Officially Frustrated

Washington Commanders

NFL officiating is one of the few subjects likely to prove more unifying than divisive among today’s fans. Among the many NFL fans I know, the attitudes toward the officials range from mild disgust to outright contempt. We need only to think back to Super Bowl XL to see why that might be. That game sparked fan ire on an almost unprecedented level. In fact, there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted solely to the subject of the officiating in that game. In the unwritten rules of sportsmanship, it’s considered bad form to blame the refs for the outcome of a game. Yet you wouldn’t have to go far to find a Seattle fan willing to do just that. And, frankly, while I feel the impact the officials had on that game is the subject of too much attention, something is clearly amiss. The problem lies in getting the league to address the issue. More accurately, the problem is getting the league to even admit it. I’m not going to bother with the usual \x93look these guys have tough jobs\x94 line of dissembling that seems to accompany every one of these pieces. We know they do. And, to its credit, the league has taken steps to mitigate some of the more frustrating situations which rob the refs of any discretion, i.e. the down-by-contact calls will now be subject to replay. Those changes aside, fans are left with the perception, accurate or not, that officials can make obvious mistakes, week in and week out, and suffer no repercussion. When was the last time you heard of the league chastising an official for a blown call? It seems the most we get is a letter of apology, if that. The more common reaction is for the league to close ranks and refuse to admit any sort of error. It’s hard for the average fan, who faces very real consequences for repeated mistakes in the workplace, to stomach that lack of a reaction. Witness the official statement re Super Bowl XL: “The game was properly officiated, including, as in most NFL games, some tight plays that produced disagreement about the calls made by the officials.\x94 Produced disagreement is putting it mildly. Having just watched the Seahawks knock the Redskins out of the playoffs, I had no great desire to see them win. But the officials that game did make mistakes and those mistakes did have a quantifiable impact on the game. I recognize the league, as a business, has a vested interest in presenting a united front when it comes to this kind of thing. And there may be some behind-the-scenes discussions I’m not aware of. But none of that does a bit of good where the league’s tarnished reputation is concerned. In fact, the league seems more concerned with exercising strict control over end zone celebrations that it does addressing the in-game issues. I’m not suggesting I have a panacea to address the league’s officiating woes. But I know this much, you can’t address a problem until you acknowledge it exists. To over-simplify it: the NFL needs to learn to say \x93We’re…

Please share