Score One for the “Bad” Guys

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By: Bryan Snyder
Head Volleyball Coach/Assistant Athletic Director

I’m sure everyone has heard the old saying that “those who can play are players, and those who can’t are coaches”.  I will admit that I used to take offense to that saying when I was younger, since I (thought I) could still play at the time.  As I have grown older, it doesn’t bother me as much anymore.  However, I have often wondered … who does that leave to officiate the games?  They must be even lower than those who can’t play, right?

In general, I think officials in all sports do an average job at best (except in the NBA, where they do exactly as the league office instructs them to do), but I also think they are really in a no-win situation since no matter what call they make, at least half of the players, coaches, fans, media, etc. will disagree with them.   I have officiated baseball, basketball and volleyball games at different levels, and I can tell you that it is definitely not an easy job, and every official is bound to make mistakes.  I typically do not yell at officials when I attend sporting events, and I almost never have conflicts with officials over specific calls in matches that I coach.  I have however, heard many fans and coaches get very upset with officials in different sports, and voice their disagreement quite adamantly.  I think the officials who receive the worst of the verbal abuse are basketball referees, with home plate umpires in baseball (calling balls and strikes) a close second. (as a side note, there is NO reason that NFL officials should EVER miss a call since they have a crew of about a dozen or more officials AND can use instant replay for almost any call)   It is amazing how many fans think that EVERY call a basketball referee makes is wrong, not to mention that BOTH coaches are usually arguing on every call, whether it was for or against them.  Quite honestly, having been courtside for many college basketball games, I could not do what they do without throwing just about everyone out of the gym every game.

My biggest problem with officials is that there never seems to be any repercussions for them when they do make blatant errors, and they will hardly ever take any accountability for those bad calls.  However, recently there have been a couple of examples of officials handling things the right way, and since they always seem to get scrutinized and never get applauded, I wanted to take this chance to showcase two examples of officials who have really earned my respect just by admitting that they made a mistake … something WE ALL DO!

Umpire Jim Joyce and Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga shake hands as Galarraga presents Joyce with the Tigers lineup card, one day after Joyce's missed call cost Galarraga a perfect game.


The first example was last year when baseball umpire Jim Joyce at first base when video replay clearly showed that the runner was out.  Normally this would not have been a big deal, but the “hit” should have been the last out in Armando Galarraga’s perfect game, which would have been just the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history.  After watching the replay, Joyce admitted that he had missed the call, and tearfully apologized to Galaragga, who also handled the situation with class by supporting Joyce in all of his comments to the media.

The second example happened just this week, and was the reason I decided to write about this.  At the end of the Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament second round game between St. John’s and Rutgers, a St. John’s player intercepted a full court pass with about four seconds left in the game.  He then travelled with the ball and stepped out of bounds before throwing the ball into the air as the clock expired.  In the post-game press conferences, both head coaches, Steve Lavin from St. John’s and Mike Rice from Rutgers, did not take shots at the officials, and both of them praised the crew as being one of the better officiating groups that they have had this season. (WOW!!)  After reviewing the video, the Big East Conference issued a statement admitting that two mistakes were made, but that the violations were not reviewable under NCAA rules, so there was really nothing that the officials could have done anyway.  The best part of this story was that the next day, all three officials from that game took themselves out of consideration for officiating any games during the remainder of the tournament.  They were not suspended by the Big East or the NCAA, the officials just did not want the attention on them, and realized that they had made some mistakes.  They took responsibility for their actions, and for that, I think they should be commended and stand as role models for officials in all other sports.

Both of these examples just stand to remind me that officials are people, too.  They have good games and bad games, just like players and coaches, and in this instance, they showed their human side.  I tip my cap and give a standing ovation to all of these officials, and I ask everyone to think just a second about the people inside the officials uniforms the next time you are about to call some official blind, dumb, incompetent, etc. at some game.  Well done, gentlemen!

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