Refs Who Had No Idea What Was Going on
The enforcer of rules—the penalizer—makes enemies with every decision. And the beneficiary on the other side is only a friend until the next call goes against him. The referee gives, takes, and like any human being, makes mistakes (some more than others).
For the referee, the label 'thankless job' is neither cynical or insincere; it's a harsh, but practical designation. It is, quite simply, the truth.
The combination of punitive power and human error is nearly fatal to any referee's credibility before a single whistle is even blown. Toss in a few infamous cases of officials involved in gambling related shenanigans and you can guarantee all the mistakes a given ref didn't make will be of little value.
Often only part-time employees, the zebras assume the role in the best manner possible—with a stoic, business-like approach.
Even if a referee intervenes and influences the game action with a flawless delivery, astute application of the rules, and/or a keen eye, he is going to hear boos (or worse...like garbage) rain down from the crowd, and get an incredulous response from those affected.
So, when an official does his job, but fails spectacularly in doing it, he's simultaneously giving life to all the suspicions harbored by fans, players and coaches, while also providing a cathartic, hilarious moment. Well, hilarious unless it's an egregiously bad call.
Outback Bowl Referee's Philosophical Disagreement with Chains
The 2013 Outback Bowl is known for the hit: South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney's crushing, de-helmeting tackle and forced fumble on Michigan running back Vincent Smith.
After stopping the Wolverines on a crucial 4th-and-short play, officials called for a measurement. The ball was clearly short by a link (or so), but that didn't deter Maconaghy in the slightest.
Disregarding visual evidence, or simply doubling down on a bad call for no good reason, Maconaghy declared it a first down while an outraged Steve Spurrier essentially declared, "I feel like I'm taking crazy pills!"
Official Says Things Possibly Related to What Happened
During the Cal-Ohio State game earlier this season, the referee made a strong case for working with cue cards...or at least getting a minute to gather his wits between making the call and trying to explain it.
Bearing a striking resemblance to political strategist James Carville, this official says a whole lot of words and moves his arms about, but the end result is more confusing than a 5,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.
You know those glasses are sorely needed if this is how bad he is at just talking.
Rare 'Reverse-Forward Progress' Results in Safety
In a classic example of when a ref makes an absolutely bonkers call on the field and then has that call upheld due to something much sturdier than logic (an idiosyncratic rule), this official validates one of the strangest safeties you'll ever see called.
Perhaps the referee who made the call confused the 1-yard line with the goal line, but either way he determined that a quarterback stumbling backwards and falling into the end zone—after throwing away the ball—is now a safety.
Ref Forgets That Officials Aren't Supposed to Dap Carson Palmer
Veteran quarterback Carson Palmer was a Heisman-winning star at swanky college football institution Southern Cal and the first overall pick of the 2003 NFL draft.
And in his first season under center for the suddenly hot Cardinals, Palmer has a good shot at being in the postseason for just the third time in his career. By most measures, I guess that makes Carson Palmer a pretty cool dude.
However, when you are officiating a professional football game and call a Carson Palmer-benefiting penalty that inspires Carson Palmer to beckon you with a dap-wanting fist...you ignore it. This referee didn't get the memo and has forever interlinked his destiny to a bro-pact with Carson Palmer.
Phil Luckett Was Just Humoring Jerome Bettis in Infamous Coin-Toss Snafu
The infamous 1998 overtime coin-toss in a Thanksgiving game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions is early evidence that the answer to any statement that begins with, "Do you think the NFL should use replay to—," the answer is always yes.
Former Steelers running back Jerome Bettis audibly calls "tails", but referee Phil Luckett just gives the ball to the Lions anyway. Surely he knew he probably screwed up, but I can certainly appreciate his commitment to being wrong.
NFL Replacement Refs Are Just Getting Warmed Up
Providing a taste of the nightmare that was soon to come, the replacement refs officiating the final preseason game between the New England Patriots and New York Giants unload a giant dump truck of wrong, awkward and weird after calling penalties on a second-quarter punt return.
This was just the first indication that where the replacement refs were concerned, two heads are not better than one.
Actually, with every head it just...gets...worse.
The Official Should Have Just Thrown Down Mic & Ran Away
Maybe he was distracted by "America's Team" and their sparkly white home uniforms, or perhaps the Cowboys' and Texans' penchant for transforming from good teams to bad from quarter to quarter rubbed off on him, but referee Carl Cheffers awesomely fails in assessing the penalties on this call.
In fact, it goes so badly, he friggin' stops, walks away and regroups—which is preferable to just powering through the bad and leaving everyone around you confused or angry.
When in doubt, take a timeout and collect your thoughts.
NFL Replacement Ref: Are You in Red? Then You're the Arizona Cardinals
If NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell had managed to convince himself that the replacement refs might be able to keep things together long enough to give the league the upper hand in negotiations last year, then this probably helped reality sink in.
Considering how difficult knowing the rules is and then making judgement calls on their application, calling the Falcons the Cardinals is not the best sign. I get it. Both teams have a bird for a mascot and both where red, which is the kind of logic a three-year-old uses.
Ump Tim McClelland
No stranger to controversy, MLB umpire Tim McClelland's muck-up in Game Four of the 2009 ALCS was a glaring example of why unreviewable officiating is both unfair and dumb.
In his one-out call, when he declared the Yankee's Robinson Cano safe and Jorge Posada out when both were off the third-base bag, he allowed his convoluted judgement to psyche himself out and defy the rational, obvious call.
NFL Replacement Refs: The Grand Finale
This was the most flabbergasting moment of the 2012-2013 NFL season, when the replacement officials went from amusing, if not annoying, to downright damaging.
Demonstrating all the problems associated with grabbin' some dudes, giving them the pinstripes and then pushing them out on the field to officiate pro football games; this call/no-call/call of a last-second Hail Mary essentially handed victory to the Seattle Seahawks.
Phil Cuzzi Declares Himself, Fair Ball over the Line
Sometimes, officiating demands the person making the call to do the impossible: make the right decision when there is no definitive evidence of what exactly is right. It's part of the game and sometimes no outcome is going to be ideal.
But the MLB's Phil Cuzzi's 2009 ALDS foul call on a hit that wasn't that close to the line, or in the stands, is a truly masterful example of a human being authoritatively being wrong (in that moment).
I mean, he could have looked at the dirt the ball kicked up after Melky Cabrera almost caught it well before the line.
NHL Refs Tease Avalanche, Enrage Fans
In a pivotal game between the Avalanche and Wild just before last season's playoffs, Avs fans were treated to the horror that is having a goal waved off, then reviewed, rather than it being scrutinized after it initially was called a goal.
In this case, one official seems to have called it good and another overruled him and waved it off, resulting in the NHL review concluding that there wasn't enough evidence to rule that the Avs' Chuck Kobasew didn't intentionally kick in the puck.
Officials Don't Sweat the Details, Award Colorado Buffalos a '5th Down'
College football is, and always has been, a baller sport. But, the system prior to the BCS and well...technology...was a damn nightmare.
As if the margin of error for officiating today didn't foment enough controversy, the pre-BCS era gave America (admittedly entertaining) surreal moments like the legendary "fifth down" game between Missouri and Colorado.
Pinned on a combination of confusion, mental mistakes and bad luck, the Buffalos were awarded a phantom extra down on the goal line, allowing the team to score and emerge victorious.
Yep, This Kind of WTF Moment Is GOOD for Baseball
Sometimes I wonder if MLB officiating crews make insanely bad calls just to mess with the minds of fans and players.
What other explanation is there for such an egregiously bad call in which an infielder's throw is well ahead of the baserunner for the force?
Even the Idaho Potato Bowl Can't Avoid Controversy
Referee Penn Wagers back-and-forth—review, explain, review, explain—is strange and calls into question how focused anyone (on the field and upstairs) really was on this crappy bowl game.
I suppose he could be given some leeway due to the disorienting effects of Boise State's signature blue turf, but if I were on the sidelines or lined up on the field, I wonder what the guy is doing anytime he throws a flag.