Top 5 Worst Officiated Sports

John McKelveyContributor IIIJuly 9, 2011

Top 5 Worst Officiated Sports

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    Terrible officiating decisions have beleaguered sports fans since the beginning of competition.

    Which sport has the worst officials, though? There have been numerous unexpected—even alarming—calls made in every sport.

    However, now with instant replay most fans notice right away when a suspect call is made, an experience that officials did not have to deal with years ago. Now there are challenges, replay booths, and giant screens at stadiums that make officials look like they need seeing-eye dogs.

    Then there is the media, which attacks and analyzes every single close call. I am not saying there is any excuse for missing a call, but it is clear that there is more attention paid than in years prior.

    Without further ado, I give you the worst officials in sports.

    Feel free to express your opinions.

5: Tennis

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    Oh Johnny Mac, how sports has missed your tantrums.

    This year's Wimbledon officials were terrible, especially the line umpires. Even cool-headed Roger Federer lost it, at one point staring at a official for multiple seconds, after he had to challenge a couple of obvious calls. This, ultimately, was one of the reasons for his meltdown against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

    The good thing is that the officiating is improving, at least somewhat. Before 1990 the ITF didn't even certify the officials. Now they have to complete annual trials, are regularly evaluated and even have to go through three tiers of schooling to become certified.

    McEnroe would be proud.

    They also have figured out a good replay challenge system—which not all sports can say—allowing three challenges per set. 

    Since it took the game that long to get with the program, though, it earns them a spot on this list. It is hard to imagine that a sport so old and filled with tradition took so long to get it right.

4: Baseball

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    Baseball officials go through rigorous training in order to obtain certification, so you have to wonder how come they seem to make the biggest mistakes.

    Baseball umpires don't usually make mistakes, probably less than all the officials on this list, for a game that requires the most judgement calls.

    When they do, though, it's always a talking point. Like the umpire who thought Jeffrey Maier didn't reach over the fence. Or when Ron Grant was thrown off first base in the 1991 World Series. How about the most famous Don Denkinger safe call in the 1985 World Series? Yep, Armando Galarraga is certainly in good company.

    The thing is though, as a rabid baseball fan said, "They are the least noticed officials in sports. Where other officials try and manage the players, they usually let them have the most freedom of any athletes."

    While it is not too hard to get thrown out of a game—if you want to, that is—the players are normally given some time to argue their case and hear the officials case as well. Not something given in the sports ahead on this countdown.

3: Football

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    The toughest part about watching the NFL officials is that they sometimes don't seem to know the rules.

    I never understood this as there are so many rules to the MLB rulebook it is astounding, you can even be required to get four outs in an inning. Yet the officials in football screw it up time and time again.

    Look at the Santonio Holmes, "Caught the ball with his feet in the end zone, therefore, it is a touchdown" catch that still haunts Ravens fans to this day; or the Phil Luckett blown coin flip call on Thanksgiving day in 1998; or all of the terrible calls in Super Bowl XL that went against the Seattle Seahawks; or the Denver Broncos vs the San Diego Chargers Jay Cutler "backwards incomplete pass."

    The list goes on and on.

    Then there's the holding call. Nobody really knows what separates holding from non-holding anymore as seemingly every single kind of block has been called for the penalty.

    Ultimately, it is all of the judgement calls where the NFL fails, and that's what sets it apart from the MLB.

    There is worse, though, as we still have two more left on the countdown, including the sport that does so bad on its judgement calls, some people think it may be fixed.

2: Basketball

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    The fact that David Stern hasn't launched any investigation about some of the allegations should be troubling to fans.

    Whether the games are fixed or not, the referees are terrible. With so many judgement calls and players moving fast in a tiny amount of space, it does make it tough to be an NBA official.

    For years traveling has been a recurring problem in the league. It is one of the easiest calls to make, too, as it just requires the officials to look at the players feet. It's not even one of those tough blocking/charging judgement calls that always swing momentum. The player either took three steps or he didn't.

    Fortunately for refs, they put in that circle so they can easily call blocking if the player is trying to take a charge right under the net.

    However, there are a couple of other calls that are missed frequently. Goaltending has been a problem  since players have grown over six feet tall. Three in the key is almost never called despite Dwight Howard, among others, setting up base camp under the rim.

    And will some ref ever call a palm or a carry?

    At least the officials are held somewhat responsible by the players and coaches, something that is missing from the worst officiated sport in the world. 

1: Soccer

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    Koman Coulibaly got the edge over the complete blunder in the Woman's World Cup this week, where an Equatorial Guinea player picked up the ball for a couple of seconds, just because of how much impact it had here in the states.

    The fact is that soccer is by far the worst officiated game ever invented, and the referees don't even have to own up to their mistakes. They can just hide behind the gigantic wall that is FIFA.

    Speaking of FIFA, it still hasn't spent time thinking about much instant replay or a much needed fourth referee behind the goal. FIFA is so resistant to change that it hurts itself and its fans.

    The cards and penalty rules need to be clarified so it comes more down to the rules instead of referees opinion from yards away.

    The difference between a foul and a clean tackle is close to an NBA charge or blocking foul. The only difference is that a basketball court is so much smaller.

    Much must be done with the FIFA officiating, with the first priority being more open to the fans. Until that day, FIFA will continue to own the worst officiating system in sports, and it will continue to aggravate fans.