It’s time to lay off the refs a little

With the Saskatchewan Roughriders on their bye week, I was given the opportunity to sit back and watch last week in the CFL unfold without anything specific to write. My mind was drawing a blank for the coming week until the Bombers and Argos game.

Once again this season officiating is in the spotlight and not for the right reasons. In that game at Investors Group Field, the Argos were denied a touchdown because of an iffy (at best) illegal block call that negated a kick return touchdown for Toronto. What followed, beyond the #WhatAboutKaren story, was a titlewave of anger toward the men in stripes calling the game. It’s become almost second nature for most of us who follow the CFL to rag on the refs whenever a call is blown. Some fans take to a point where it seems they have a greater rivalry with the officials than any one else.

Maybe it’s time we give them a bit of a break. Like us, the refs are human and are prone to mistakes. They are going to happen from time-to-time. Thanks to technology, we’ve been able to, in theory, correct some of the biggest mistakes or misses by those darn human refs. Even then, we like to complain how long that takes sometimes and if the correct call was made upon review.

By no means am I suggesting that the refs shouldn’t face criticism when it’s warranted, they certainly should. They should have to answer some questions occasionally, but that’s another matter. The officiating can be better, there’s no question about that.

However, the way some fans and media talk about the officiating in this league, you’d think that only CFL refs make mistakes. Remember when an NHL ref blew the whistle absurdly early in an elimination game in the Stanley Cup Final costing Nashville the lead? Remember when Sidney Crosby slashed someone’s finger off? On that note, can anyone tell me what is and isn’t slashing in the NHL? How about the NFL? What’s a catch? Who knows? In the NBA, we all know that big teams and stars seem to get special treatment, not to mention their actual officiating scandal involving gambling a number of years ago. Don’t even get me started on judged sports in the Olympics. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

None of this even takes the players into account, as when the flags start to fly more than usual in a given game, most of those infractions are unforced errors and avoidable penalties.

As we expect our athletes to be faster and stronger, the game is moving at a faster pace than ever. Despite this, the officials usually end up getting 95-plus per cent of the calls right according to the league. Mistakes have always happened and will continue to happen. It’s time we learn to live with that a little.