Jibber Jabber – Know your role, refs!

Chad T. Jones, Public Affairs Officer

This divisional round of the NFL playoffs certainly lived up to its status as the best football weekend of the year.

I only got half of my four predictions correct, but I do think my prognostication does deserve some respect since I did pick Jacksonville to win in Pittsburgh, and called that Minnesota and New Orleans would be a great game.

I said Drew Brees would do enough for the Saints to win, and he did, but in the end, the future Hall of Famer’s performance against the league’s top defense wasn’t enough to overcome the “Miracle in Minneapolis.”

A lot of people are coming down on Saints’ rookie free safety Marcus Williams for his missed tackle that led to Stefon Diggs’ historic 61-yard walk-off touchdown. The first time in NFL history that a team won a postseason game with a touchdown as time expired.

As much guff as he’s taking, the 21-year old deserves a lot of credit for how he’s handling his mistake.

“I’m going to overcome it. You can’t let it beat you down,” Williams said in an interview after the game. “I’m going to take it upon myself to do all that I can to never let that happen again. If it happens again, then I shouldn’t be playing.”

That last sentiment – “If it happens again, then I shouldn’t be playing” – is a refreshing, realistic standard for professionalism. If someone getting paid to do a job makes the same mistakes or proves he’s not good at his job, then he shouldn’t be doing his job.

A good example of what happens when that standard is not met can be found in sports with its professional referees.

Too many of the men and women in stripped shirts, in all major college and pro sports, continue to mistakenly think the game is about them instead of the players. That belief is leading to some really bad officiating and grandstanding, which is impacting the outcome of games and the fans’ experience.

For example, as I was skidding and crawling into work Wednesday morning (The slope on the other side of the Reece gate coming from Route 170 is a beast when it is icy), Rob Long from 105.7 The Fan said there were 21 technical fouls and six ejections in the NBA on Tuesday.

There were only four games played. That means each game averaged more than five techs and 1.5 ejections.

The day before, the league’s reigning MVP Russell Westbrook was ejected for simply looking at the ref.

Of course, the NBA’s farm system, aka college basketball, isn’t much better. This year, longtime diva referee Teddy Valentine literally turned his back on a college kid looking for an explanation on a ticky-tack call.

As someone who is notoriously hard on pee-wee officials in the Glen Burnie and Fort Meade areas, I understand people complain too much. Not to mention being the scapegoat for 90 percent of the losses in sports history has to wear on your last nerve.

So I’ve learned to forgive the occasional snap tech or ejection in basketball and baseball.

And considering how fast sports are, some calls are going to be missed like the face mask that wasn’t called on Tennessee’s Derrick Henry on a fourth-down play in the first half against New England on Sunday.

What’s not acceptable are several missed or unnecessary calls that change the momentum of a game. See Eric Decker’s offensive pass interference and the “false-start” penalty that was changed to an encroachment call, which gave the Patriots a first down.

Those two calls turned the tide of what was a competitive game. Then you add the no-call on Henry’s face mask, and suddenly, the underdog Titans were getting bulldozed by the superior Patriots.

I know this sounds like sour grapes to some, but in reality, sports officials are there for two reasons and two reasons only: To make sure the game is fair and safe – that’s it!

When they aren’t doing those two things, they need to be like kids growing up in the ’80s — barely seen and heard only if someone’s bleeding, drinking something toxic, or missing. And they better be gone for more than a few minutes.

That’s what professionals do!

If you have comments on this or anything to do with sports, contact me at chad.t.jones.civ@mail.mil or hit me up on Twitter @CTJibber.

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