NFL Officiating: An Objective Analysis

Over the years, I have sat down expecting to enjoy what I thought would be a spontaneous competion between two opposing teams. During such games, I have observed Referees make calls, or not make calls, which simply left me scratching my head. I often wondered why a call or non-call which was opposite to what was clearly evident to fans watching the game both at home and in person could totally circumvent the attention of the official whose job is to detect infractions and ensure that the culprit is held accountable.


Now, many of you may argue that football is a very fast-paced sport. With large bodies running, jumping, diving and flying all over the place; the assigned officials simply cannot catch every infraction that takes place on the field and are bound to miss some calls and make some mistakes. They are not perfect. My response to this argument is: Yes, you're right BUT how do you account for those instances where the penalty takes place in clear view of an official but isn't acknowledged even in the slightest? How do you account for a penalty that is called on a player who isn't even in the game? In this latter instance, I have observed penalties be carried out despite the fact that an attempt to correct this error was never made. These were the calls and non calls that puzzled me the most.


After witnessing these dynamics emerge in a previous game, I voiced my opinion to my sports watching peers, however, at the time I stated that the game was "fixed." This opinion was immediately labeled as "dumb" by some and a  "a cop-out" by others. I was even indirectly labeled as a "conspiracy theorist" if there is such a thing. These responses puzzled me because surely my sports peers know that any inconsistency in officiating a game can change the odds of one team winning over another so why am I being attacked? Then I realized that my perception of this enigma was all wrong. Instead of looking at it from a objective standpoint, I was looking at it from a subjective standpoint. I realized that the only people who can look at this issue from a subjective standpoint are the people involved in the "fixing" and it would be near impossible for me to prove such a thing without solid tangible evidence.  

                                                                 An Objective Analysis.

As I understand it, the NFL is in the business of selling the fans of the various football teams which comprises its' league a spontaneous, competitive football game that is played within impartial judicial regulation. To achieve this end, the NFL appoints a group of approximately 7 individuals to carry out tasks that are required to keep the game moving forward which includes the enforcement of the rules of the game and the recording of all rule infractions. Each of one these individuals have his own title and responsibilities. That said, one could conclude that the task of officiating is a form of quality control which is geared towards maintaining the integrity of the game.

With this understanding in mind, it is logical to conclude that any inconsistency in the execution of this function breaks down the means of quality control described in the preceding paragraph; and thus, the quality of the product this function is designed to preserve. More simply put, and as I stated above, any deviation in the officiating of a game can change the odds of one team winning over another. This lack of consistency can alter whether the scores goes up and can have an adverse affect on individual & team statistics among other things. Those of you who disagree that lack of consistency in officiating can determine the outcome of a game need only review the following examples:

Baltimore Raven 27-21 loss to the New England Patriots (Oct 2009)

Detroit Loins 19-14 loss to the Chicago Bears (Week # 1 2010)

Miami Dolphins 23-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers (Week # 7 2010)

I would like to close this post with the following observation. I have often heard, read and been told that part of the game of football is about which participating team gets the most "breaks." Such an assertion couldn't be any farther from the truth. The fallacy in this line of reasoning is that it completely dismisses the self-determining nature of the football game. The moment that an invalid call or non-call is made, or not made, the game in question transitions into an induced state, at which point, the game in question follows a deliberate path of progress that has nothing to do with the actions of either team but rather the unverifiable reasoning of the official. The officials occupy the same position as a mere spectator; that is, until the a player generates an infraction whereby access into the game is opened for the official to perform his duties as regulator. Any interference, or non-interference, outside of this purpose compromises the spontaneity of the game and produces an inferior overall product. 

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