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ISSUE 119 VOL 6 PUBLISHED 10/28/2005

Inside the Lines: Refs get a bad rap

By Matt Tiano
Staff Writer

Friday, October 28, 2005

Sports fans everywhere share a common bond: They really do not sympathize with officials. We use them to justify our team'’s performance (or lack thereof), and our judgements almost always fall on the negative side of the spectrum. Officials usually get a bum rap no matter what happens on the field. One “bad” call in the eyes of fans erases a perfect game up until that point.

One such controversial call occurred during Game 2 of this year’s American League Championship Series. (ALCS). During the ninth inning of the game, with two outs and two strikes on batter A.J. Pierzynski, Los Angeles Angels catcher Josh Paul cleanly caught what he thought was the third strike of the at-bat and nonchalantly rolled the ball back to the mound. Pierzynski, however, alertly hustled down to first base, claiming that the ball hit the dirt before it was caught. Umpire Dave Eddings allowed the inning to continue, reiterating Pierzynski’'s claim that the ball touched the ground, although replays clearly showed that Paul made the catch.

As the White Sox’ luck would have it, the very next batter (Joe Crede) hit a game-winning double to bury the Angels. The Sox won the next three games and rode that momentum to a World Series victory over Houston.

Recently, there has been a great deal of controversy about both Eddings’' call and the conduct of umpires and sports referees in general. We forget that these officials of professional sports are simply the best at what they do. We respect and idolize professional athletes because they are the most talented of any other athletes; why not do the same for officials?

You obviously don'’t need to worship sports officials and agree with their every call. However, carry the mindset that these guys work just as hard as the athletes themselves. Beyond this, they must deal with criticism from the media, coaches, players and the public.

When we consider the difficulty of officiating in each of the four major professional sports, I would argue that no job is more difficult than that of professional baseball umpires. Baseball umpires have to make split-second decision after split-second decision, which occur at random throughout all nine innings. The home plate umpire’s' job is the most challenging, because the calling of balls and strikes is such a subjective process.

In what other sport is it permissible for a coach to run on the playing surface and blatantly get in the official’'s face to express his displeasure? Imagine, for a moment, that it was acceptable (and common) for a basketball coach to storm on the court to protest a foul.

It simply wouldn'’t happen, and is seen as unacceptable. The coach would be ejected in a heartbeat. In football, calls are less frequently disputed because there is such a broad range of penalties and the sport employs instant replay review (at least at the professional level).

The bottom line is, next time you are watching “your team,” and a call doesn'’t go your way, remember that the umpires are simply doing their job. Accept the fact that they aren'’t perfect. Take time to enjoy the atmosphere, the emotional captivation of a walk-off home run or the sight of an inning-ending double play.

Leave the officiating to the officials and they will leave the cheering to you.

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