Let's be honest: The zebras deserve a lot more credit than we give them.
Sure, plenty of us spend considerable time ridiculing the decisions they make on the field. We boo them and we jeer them, and yet we fail to acknowledge the fact that each and every time they step out onto the field, ice or court, they are putting themselves at risk.
Referees don't have easy jobs, nor do they have incredibly safe jobs. Even if they have cat-like reflexes, they're bound to get destroyed every once in a while—by a ball, by a puck, by a player who is twice their size and weight.
This is for those refs.
Plenty of running backs have tried to just keep right on going when they find a referee directly in their path.
Tre Mason attempted such a feat. And he failed.
In this season's SEC championship matchup against Missouri, the Auburn star had one of his runs thwarted when a ref got in the way. Mason tried to conquer him, but the ref lowered a shoulder and got the best of the All-SEC running back, who reeled back and tumbled to the ground.
Sadly, Mason would finish that game with 304 yards, four shy of the Auburn record. If only that ref hadn't gotten in the way...
I know I don't have to tell you that the replacement refs didn't have it easy in the early going of the 2012 season. Especially this guy.
In September 2012, a fight broke out among the Falcons and the Broncos, and this ref was unlucky enough to get caught right in the thick of it. Nobody meant to hit the zebra in the face, but still, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time—and that place was in the middle of an irate Ray Edwards and an irate Kevin Vickerson.
On the bright side, at least the ref got the ensuing penalty call right.
It's hard to imagine there are many things worse in life than taking a rugby ball to the face.
This December, referee JP Doyle was the recipient of this unfortunate development during a game between Gloucester and Worcester in the Aviva Premiership. He took a ball directly to the side of the head, which knocked out his earpiece.
Still, you have to give him credit for popping right back up.
We all know that sometimes, accuracy can escape any quarterback. This referee was unfortunate enough to experience that phenomenon up close and personal.
During a preseason game between the Giants and the Colts last August, a referee in the back of the end zone took a David Carr strike off the side of the head (see it here). The oddest part of this scenario it that the ref seems to have moved directly into the line of fire instead of trying to escape it.
Where's Eli when you need him?
We've seen lots of players take pucks to the knees, arms and face. The result is never good.
So imagine that happening to a poor referee, who was just standing there, minding his own business.
Last April, a Calgary power play came crashing to a halt when Jan Hejda's attempt to clear the puck struck the ref in the side rather than making it out of the offensive zone. Ouch.
High school refs aren't immune to risk, either. The competition may not be as intense, but the chances of disaster striking are still pretty high.
In 2010, Deer Park High School wideout Payden McVey was so intent on catching the long ball that he didn't see the referee standing right in between him and the ball. So to his own surprise, when he went up for the ball, he came down on the ref—without the catch.
We all know Paul Pierce can get amped by a big shot in a big moment. So perhaps this ref should have been a bit more prepared.
In Game 4 of the 2010 NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics, Pierce converted an early layup attempt and couldn't resist a little celebrating at the baseline. Unfortunately, he could not foresee that his celebratory punch was going to connect with the referee's head rather than air.
This guy is truly a boss. Not only did he get nailed in the face with a puck, but he simply shrugged, went down the tunnel to get it taken care of and was right back out there for the third period.
In last week's matchup between Buffalo and Phoenix, Hanson was the unfortunate one who got hit in the face with a shot after it deflected off the post.
A couple of quick fixes, and he was right back out there.
Back in 2012, when the Kansas City Chiefs were still bad and Brady Quinn was still playing quarterback for them, things were not going well. This kind of encapsulates that.
During a December game against Cleveland, Quinn intended to connect with Jamar Newsome for the score. Instead, he sent his pass directly into the forehead of the referee in the back of the end zone, who clearly had no idea it was coming.
He still recovered in time to make the prompt "incomplete" call, which was pretty impressive.
Here's an idea. No matter how badly you want to fight someone in hockey, you probably shouldn't toss aside the ref like he's a sack of potatoes in order to reach your intended target.
In December's World Junior Championships, Czech forward Michal Plutnar was so enraged that Canadian opponent Connor McDavid shot the puck into the net after the horn had sounded that he decided to make McDavid pay.
When the referee attempted to stop the impending scrum, Plutnar just said "No thanks" and destroyed him.
Men, take note: This lineswoman is tough. When she took a close-range shot directly to the face during a match between Atletico Go and Parana, there was no flailing around on the pitch while crying and screaming.
Sure, it hurt. It was a close-range shot to the face. But Nadine Bastos simply took a couple of moments to collect herself and to wait for feeling to return to her face, then she got up, got some ice, and got back on the field within a minute.
It's kind of hard to see what's happening here, but all we know is that this particular ref isn't having his finest hour.
During this season's matchup between the Jets and the Browns, the zebra appears to get hit in the face by Antonio Cromartie as he jogs by. He attempts to halt the ensuing play, and in the process, he stumbles around and possibly gets hit again as he falls to the ground.
Very rough day at the office.
In football, there's not much worse than getting trampled by a running back.
And that's the case when you're a defensive player. The phenomenon is way worse when you're a referee, just out there trying to do your job.
Several years ago, this particular ref was very unfortunate to find himself in the path of the Seahawks' ball carrier. And let me tell you: Nothing was standing in between him and a few more yards. Not even the poor ref.
No, but really, I didn't mean to do that, says Moussa Sissoko.
Late last year, when Newcastle faced Southampton, there was a bit of a scuffle between Paulo Gazzaniga and Sissoko. Gazzaniga, sprawled on the ground, appeared to reach over and push Sissoko, who furiously pushed back against Gazzaniga—and, on the upswing, managed to hit referee Mike Jones in the face so hard that Jones was sent tumbling to the ground.
No, but seriously—it's tough when you're the linesman who has to try to get in between two irate NHL players before they rip off each other's heads.
Especially when you're Mark Shewchyk.
In last month's Capitals-Maple Leafs matchup, the linesman tried to stop a scuffle between John Erksine and Dion Phaneuf. Unfortunately, Erksine's attempt to move Shewchyk out of the way landed right on Shewchyk's chin.
OK, so this really was an accident. There's no way Carlos Boozer would be so cruel.
Last March, referee Danny Crawford was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time—and that place was near Boozer as Boozer attempted to celebrate a shot.
After a second-quarter drive to the hoop against the Mavericks, Boozer emphatically punched the air—or what he thought was the air. Instead, he connected with Crawford where it really hurts. However, like a true champion, Crawford just walked it off.
It's sports. Everyone's emotions spiral out of control every once in a while.
But take note: You're never allowed to throw a ball at a ref. Even if it's not totally on purpose.
In late 2012, Milwaukee's Joel Przybilla tossed the ball off to the side following a whistle, and the ball happened to hit the zebra in the leg. Did Przybilla intentionally target the ref? Probably not. But he still got a technical foul and a one-game suspension.
Let this be a lesson to you: Always look before tossing the ball toward the scoring table. Always.
There cannot be anything in the world that hurts more than this.
Last February, referee Chris Rooney was unlucky enough to be in the path of a puck that deflected off a skate during a game between Colorado and Dallas. The puck hit him right in the noggin, and no helmet can totally protect against that kind of impact.
Thankfully, Rooney ended up being just fine.