By Eshan Singh, Staff Reporter There are less than two minutes left in the Super Bowl. The score is tied at 35. The Kansas City Chiefs face a third and eight at the Eagles’ 15-yard line. If the Chiefs convert, they have essentially won the game. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes drops back and throws the...
By Eshan Singh, Staff Reporter
There are less than two minutes left in the Super Bowl. The score is tied at 35. The Kansas City Chiefs face a third and eight at the Eagles’ 15-yard line. If the Chiefs convert, they have essentially won the game. Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes drops back and throws the ball to the end zone. It lands well in front of Mahomes’ intended receiver, Juju Smith-Schuster. You rejoice, thinking the Eagles might win after all.
But wait! A penalty flag flies onto the field. Watching from home, your hope of another Eagles Super Bowl win is crushed as the referee announces that the Chiefs will get an automatic first-down because cornerback James Bradberry held Smith-Schuster. But your disappointment turns to anger as the replay shows that Bradberry barely touched Smith-Schuster. The Chiefs win the game, and every Eagles fan watching is left with a bad taste in their mouth.
Referees are ruining the fun and integrity of sports, and they need to be held accountable for errors that affect players, fans and bettors.
The NFL says that it uses the best officials in the league during the playoffs. However, calls like these are simply not good enough in such high stakes situations.
Officials even get calls wrong with the help of video review. During the Super Bowl, Eagles wide receiver Devonta Smith made an incredible one-handed catch along the sideline. It was reviewed, and despite the lack of indisputable evidence, which is a requirement for a call to be overturned, the officials reversed their decision. The Eagles were forced to settle for a field goal when they could have scored a touchdown.
Getting a call wrong with the assistance of video review should never happen. This problem could be solved simply by the NFL rewarding referees who make the right calls after reviews and punishing those who don’t. Bonuses and high-profile games should be given to excellent officials, while refs who make bad calls should be fined and given low stakes regular season games.
Not every referee gaff is obvious. Some mistakes appear minor and insignificant at first; however, they add up. For example, penalty yardage can add up in the NFL and drastically improve or worsen a team’s field position. These small but game-affecting decisions are not as noteworthy to fans but are just as bad as a major missed call in the fourth quarter.
Another problem is that different officials call games differently. According to USA Today, during the 2018 NFL season, one officiating crew called an average of 20.4 penalties a game, while another crew only called an average of 13.1 per game.
Not only are there inconsistencies between different referees, but there are also disparities within the same game. For example, even in the most recent Super Bowl, Eagles cornerback James Bradberry may have technically committed holding, but the officials were allowing that type of contact throughout the game.
These mistakes should not be happening. All officials should interpret the rules the same way all the time. It is simply not fair that something could be called holding one play but not the next.
The NFL could easily remedy this spotty officiating by going through all the games every week and punishing refs whose penalty decisions did not conform to the standard while rewarding those who made good choices.
Admittedly, officials are generally right. The NFL says that 98.9% of calls are correct. However, in a league as big as the NFL, good isn’t good enough, and the 1.1% of bad calls referees do make can completely change the results of games.
Not only is this problem unfair to the teams and fans, but it also causes huge amounts of money to change hands. According to Legal Sports Betting, about $100 billion is wagered during the NFL season, and an American Gaming Association survey said 50.4 million people planned to wager a total of $16 billion on the Super Bowl alone. As more states legalize sports betting, these numbers will only increase, meaning the NFL needs to do something about its refs.
It does not have to be complicated. Just reward good officials and punish bad ones. So the next time the refs make a horrible call, speak up. Take to social media to complain and demand more accountability. If enough people do so, maybe leagues like the NFL will listen.
Eshan Singh can be reached at [email protected].
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