A lot has been made of “rigged systems” in recent weeks. The idea of any system being rigged or fixed stems from the selfish belief that if I lose, someone else must have stolen it from me.
Relative to sports, we may not outwardly say the system is rigged, but our overall behavior suggests otherwise. Let’s start with the obvious: From the youth level to the pros, there is an innate distrust of on-field officials.
Almost every called strike in the World Series causes the batter to mumble under his breath, shout a profanity, or give the umpire a cold stare. Networks have developed technology specifically designed to second-guess the umpire’s balls and strikes calls.
Football commentators routinely question referee penalties. Some even say, “Well, it’s technically holding, but I wouldn’t have thrown the flag.” Players constantly give referee signals for holding, false starts, and pass interference before the official can reach his microphone.
Replays, challenges and appeals have permeated nearly every sport. We should strive to get the call right, but if you can’t tell if the ball was coming out after a super-slow-mo-blow-up from the tenth camera angle, then go with the ref’s original call.
Game officials exist along a continuum where people think they cheat for the other team or are flat-out incompetent. Treatment of officials has become so bad that several states have special laws on the books dealing with violence toward youth sports officials.
People beat up the ref or worse when the call doesn’t go their way. Repeated disrespect toward officials is why several pro leagues have specific rules against criticizing refs in the press.
In basketball, verbally abusing a referee will cost you points and possession. And it still doesn’t stop players, coaches, and fans from getting their jabs in. Even with everything we’ve seen this political season, no one has kicked dirt on an official. They only do that in baseball.
We don’t respect the process, outcomes, or officials. We just pretend we do.