Something has to be done to change the rapid decline in officiating

Bad calls ruining good games

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Referees, umpires, and officials have always been highly scrutinized and we all know that officiating games is a thankless job, but we have finally reached a breaking point where bad calls are starting to ruin sports. You know something needs to change when both the NFC and AFC Championship games need overtime to decide which teams would go to the Super Bowl and yet the takeaway will be controversial calls in both games instead of history-making plays. In a world where technology continues to get better and better and replay has become a part of all 3 major leagues, somehow, some way, the level of officiating has seemingly dropped to an all-time low. From replay not being allowed during certain portions of the game or on plays occurring outside of the final minutes of a half, to human error that cannot be challenged or corrected, the frustration level for fans has gone through the roof. I realize that a major concern for the governing bodies of professional sports is the time a game takes to play and how that has an adverse effect on broadcast partners, national networks and impatient fans. With all that said, the ultimate goal for every league and every game is to get the calls right no matter what it takes so that the players ultimately decide the outcome of the contests. If the people on the competition committee of all these professional sports don't put their heads together and come up with better ways of assuring that calls are correct and replay reviews are used, we could be heading towards a very dark time as fans.

If you watched both NFL games yesterday, or even one of the two contests, you couldn't help but walk away shaking your head at several bad calls and no calls that helped to decide the outcomes. What's worse than that, on multiple occasions rulings that were made were sketchy at best and no calls that were obviously wrong were not corrected. From pass interference that wasn't called to face mask penalties and catch/no catch plays, fans were left scratching their heads and wondering if the right team really won the game? What makes things worse is that the NFL doesn't have any policy in place that requires them to provide explanations as to why certain calls and decisions were made and the basis behind them. Broadcasters and fans are left to guess and assume why a certain outcome was inforced instead of being informed of rules and shown the conclusive video to reinforce specific calls. There were also multiple calls made on the field that replay proved to be incorrect, with no way of correcting them or challenging them to assure that the right ruling was made. Something has to change!

In the NBA calls seem to be getting worse on a nightly basis and the replay system is still too limited to correct a large number of incorrect calls on the floor during important times in a game. Even with the league expanding replay and implementing a reporting system that comes out within 24 hours of the completion of a contest explaining key calls and admitting inaccurate decisions, there are still far too many bad calls deciding and affecting outcomes. The kicker here is that, while being as transparent as possible in admitting errors, there is no system in place to go back and replay games from the point at which bad calls are made, so all the report does is exploit how bad the refereeing has gotten in one of the top sports leagues in the world. Sure it's nice for a player, coach, team and fan base to get the peace of mind in knowing that the wrong call was made and inevitably cost your team points or worse yet a game, but it doesn't change the outcome or the standings and they don't get a "do over." So unless the goal is to throw salt in a wound or to look as bad as possible as a league, there really is no reason to have the Final Two Minutes Report issued on a daily basis. The league also has made it mandatory that the crew chief of the officials that were on a game where a controversial call occurred, be made available to answer questions from the media immediately following the completion of the game in question. This is done to provide clarity, answers, and explanations as to the thought process and rules involved in their on court decisions. The bad thing again is, it won't change the outcome of the game so all it does is publicize and draw attention to incorrect calls. On top of that, in many of these incidents and interviews, the crew chief is not the referee who made the call in question so you are left with more suspicion than validation. There has to be a better way!

The biggest issues in Major League Baseball are being as consistent as possible calling balls and strikes, as well as replay review and getting calls right on the field. Last year in the regular season and the playoffs, replay review was used on multiple calls and the wrong call was still the final outcome on the field. There was also a season-long debate about what can be done to have a more consistent and accurate strike zone on a nightly basis? Umpires are against an electronic strike zone and feel it will eventually lead to the elimination of their jobs. gain, if the ultimate goal is to make sure they get the call right, why not utilize technology to make that happen more consistently? We already have K-Zone technology on almost every local and national TV telecast so viewers can see how good or bad an umpire is doing calling a game, why not use similar resources to guarantee the players and coaches that the right calls are being made as well? The commissioner is deeply concerned about game length and the time it takes to play an MLB game but most fans know what they are getting into when they buy a ticket or turn on a game broadcast. A few more minutes added on to the length of time it takes to play a game, to make sure the integrity of the game is no longer in question seems like a small price to pay in the big picture and grand scheme of things.

I don't have all the answers in terms of how to utilize replay and technology more to make sure the right right calls are made and bad calls are corrected, but I do know something has to be done soon. There are lots of league officials smarter than me with a much higher pay grade, that are on competition committees for their given sport and charged with upgrading rules and implementing technology. These are the folks that have to put their heads together and figure it out before it's too late. You'd rather have games take a little longer but the right calls and decisions made, than the alternative of having huge games tainted and remembered for flags that weren't thrown and whistles that should have been blown.

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NASCAR is coming to Texas! Photo via: Wiki Commons.

The NASCAR Cup Series heads to the Lone Star State for the AutoTrader EchoPark Automotive 500. This track is one of the most controversial on the schedule, as it’s incredibly hard to pass. Many are speculating that the track is on its way to a complete reconfiguration in the near future, which could make Texas way more competitive. This is the first race of the Round of 12 and it starts off at a relatively tame racetrack. But with the way these playoffs have been going, we can expect to see more attrition this week. As I mentioned earlier, passing here is next to impossible, so qualifying will be extra important.

Last week, Chris Buescher went on to capture his second career victory and first since 2015 back when he won a rain-shortened race at Pocono. This continues the theme of non-playoff drivers winning in the playoffs. This is a huge win for Roush Fenway Keselowski racing, as their season has been one to forget. It would seem like this team is turning in the right direction going forward into 2023.

The race however was dominated by numerous mechanical failures that would take out some of the front-runners including Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, and Martin Truex Jr. Because of an engine failure, Kyle was one of the four drivers that were eliminated from the playoffs, the other three were Austin Dillon, Tyler Reddick, and Kevin Harvick. Naturally, because Kyle is leaving Gibbs next season, many fans of his believed that there was a conspiracy to keep him out of the next round. These claims are completely bogus and unfounded, as Martin Truex Jr and Denny Hamlin also had issues during the race. The real issue is NASCAR rushing this new car and making parts that are not quality. There have been many drivers who have criticized the direction that NASCAR is going. This car seems to race well and there are a lot of positives, but this is an issue that needs to be fixed.

The driver that I have winning this weekend is Christopher Bell. It has been a career-year for the Oklahoma native, after winning at New Hampshire this summer he’s been on quite a run. He currently holds the highest average finish among all active drivers. He has done a great job at keeping out of trouble and most importantly running up front while doing it. If a Joe Gibbs car is going to win the title, Bell has to be the favorite, as he’s been much more consistent than Denny Hamlin. They have been taking advantage of stage points as well as he’s scored 31 over the last round including a stage victory at Bristol last week.

Texas Motor Speedway is a racetrack that has been good to Bell, considering he’s from Norman, Oklahoma. It’s the closest race to his home track. He will have plenty of people there who will be supporting him. His numbers here are pretty solid, regardless of the fact that he has yet to win. He’s currently the third-highest average finisher since 2019 with two top fives. One thing that might be a deterrent for Bell is his 19.7th average starting position. With this track being next to impossible to pass on, it will be challenging to get through the field if he’s starting mid-pack, but with all the speed this team has, I don’t see that being too much of an issue. Look for Bell to punch his ticket to the Round of 8 with a win at Texas.

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