This is a subject hashed and re-hashed in every competitive sport where officials come into play. Whether it is baseball, football, basketball or even tennis, coaches, players and fans alike always seem to want to voice their opinions about officiating.
As I write this week's viewpoint for Tiger Rag, I am sitting courtside at the Maravich Assembly Center watching the Lady Tigers and Vanderbilt battle one another in a key SEC matchup. Ringing in my ears are the boos and hisses from the home crowd as the Tiger faithful feels LSU is being slighted by the officials.
While several calls could go either way, it is the nature of the game to disagree with the officials. Right?
Not so fast my friend.
While officiating is part of the game, the argument we wish to address today does not concern the calls made, but the theory of why the call, right or wrong, was made.
The problems with officiating these days are certain officials have different interpretations of the rules. Why is that? Shouldn't every referee, umpire and official make the same calls in each game in relation to the corresponding rules of the sport?
("We need new officials!" – as shouted just behind from a very vocal fan in the PMAC.)
For instance, one referee's interpretations of what is and what is not a foul may differ from another's. So, what is called a foul in one game may not be in another. It is obvious where this would become a problem.
In baseball, the debate of what the correct dimensions of the strike zone has been argued for decades. Some zones are larger and smaller than others, however, that certain National League umpire is always going to give Mets pitcher Tom Glavine that six to eight inches off the outside part of the plate for a strike.
Saturday in Starkville, at least it was not a one-sided argument. Both head coaches, LSU's John Brady and Mississippi State's Rick Stansbury, were unhappy with the way fouls were called, or, in some cases, not called.
("Hey ref, you're terrible!" – screams another fan)
While Brady complained about ticky-tack hand checks as well as maulings in the lane, Stansbury was upset with his players being brutalized down low, especially a few no-calls he felt may have been charging penalties.
"I'm sore just from watching," Brady said. "Those guys (MSU) are bigger than my guys. They're stronger than my guys. If they (the officials) are going to let it get like that, it's not to my advantage."
"We don't mind playing physical at all," Stansbury said. "This team believes in defense and rebounding."
Mississippi State's Michal Ignerski said he did not mind the officiating as much, probably because his team won.
"They let us play more physical," said Michal Ignerski. "Sometimes they made good calls, sometimes they made bad calls. But I liked it."
While Ignerski liked it, teammate Branden Vincent didn't care much for it.
"The refs weren't calling anything," Vincent said. "That might be one of the roughest games we've ever played."
Brady, in typical humorous fashion, said he might borrow some much needed equipment from fellow LSU coach Nick Saban when he plays a game being called by Saturday's crew of Duke Edsall, Ray Natili and Bill Humes.
"Before the next game we play in this league, I think we're going to go check out the equipment man at LSU and get some of those helmets and shoulder pads," Brady. "'We'll see if coach Saban will let us borrow some of those to protect our team. Man, I'm sore from watching that game."
At any rate, Saturday's game of bickering over calls (or no-calls) is something that has become commonplace in all competitive sports these days. Whether it is the NFL Playoffs, the World Series or the NCAA, more and more officials are taking a bigger part in deciding the outcome of contests. If you don't think so, just ask Jim Fassel and the New York Giants.
Trying to find a solution to this problem would compare somewhere along the lines of solving world hunger; it is not going to happen. Different officials are going to interpret rules in their own way. Right or wrong, they are the ref and what they say goes.
However, it continues to be a shame to see game after game, weekend after weekend hang ever so delicately in the balance of the tweet of some zebra's whistle.
(Oh, by the way, neither Vanderbilt nor the officials denied the Lady Tigers Sunday.)
Matt Deville is the editor of Tiger Rag. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org