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Refereeing in the Modern Era


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When we talk about sports, we don’t usually spend much time talking about the people in the arena that keep the games running smoothly: the referees. Being a referee is not a glamorous job. You don’t get noticed or thanked for doing it well. Referees are only ever talked about when something goes wrong. A perfectly officiated game is not praised.

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Fans simply expect the refs to do a good job and make every call the way they would themselves. And we know that fans are not unbiased. Fans of opposing teams often see things on the field differently. The winning side is much more likely to think that the game was fairly officiated.

But when your team loses, it’s easy to blame the refs. And sometimes it gets ugly. Fans take their teams seriously, especially in the playoffs. And some fans take things too far.

The NFC Championship Game

Things did not go the New Orleans Saints’ way in this one. Of course, they lost to the L.A. Rams, who are playing the Patriots in the Super Bowl. And according to some fans, the officiating team had a lot to do with this loss.

It is true that the officials did miss a pass interference call at a crucial time during the game. Had they made the call, it’s possible that the Saints could have won. Some fans got extremely angry about this after the game and the situation became unsafe for the officials.

The referee team had to leave their hotel in New Orleans with the help of a police escort and settle in a suburban hotel outside the city. The refs were badgered by angry New Orleans fans over the phone and in person. Death threats were even made. The situation got so out of hand that police felt they should move the officiating crew out of the city and to safety.

But the harassment didn’t stop there. The referees had to go through days of berating on SportsCenter and talk shows. A senator from Louisiana even complained publicly about the call, saying his state was the victim of bad officiating.

Is Sportsmanship Dead?

When surveyed as a group, officials are quick to say that they do not like the way things are headed in terms of sportsmanship. Many referees say that they have felt unsafe because of administrators, players, coaches, or fans. And there is a consensus that things are getting worse.

In the past few years, there have been many cases of violence against referees. For example, last April, three youth basketball players assaulted a ref, punching and kicking the official during a game. YouTube is full of videos of players, fans, and coaches being violent towards officials.

This trend of rising violence against officials is concerning. And yet, there is no shortage of people singing up for the job.

Why Be A Referee?

If being a referee is dangerous and there is little glory to be had, then why do it? The answer for many referees is simple: they love the job. Being a ref doesn’t pay very well and there is little notoriety or appreciation for what they do. It is also a difficult job that requires lots of studying of rules and regulations.

But refs everywhere seem to say the same thing. Even with all the grief they have to put up with, even with the possible danger they face, being a ref is an exhilarating, exciting job. People do it because they simply don’t want to do anything else. That’s something we can all respect. And some fans would do well to remember that next time a call doesn’t go their way.

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