All referees have to be somewhat masochistic

By Allyson Kloster

Although collegiate and professional sports officials are popular on YouTube (see LSU-South Carolina referee who seemed to intentionally run into Carolina’s quarterback) and in court (see NBA referee Tim Donaghy who the FBI busted last year for betting thousands of dollars on games from 2005-2007), they’re not exactly popular on the field.

Come to think of it, they’ve never been popular.

Heck, as an official of fifth through 12th grade athletes, I’ve never been popular. It’s the most stressful job I’ve ever had. Yet, for some reason, I’ve been doing it since my freshman year of high school. I think I may be slightly masochistic.

If I’m masochistic for doing it part-time, that’d make professional officials more masochistic than the albino dude from “The DaVinci Code.”

Perhaps I’m being dramatic. After all, professional officials have the luxury of instant replay. Rather than feeling guilty for making a horrible call, they can reverse it after seeing the play from multiple angles.

In a sense, human error is minimized. With fewer errors, there are fewer disputes over calls, which can lead to a less stressful game.

Ha. We wish.

Although more and more sports are using instant replay as a way to minimize human error, sports officials haven’t had the opportunity to chill on the sideline duty-free. In fact, their role on the field has increased more than ever.

Because of instant replay, it’s become harder for us to say, “They’re human, we all mess up,” when we can see 90 different camera angles clearly showing the ball hit the ground before it is caught. So, if the referee makes the wrong call, everyone can see it. Unlike my comfy job, comparatively speaking, the professional ref won’t be able to bite his lip and pray that no one notices. Instead, he has a giant target on his head, courtesy of technology.

But is that fair?

There’s never going to be pure objectivity to officiating. This is not swimming. There is no electronic touchpad. No matter what advancements we come up with, there will be a need for officials.

Fundamentally, every sport requires a select few to make judgement calls. And because people are not perfect (gasp!), mistakes are inevitable, Jumbotron or not.

Ever since instant replay, all that’s changed is that being an official has become more and more stressful. They’re no better or worse than they used to be. Let’s face it, even with instant replay there are ways to make bogus calls. Just because referees have more accountability for their actions (since the whole stadium is judging their every move), and just because they have a few extra tools at their disposal, it doesn’t mean their performances will automatically improve. And it doesn’t mean they should.

Expect there to be good, bad and ugly referees. But don’t expect technologies like instant replay to fix that and make sports fairer.

Why create more stress for those poor guys if instant replay isn’t going to change how well they do their jobs?

Officiating is a thankless job, professional or not. Still, I’m so thankful there is no instant replay in the league I umpire for. Not because I could make ridiculous calls for the heck of it (I’ve always wanted to call a pitch that soars over the batters head a strike to see how everyone reacts), but because I would be placed under a microscope, getting scrutinized and harassed 100 times more than I already am.

How could anyone put up with that for a living?

Like I said before, they’d have to be severely masochistic.

Allyson is a senior in Media. She can be reached at [email protected]