively open field, that is. It could have been open, had the official not been directly in his path.
So Green did what he had to do: He bowled over the ref in order to get the first down. Sometimes, you gotta do what you gotta do.
11. They Really Get in the Way
Back in 2011, amidst a Ravens-Bengals matchup, the officials once again couldn't get out of the way fast enough—but this time, the players were just going to pretend he wasn't there.
Good for them.
Ray Rice was rushing toward the end zone when the ball went flying out of his hands, provoking a mass pile-on for the ball at around the 2-yard line. The only problem was, when the ball flew out of Rice's hands, it went toward referee Ron Winter—and not only did the ball hit him on its way to the ground, but so did many of the players as they charged for it.
When the ball is free, there is no room for referee consideration.
Fortunately, Winter was fine. But that'll teach him to stay out of the way.
10. They Ruin the Ends of Players' Careers
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Brittney Griner was perhaps the best player in the history of women's college basketball, or at the very least, one of them. Yet, when her college career came to an unfortunate end last month as Baylor lost by one point to Louisville in the Sweet 16, nobody was talking about that.
It's because the officials ruined the end of her road.
There are probably some fans who are whining because the overwhelming, top-seeded favorite got upset. But anyone watching that game could see the abuse Griner was taking from the Cardinals, and anyone could see that the Cardinals were getting tons of calls.
As Baylor alum and Griner buddy Robert Griffin III put it:
People poke and make fun of B. Griner all the time but C'MON MAN....Them girls were LITERALLY throwing elbows, slaps, weave....— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) April 1, 2013
It's a bummer that Griner and the Lady Bears didn't get a chance to defend their championship. But it's a bigger shame that the end of such a terrific player's career was overshadowed by horrible officiating.
9. They Disrupt the Pace of Close Games
Jim Rogash/Getty Images
Think about every close NBA or college basketball game you've ever seen, when emotions are running high and the stakes are even higher.
Think about how long it takes for those games to come to their rightful conclusions.
The refs call everything at the end of close games. Fine. Whatever. But when the ball goes out of bounds with less than two minutes left, do they really need to spend five minutes watching the instant replay cameras—every single time the ball goes out of bounds? When the Heat played the Celtics in a huge prime time game in March, it seemed like it took 20 minutes to play the last two.
Some teams get on a roll at the end of games. Some of them generate momentum, and they would prefer to keep it going. We all appreciate the effort that goes into making the right call, but when the refs take their sweet time reviewing every single thing that could possibly be reviewed...it's annoying.
8. They Take Away Perfect Games
Every starting pitcher dreams of tossing a perfect game, but so few of them achieve the milestone.
It is criminal, therefore, that when one of the lucky few is on the verge of such a career-defining accomplishment, terrible officiating can rob him.
That is precisely what happened to Armando Galarraga in 2010. The Tigers hurler—who was attempting to become the first Tiger ever to throw a perfect game—had two outs in the ninth inning after a tremendous grab by outfielder Austin Jackson.
And then Jim Joyce happened.
After the Indians' Jason Donald hit a grounder to the first-base side and was clearly thrown out at the bag, Joyce inexplicably called him safe, crushing Galarraga's hopes and dreams right there.
At least Joyce almost cried and admitted he blew it.
7. They Make Terrible Calls During National Championship Games
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
In the aftermath of the Kevin Ware incident, there were plenty of us out there who were pumped to see Louisville trump Michigan in the national title game on Monday night.
But that doesn't mean the Cardinals deserved every whistle they got.
You have to figure that by the time you reach the national championship at the end of March Madness, the officiating crew is going to be solid. It has to be the best of the best. It's the national championship. We can clearly see, however, judging by this evidence, that that is not the case.
As time ticked down in Louisville's eventual 82-76 victory over Michigan, the Wolverines' Trey Burke made what was clearly a clean block on a driving Peyton Siva:
Somehow, though—given that—the refs saw a foul on Burke.
Not acceptable in a championship game, my friends.
GIF via Fansided.
6. Jerry Meals' Blown Call in 19-Inning Marathon
It's bad enough when an umpire blows a call that decides the outcome of a game. It's almost worse when, after the fact, he admits he was wrong.
It's a nice thought and all, but there's nothing you can do to change it, so it just leaves an even more sour taste in your mouth.
In 2011, Atlanta and Pittsburgh were in the midst of a 19-inning marathon game when umpire Jerry Meals ended it with a boneheaded call that both he and Major League Baseball later admitted was the wrong decision. Julio Lugo was trying to score from third on a grounder to third and was clearly—clearly—tagged out by catcher Michael McKenry.
But Meals called him safe, and the Braves were sent home with an undeserved W after 19 innings.
After the game, MLB VP for Baseball Operations Joe Torre released the following statement, via The Sporting News:
Many swipe tags are not applied to the runner with solid contact, but the tag was applied and the game should have remained tied. I have spoken with Jerry, who is a hard-working, respected umpire, and no one feels worse than him.
Watch the video above and try to figure out how in God's name Meals thought Lugo was safe.
5. Seahawks vs. Packers 2012
Let's be clear: Golden Tate did not catch that ball.
Now, in retrospect, we know Russell Wilson is good. We know he is capable of great things, and we may not have known that in Week 3, when this travesty happened. But that still doesn't change the fact that Golden Tate did not catch that ball.
On the last play of a matchup between the Packers and the Seahawks early in the 2012 season, Seattle was down 12-7 as Wilson hurled a Hail Mary into the end zone. Tate and Packers DB M.D. Jennings both got a hand on it and fell to the ground with the ball in their possession—or so it looked. In reality, Jennings had more of a piece of it.
In any case, the replacement refs ruled it simultaneous possession, which goes to the offense and thereby meant that the Seahawks got a touchdown and a 14-12 win with no time left. The call stands alone as the worst call of the 2012 season, by a mile.
If nothing else, though, at least this play prompted the end of the Regime of the Replacement Refs. And one more time:
@showtimetate admit you didn't catch the ball you coward— josh sitton (@jsitton71) September 25, 2012
4. They Favor LeBron
David Banks/Getty Images
You can deny it all you want, LeBron fans, but deep down, you know it's true: The officials favor him.
It's easy to see why. He's the best player in the league, he's the most popular player in the league and more often than not, he dominates—but he doesn't dominate everyone. He doesn't deserve every call, but doesn't it seem like he always gets them?
Earlier this season, according to The Classical, LeBron somehow managed to play 254 minutes without being whistled a single time.That just does not happen—at least, not to anyone else. As Jim Cavan articulates, 254 minutes is "enough time to "run an above-average marathon, fly from New York to Detroit and back, bake a 30-pound turkey...and build a birdhouse."
In the course of 254 minutes, when you are a forward who spends a lot of time in the paint, chances are, there is going to be some illegal contact and it's going to be your fault. It's the reality of the NBA.
But not for LeBron. Never for LeBron. Let the reign continue.
3. Western Conference Finals, Kings vs. Lakers, Game 6, 2002
There is, as David Stern claims, a certain "fascination" with the Lakers—but that doesn't mean that they need to win the NBA title every year. It doesn't mean the league needs to fix a series so that the purple and gold come out on top.
Not that it did that or anything...
Early in the 2002 Western Conference Finals, which pitted the Kings against the Lakers, the Kings seemed to be having their way. The Lakers, at times, looked hapless, losing Games 2, 3 and 5 and finding themselves on the brink of elimination. But heading into Game 6, something changed.
The officiating changed, to be precise.
The Lakers started getting every call, even calls that didn't exist. Each of the Kings' centers fouled out of the game. L.A. shot 40 free throws. Needless to say, they won, forcing a Game 7 and eventually advancing to the NBA Finals. Later, Tim Donaghy claimed that the game was "impacted by two of the three referees who worked the game," via ESPN.com.
The above video perfectly encapsulates the injustice, appropriately set to "Fix You" by Coldplay.
2. They Have Fan Allegiances
Source: USA Today
The second-worst thing you can do as a ref is root for one of the teams playing in a game you're officiating. It's essentially fixing a game, but with a different label.
Sure, a ref can claim to like a team without making calls in that team's favor—but nobody buys that. If there is one thing every sports fan knows, it's that it's nearly impossible to be objective when you're watching Your Team.
Take replacement ref Brian Stropolo as an example. He was thankfully removed from his duties of officiating a 2012 Saints-Panthers game before it actually kicked off, but still—his Facebook page made it abundantly clear he's a Saints fan, and somehow, he was still originally cleared to wear the black and white stripes while His Team was on the field.
How could he have watched Drew Brees take a sack without immediately thinking illegal contact or roughing the passer? How could the Panthers have possibly gotten a single fair call?
Refs aren't allowed to be fans. It's as simple as that.
1. They Fix Games
There is nothing worse you can do, as a referee, than fix a game. It is the lowest of the low.
On one hand, at least it gives spectators some answers when they cannot, for the life of them, understand why a ref made a certain call. But that doesn't erase the sting. It never will.
As a ref, you are supposed to enforce the rules. You are supposed to eliminate dirty plays and penalize perpetrators. You're not supposed to add to them. That's why guys like Tim Donaghy—who plead guilty to betting on games he officiated and making calls to influence the point spreads of those games—will never be forgiven.
We know that basketball is just a game, and we know it's not life or death. But please. Have some respect for the game so many of us love. Don't take a win away from players who deserve it because you're a despicable human being.