Sports

Blog: If only the NHL's referees were human... like the NFL's

Robert Griffin III and the Redskins lost their Sunday Night Football game, 24-17, to the New York Giants. - Wikimedia Commons
Robert Griffin III and the Redskins lost their Sunday Night Football game, 24-17, to the New York Giants.
— image credit: Wikimedia Commons

On Sunday night, a set of NFL referees screwed up. On Monday, the league did what our NHL never does: it apologized.

The league accepted blame. Or, rather, it pushed it onto the refs. But so be it. The zebras did mess up, and it was infuriating – especially if you're a Washington Redskins fan – because it came off like the kind of arrogant, human-made mistake you've come to expect from referees who are truly mortal and not omniscient, but also because it came off like the kind of mistake you normally see them cover up as they run away without answering anyone's questions.

Here's how ESPN describes the play:

A 4-yard completion to the Redskins' Pierre Garcon was spotted short of a first down. Referee Jeff Triplette signaled third down. But the head linesman, with Washington in a hurry-up offense, incorrectly motioned for the crew to advance the chains, which caused the down boxes to read first down.

Washington then failed to convert and were forced to concede possession, but thought they till had two more downs to try on.

It was a fail, simple as that.

If only we had this type of human emotion – hell, it's basic human remorse – in hockey. I've heard it said that NHL refs are the best because they let things go in the playoffs, especially in overtime. But so what? Isn't that just inconsistency? And, if they have the wherewithal to exercise mental authority at some moments, why can't they ante up at others?

How come so many trigger-happy whistlers get off by staying silent? How come so many who put their whistles away escape without any sort of apology?

Sure, it's possible the NHL deals with this much better behind closed doors, but then we also have to sit back and pretend to admire the career of former Foot Locker employee Mick McGeough when all we really wanted was for him to retire as soon as he started.

Why, oh why, was this goal called off? And, if it was and it was an error – *it was* – why are we, as an audience, supposed to act like we haven't see anything? Why do the referees just shuffle away with the puck, pretending like it didn't happen?

Is this a league with humans at the top or is it Panem?

Even in baseball, the most archaic of all the archaic, we have seen individual umpires take the fall for blown calls... although really only for embarrassing, gut-wrenchingly wrong calls.

Sure, it doesn't happen often, but it did happen when first first-base ump Jim Joyce robbed Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga of a perfect game. Joyce admitted he was wrong, even tearing up the next day when Galarrage was presented with baseball's version of a consolation prize. Joyce and Galarrage actually teamed up to write a book called "Nobody's Perfect".

And sure, it's just one example, but if you saw the play or remember the fallout, you felt as bad for Joyce as you did for Galarraga. And you know now and forever that those umps are trying their best, perhaps even losing sleep over it like every Cubs fans has since 2003. (Bartman. I'm talking about Bartman.)

Could you imagine Shane Doan and Stephane Auger doing that, what Joyce and Galarrage did? Or Alex Burrows and Stephane Auger? Or anyone and Stephan Auger?

Again, Auger's very early retirement leads you to believe the NHL is dealing with its referees out of the public eye, but maybe – just maybe – dealing with it in front of us, in front of its players and coaches, and with respect to everyone who cares is a better way to remedy it.

In the NHL, refs admit their mistakes 16 years after the fact, and only then if they're paid to be awesome on TSN.

We all know referees are human. We all know they're going to make mistakes. We even know it's an impossible job. A tough, rough job.

But we also just want to hear the league admit that, too.

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