Stop Saying Sports Are Rigged by Referees!

I am going to get something off my chest that’s been there for a long time.  It is not acceptable to blame every questionable refereeing decision in professional sports on the rigging of games.  There are a lot of reasons for this.  First off, and the most obvious, is that referees control very little of what actually happens during any professional sports match.  In the NBA, refs call fouls once every minute or two.  In soccer, a little less frequent, and football and hockey follow similar patterns.  The fact that most of the game is played by the players means that many games couldn’t be rigged even if refs wanted them to be.
Secondly, I like to think there is a bit of integrity in professional sports.  Maybe I’m just crazy, but referees are there for the big games for a reason: they qualify as being top level refs.  And I would assume that the majority of these refs wouldn’t be willing to blatantly throw a game.  In addition, I would think that throwing games is not a one or two man operation.  These guys would get caught rather often if rigging of games occurred.
Thirdly, let’s go over a history of known game rigging.  In 1919 the Chicago White Sox threw the World Series.  These players were all subsequently banned for life.  That story got out, as I imagine many rigging stories today would if they were to occur.  Sometimes teams tank for draft picks, or lose for a more desirable playoff position or sit players in order to avoid injury.  These are all separate matters that don’t have to do with the outcome of matches being decided by money.  And one last thing: none of these scenarios have involved referees.
Let me pose a question: do referees rig matches?  You may be surprised to find out, but my answer is yes.  Some referees do rig matches.  However, this happens infrequently and not to the same level that many people accuse it to be.  One notable scenario is when in 2012 one of the NFL’s replacement refs chose to ref a game with a player on his fantasy team.  However, he did not alter the course of that game, and again, was banned.  I believe, on a similar note, that if a referee has a favorite team, which most don’t, but some do, that they may let a call or two slip.  However, nothing major enough to be a blatantly obvious game fix.  The World Cup tries to stop this by using referees from a different continent than the teams in the game.  In addition, it is known that some refs succumb to a home field advantage where they are more likely to “assist” the home team.  Again somewhat understandable, but again nothing too major.  Those are the most likely times a game is fixed in any sort of way.  Do they involve money?  No.
Game fixing has happened, and will inevitably continue to happen, but not near on the sort of level people suggest.  I agree that some games are rigged for many, but very few.  I am absolutely sick of seeing a questionable decision blow up over the media because people have their little phony conspiracy theories that something had to be up for a ref to make that call.  People say ridiculous things such as “I wonder how much he was paid to make that call” or “the player of the game was definitely the ref in that one.”  Let me introduce those people to reality.  The refs are real people, and people have a tendency to make mistakes.  In addition, several refs have publicly apologized to the media when making a faulty call and realizing it after the game had concluded.  Most notably Jim Joyce, a baseball umpire, when he mistakenly called a runner safe at first base, ruining pitcher Armando Galarraga’s perfect game in 2010 when a correct call – an out, would have ended the game.
Referees are human people.  They get only one angle on a play and have to make a decision that may change the fate of a game.  And these plays happen fast.  Us watching at home get as many replays as we want.  But most referees see every play one time.  Not to mention all the pressure that goes into having a responsibility like refereeing a professional sports game, a game people bet on.  In an ideal world, there would be some kind of robot or technology deciding if there is a foul or a flag or a penalty on any play, and while that may occur in the future, that doesn’t happen today.
I genuinely feel bad for referees that make mistakes.  These people get yelled at, disgraced, in extreme situations receive death threats.  Fans and players and coaches alike have to realize that these moments are inevitable parts of sports and that sometimes a call goes for you and sometimes against you, and that over the course of time an equal amount will go in both directions.  It is a poor display of character and sportsmanship to blame the refs anytime your team loses.  Because in reality, regardless of what call a referee makes, the opposing team still had to make that touchdown, or score that goal, or make that free throw.  Referees never add numbers on to the scoreboard by themselves.  This is a huge fact that many people seem to ignore, and after going on Facebook, or the comments section of articles and game recaps time and time again, I think something has to be said about it.
Now the underlying topic of conversation here, and what really pushed me over the edge was this past World Cup game that saw Brazil defeat Croatia 3-1.  I admit I don’t think all the calls in that game were the best, but they were the refs calls nonetheless, and I believe there is a reasonable defense for every call Yuichi Nishimura made, and that they were all at that point in time acceptable calls, and in some cases acceptable errors.  That is all I will say at this point in time, but I will give my full reasoning and rebuttals to the arguments that Nishimura rigged the game in my first World Cup recap blog going out which I plan to go out on Sunday.
What this all comes down to is that human error is an inherent part of sports, and that like it or not, it’s going to be there for a very long time.  It’s always been there, and it may always be there.  As a sports team, your job is to have a higher number on the scoreboard than your opponent at the end of a game, and that decides who wins and who loses.  If a referee has a small impact on that, due to a right or wrong call, it is the job of the athletes to accept it and play harder.  You aren’t going to change the game, and you shouldn’t resort to blaming game rigging for ending up on the wrong side of the score.  Rigging happens, but it happens infrequently.  Refs are responsible for a few things, but nowhere near everything.  Roll with the punches, suck it up.  Sometimes you get robbed, and that’s life.  Basically, even if you may think a game is rigged, realize that the likelihood of you being right is low.  So it’s probably best to keep your mouth shut, and enjoy your sports the way they are.
Thanks for reading,
Connor

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