With football season once again in full swing, out come the people that are sure that the refs are biased against their team. It doesn’t matter what team they pull for — the refs are seemingly against every team, which doesn’t really make sense.
Certainly refs are imperfect at every level; ideally a bit closer to perfect as you get up to professional sports, but mistakes will be made and they’re almost entirely accidental; no one is out to get your team. When a mistake is made, there is one question: how will you respond to those mistakes?
My post last year about Naive Realism included a quote from a 70-year-old study about how people perceive sports officials:
In a seminal study in social psychology, which was published in a paper in 1954, students from Dartmouth and Princeton watched a video of a heated football game between the two schools. Though they looked at the same footage, fans from both schools perceived the game very differently. The Princeton students “saw” the Dartmouth team make twice as many infractions as their own team, and they also saw the team make twice as many infractions compared to what the Dartmouth students saw. Dartmouth students viewed the game as being evenly-matched in violence, in which both sides were to blame. This study revealed that two groups perceived an event subjectively. Each team believed they saw the event objectively and that the other side’s perception of the event was blinded by bias.
Anger is making it worse
It’s a growing problem. As people are more upset with refs (constant berating and occasional murder), fewer people are willing to become a sports official, leading to shortages (Kansas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Georgia, etc), which is leading to less experienced officials, and more mistakes. This leads to even fewer being will be become an official, and cycle keeps sliding downhill.
In the big game this weekend, there will be a bad call against your team. There will also be a bad call in favor of your team — do your best to spot those and help even it out in your head.
If it’s a pro sport, you can vent and whine a little if you want. If it’s at your kid’s game, I encourage you to stay quiet and supportive and remember the reason that you’re out there.
(for much more, check out the “Offside” page on Facebook for constant examples of issues)