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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Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

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