Referees, umpires and officials are all human, we must remember, in the sense that they are prone to mistakes, too. Yet, we demand much more perfection from them than in most any other position in sports.
If a quarterback throws an interception it could be the receiver’s fault, a good defensive secondary, a leaky offensive line, a pass rush that force a bad throw, or a miscommunication. All those options – and more – can cause a crucial mistake.
A bad call from an umpire is examined and reviewed and hardly ever is human error mentioned in the analysis. It’s labeled as a “bad call” in the booth and fans are subjected to that opinion and then hold it as fact.
That athletes then react in crazy, emotional ways with plenty of histrionics does not aid in fans understanding that umps, too, can be prone to a misjudgement here and there.
MLB backup Yorvit Torrealba took things to an extreme when he open-handed slapped an umpire in a Venezuelan game, causing a 66-game ban which closes out this winter season and all of next year’s. Take a look:
There is no place for that in any sport. Yes, soccer players complain more than any other professional athlete, but rarely are they the ones chasing a ref off the field. It’s usually the hooligan fans. Officials in any sport are never rewarded by any coach, player or fan.
We’re not here to defend officials – they’re the ones who agreed to the job knowing full well what could be anticipated.
But Torrealba’s indecency is never what they signed up for.
Nor is Roberto Alomar’s infamous spitting incident in 2001, when he spat on umpire John Hirschbeck in argument of a call.
Thankfully, what we’ve learned between then and now is to be tougher on those athletes that cross the line.
You know what Alomar’s penance was for spitting on another man – an act so heinous it is possibly the most degrading form of treatment between humans? Five games. Yup. Not even a week’s worth of baseball.
This was not long after Steve Howe had been reinstated an unfathomable eight times for constant drug use, and it was around the boom of The Steroid Era when baseball turned a blind eye to exploding muscles, statistics and hat sizes.
Maybe because of Alomar’s loogie and the resulting laughable suspension that was widely criticized, other leagues might have figured it out.
If we want humans to continue to be involved and perform at a high level, we must protect them.
Otherwise, we’d have to sit through entire games managed by robots and instant replay, slowing every possible exciting moment of sport to a standstill.