The Ref is Always Right

Referees challenge our civility.

We expect perfection, we criticize mistakes, and we’re regularly disappointed when we realize that refs are… actually flawed and imperfect…just like us.

We wish they weren’t. We wish that every call were fair and impartial. If there is imperfection, we are more accepting if we benefit from the mistakes, but we all know that there are plenty of mistaken calls made against us too.

So what do we do with this paradox?  We want and expect perfection, but we put flawed humans in charge of implementing it.

My brother suggests we put machines in the place of referees, because computers would be impartial and much closer to perfect. The technology is probably there. There are programs that could read the speed of a pitch and determine if the ball is in a strike zone or not. The computers could read exactly where the football is to be placed and there would never be another question about whether it was a first down or not. We could teach computers to recognize fouls and to call games much more accurately.

We could probably do it, but I hope it never happens.

Referees are part of the games. The same games that offer THE BEST life learning opportunities available. Nothing helps us to learn how to navigate the human condition more than working in, with and past human imperfection. Part of me thinks that is why we are driven to play those games in the first place.

So be challenged by that.  Be challenged to make a civil decision in the face of injustice.

One of the most influential coaches I had as a child drilled into our heads that, “No matter what the call…THE REF IS ALWAYS RIGHT!!”

No use arguing, even if the call is completely wrong. No use wasting energy mumbling under your breath because refs don’t change the call once they’ve made it. The best use of energy is to get refocused and to prepare for the next play… the next moment.  Learning how to do that prepares people for what it is to live in and with the human condition.

We cannot change some of the most grievous and unfair situations we face. We can sit and bellow about it. We can yell and make lots of noise about the injustice, but what does that do to propel us to a different place? Nothing. Spending a moment acknowledging the bad call and then repositioning ourselves to move forward is the best and only thing we should teach our kids to do.

There will be plenty of unfair calls. Some games might be decided because of them, but if there is no malicious intent or safety concerns, the refs themselves have just offered an unbelievable opportunity for life lesson.  Complaining about a ref denies everyone a chance to learn from the mistakes.

Refs are players in the game. So much so that (at least for soccer and hockey) if the players, the ball or the puck collide with the ref…the play goes on.

We need to foster respect for the games we play…those life games…and encouraging respect for the referees is an integral part of that.

The ref is always right and the right decision is to believe that.

Have you ever been a referee? How important do you think it is to teach kids how to referee too?

1 reply »

  1. Fantastic little read! As an official, we know we are not always perfect, but the drive to be is truly there, just like that of the coach or the player. Technology has changed the games we play and the microscope has become so large that it inhibits future officials from ever wanting to try-out. The average age of officials has steadily increased because what young person would want to take a job for which they constantly get screamed at for simply trying to “do” their job? My hope is that the perception of being a referee will begin to change not only in the eyes of coaches, players, and fans, but for those young, aspiring people who want to give the stripes a try.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s