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We’ve all witnessed it – a referee’s call gone awry, a pivotal moment that seals a game’s fate. It’s disheartening not just for a team to lose, but to succumb to circumstances beyond their control. It leaves players, teams, and fans with a queasy feeling. Sure, sports can be melodramatic, but isn’t that part of the allure? What’s not enjoyable, however, is when players and coaches face fines for expressing their discontent over a botched call, while the referee responsible escapes scrutiny.

This isn’t limited to a specific sport; it’s a universal concern. Referees should be answerable for their decisions if they’re found to have made a crucial error on the field that directly influences a game’s outcome.

Recent instances of such “bad calls” occurred over the past weekend. Take the Saturday night showdown between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, a tense game marred by referee decisions. In the closing play, LeBron James drove to the basket and was unmistakably fouled by Jayson Tatum, yet no call was made. The game extended to overtime, and the Lakers ultimately suffered a loss.

The replay unequivocally shows contact on James’ arm, with a referee positioned right by the action. Shortly after the game, the referees acknowledged their mistake, terming it “gut-wrenching” in a statement released by the NBA referee union. However, this admission won’t alter the outcome, and soon enough, the incident will fade into obscurity, underscoring a systemic problem.

The very next day, referees took center stage in another pivotal game – the AFC Championship between the Cincinnati Bengals and Kansas City Chiefs. While acknowledging the Chiefs’ deserving victory, the game was marred by woeful officiating, prompting fans and media to vent their frustrations on Twitter.

For instance, in the game’s final moments, an evident holding by the Chiefs’ offensive line went unwhistled. This non-call paved the way for a penalty on the Bengals’ defense, granting the Chiefs an extra 15 yards and securing the win. A timely call might have forced overtime, introducing an element of uncertainty to the outcome.

I’m not advocating for retroactively altering game results, but those officiating these games must be held accountable. Often, a single play doesn’t solely decide a game’s fate, but it undeniably influences the overall outcome.

This isn’t an isolated incident – bad calls have altered game results before, and they will again. Moving forward, a standardized protocol should be in place to address such issues as they arise.

Change is needed in how sports leagues handle these situations, especially in high-stakes games. Referees are human and prone to errors; that’s natural. However, accountability should accompany those mistakes. Ultimately, everyone desires a fair game. If players and coaches are held to a certain standard, those officiating should be equally accountable.

About Allen Bryan

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