Criticizing officials isn’t the same as blaming them

The Hamilton Tiger-Cats lost a game on Saturday night to the Toronto Argonauts and officiating played a major part in the story following the game.

A number of questionable calls went the Argos’ way and it renewed fan complaints about the state of officiating and the competency of the command centre. This is nothing new in Hamilton, and after being hosed on numerous occasions over the last couple of years, so much so that the league had to issue public comments admitting the wrong calls were made, you can’t really blame Ticats fans for being a little touchy when questionable calls occur against their team.

But criticizing the officiating is not the same thing as blaming them.

Do I, or most rational Ticats fans, blame the officials for the team losing on Saturday? No. It played a role, but so too did Hamilton’s failure to score a touchdown after having 1st-and-goal from the one or when a Jeremiah Masoli fumble led to an Argos touchdown or when Martese Jackson returned a punt 92 yards for a score or when Masoli missed a wide-open Luke Tasker late in the fourth. A lot of things came together to lead to Hamilton’s defeat, but the fault does not lay entirely at the feet of the officials.

That said, that still doesn’t mean Ticats fans can’t criticize the performance of the officials following a game. Sure, it might ring a little hollow when the fans complaining are the ones whose team lost, but is it any different than the victorious fans saying stuff like, “Officiating is bad in all sports, so it is no big deal”? When your team wins, you forget the little things that went wrong, but those things get amplified when your team is on the losing end.

I don’t normally like to bag on the officials because I don’t think the CFL has refs that are worse than any other sports league. I have criticized them in the past for errors when it has felt warranted, but I don’t think that should be off limits. When refs screw up and make mistakes we should be allowed to criticize them the same we would a player or coach.

When I say that Jeremiah Masoli’s fumble or June Jones’ play calling led to a less than desirable outcome, I am not blaming either specific instance for the team losing, but explaining something that did contribute to a defeat. It should be no different with officials. If a ref botches a call, or the command centre biffs a review, and it gets pointed out, that shouldn’t bring about an automatic response of “the refs didn’t cost you the game.”

Refs are human and make errors, and at least I know I can live with that to a certain extent — the command centre is a bit of another story and is probably a bigger issue than the on-field refs, by I digress — but pointing out their mistakes is no different than doing so for a player or coach.

Everything, from players to coaches to refs, affects the outcome of a game. Sometimes it is little things that go unnoticed, like a missed block that forces the QB to throw the ball earlier than anticipated and leads to an interception, and sometimes it is a big thing like an end-zone interception or a phantom pass interference call that sets a team up 1st-and-goal from the one. But it all counts and it all should be fair game for scrutiny.

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