If there is a sure thing in the laws of nature, it’s that everyone makes mistakes and nobody is perfect. More than just a just a three-word catchphrase, it’s a fact of life; always has been, always will be. This is especially true when it comes to sports, where even an undefeated team makes their share of errors on their way to an unblemished season. It takes time, effort, work, and patience in order to get things right, whatever the goal may be; this is why athletes practice day in and day out. What’s really frustrating though is that after a mistake has been made, there is no ownership of the responsibility, or even worse, as is the case with recent NFL officiating, there is no culpability or consequence.
Going back to last Monday night’s game in Seattle (the site of the infamous “Fail Mary” four years ago, also on a Monday night), Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman injured Bills kicker Dan Carpenter on a field goal attempt prior to halftime. We saw the video clips countless times throughout the week, and it was a clear hit on the kicker, without question. Normally, this would result in an automatic penalty that would give the kicking team a fresh set of downs; instead Buffalo was called for delay of game. Now, Seattle went on to win the game by six, so there’s no telling if that one play would’ve made a difference in the outcome. And eventually, Sherman did get fined for the hit, to which he contended that he was making a play on the ball.
The point of this soliloquy isn’t the play itself, but rather the failure of the officials of making the penalty call. I mean, the refs were within arm’s reach of what was going on and they managed to call delay of game on Buffalo. This isn’t the first time in history something like this has happened (again, refer to the “Fail Mary), but my question as a fan (much like all of you readers) is that where is the disciplinary action on the officials when they make this kind of egregious error? Think about it, players make critiques of league officials and front office honchos all the time; they in turn get fined for speaking their minds (more or less they’re speaking the truth, depending on the issue at the time). However, referees have played factors in regular season and playoff games that have resulted in teams winning games that they probably shouldn’t have (“Fail Mary” again, and Google the 2008 game where Ed Hochuli blew a fumble call between the Chargers and Broncos).
As long as I’ve been watching sports, there have been many faux pas in heated contests. One would argue that some are more blatant than others (the NBA is notorious for blown calls or “phantom” fouls). And according to pundits on ESPN, Fox Sports, and the like, viewership has been on the decline this season. Bad officiating isn’t necessarily the reason for this (bad play from multiple teams is the main culprit), but it doesn’t really give fans much reason to tune in. The shield still run Sundays from September to February, but its time that they hold their officials accountable for the mistakes they make as much as the players. Perhaps if the NFL starts to financial penalize the officials for their errors, maybe, just maybe we won’t repeatedly have mistakes like last Monday night.