Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bob Lobel: Which Refs Have the Toughest Jobs?

By Bob Lobel  @boblobel

Ready or not here it comes, three weeks of stupid bracket decisions. 

It will be three weeks of totally second-guessing yourself, and you’re not alone. Just about everybody who thinks they know anything about college basketball will be on the Titanic with you. 

But that’s not why I called you here today. 

I called you here to try and come to some consensus on officiating, and the difficulty involved.  Just because it’s the NCAA tournament is not the reason, although it’s a tough job on any court. It may be the toughest of the four major sports. A little diagnosis is necessary to figure this out. 

The question is “which sport is the most difficult to officiate?”   And the answer is _____________. (you fill in the blank). 

Let’s take a quick look at all four.  Staying with basketball, cause that’s where we started. There  is seemingly no way an NBA basketball game can be properly officiated. No way, no how. Not now.  Too big, too fast, too small and to difficult to call the blocking vs charging foul. There are other plays around the basket that are split second, not reviewable and invariably wrong.  

There really isn’t much more to say about that since it is just about impossible to do a really good job of blowing or not blowing a whistle, and thereby, a key call. However, basketball officiating is not a layup (yes, it was a pun intended). Let’s look at the new fascination with the reviewable plays in our national pastime.

One would automatically think that with the new review and challenge possibilities, the job of umpiring (why one is called umpire, while every other sport calls them officials, who knows) would be a piece of cake. 

Well, the one area that has no review whatsoever is the one area that needs it the most. It is this place where baseball officiating makes it truly an impossible sport to do a first rate job unless you have an extremely fortunate day.

That place would be BALLS AND STRIKES! 

Gadgets like the “Amica Pitch Zone” don’t exactly work in the favor of the guy behind the plate. Apparently, from where we sit, balls and strikes are impossible to call on a consistent basis. So that’s where baseball weighs in. 

Hockey, the fastest, fightin’est and most difficult to broadcast is pretty impossible for officials to screw up, since replays take away their biggest decisions, or at least are able to correct the wrong ones. Goal or no goal, that’s it. 

Now I bring you to the NFL where we are told that they could call a penalty on every play, but don’t. That automatically makes NFL football extremely difficult to officiate.  Forget the pressure of it being a part time job, with gambling is all over the place and fantasy teams thrown in, just try to make an interference call, offensive or defensive, at a critical part of any game.  

No way, Jose.  It is the most difficult and most highly penalized infraction in the course of any sport. No other sport has anything like it, unless it’s cricket and then I would not know. 

So, the Lobel prize for most difficult sports to officiate ironically goes to the least popular and the most popular leagues: The NBA and the NFL. Hockey comes out fourth and baseball, simply on the basis of balls and strikes, is number three. 

Go back and fill in the blank. I don’t see how you can disagree with me, but I’m sure someone will. 

Fee free to make your own call, but this one stands as the official decision that cannot be challenged or appealed.

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