Stop Defending Referees

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but FC Cincinnati got hosed again by officiating this weekend. This latest incident cast a shadow over the prestigious “20,000th Goal” in MLS history, as Andrew Gutman’s bald head and (presumably) bald shoulder appeared to clearly be offside prior to striking the come-from-behind blow. The play, which was not sent to VAR despite the on-field officials stating the play was only “probably” onside, cost FC Cincinnati another 2 points and continued an alarming trend of the FC getting fucked more frequently than a Brazzers girl. The list of bad / blown calls is getting to be so long that even Arya Stark would have a hard time reciting it before bed (“Gutman was offside, Brenner’s phantom handball, Two uncalled handballs on Nashville, literally the entire NYCFC match…”)

Yet, in the mentions, we still have FCC fans defending this piss poor officiating. Or, even worse, you get the Foundation For a Better Life type take of “We need to just play better and not let the officiating determine the game outcome.” Both are bullshit takes, as I’ll explain below.

At the outset, it has to be stated that officials are contemptible people. There are exactly two officials in human history that I respect — Mills Lane and Charles Robinson. I respect Mills for parlaying his gig as the referee in the Mike Tyson ear-biting fight into a second career as a TV judge (also the only type of judge I truly respect). He epitomizes the American entrepreneurial spirit of “make the absolute most out of any bit of fame you can get.” Additionally, the man was an absolute legend in the original MTV “Celebrity Deathmatch,” (from back when MTV showed something besides “Ridiculousness” and shows about people getting scammed on dates or knocked up in high school). As for Charles Robinson? The man was simply the most crooked official in pro wrestling history, and that’s saying something for a profession that allows itself to be routinely distracted by the most mundane of shit while grown men get mauled by steel chairs behind their backs. He literally went by the nickname of “Little ‘Naitch” and cosplayed as Ric Flair on the way to officiate Ric Flair matches — where he always ensured Ric Flair won. It would be like if Ed Hochuli (also an official I kinda respect, just for wearing the uniform one size too small to show off the guns) had walked onto the field to officiate NFL games actually wearing Brett Favre’s jersey. The flex level was off the chart, and dude is *still* reffing matches in the WWE; just absolute legend stuff.

Other than those two people? Officials are the absolute worst. They’re highly paid mall cops who exist solely to make sports more frustrating to watch. They’re the kids who didn’t want to be Shaquille O’Neal, they wanted to be the guy blowing the whistle on the “Hack A Shaq” so we could watch him brick free throws. Or the kids who watched Ken Griffey Jr. swing a baseball bat and said “He’s cool, but have you heard Joe West’s country album?” They’re in the same category of people who grow up wanting to be film critics instead of filmmakers and people who post complaint videos of fast food items on YouTube. And, for some odd, reason, we have people who put these professional hall monitors on pedestals — including the dipshits who set rules at a league level. Pat Noonan would get fined by the league if he decided he didn’t want to talk to reporters after a bad match. You know who never has to face the media after a bad match? The goddamn officials, who are insulated from questions and criticism by every sports league on the planet.  

And yes, despite the saccharine sentiment of “If you’d just play better, the officials wouldn’t matter…” making you feel good, it’s a low-key bullshit statement — especially in soccer. According to this website (which sounds official enough, so I’m not going to verify it), there was an average of 2.78 goals per game in MLS last year. We’ll round that up to 3, just to prove a point here. If there’s an officiating fuck-up that moves a scoreline from 2-1 (an “average” MLS game) to 2-2 — say via a BS penalty or an uncalled offside — that represents a 33% increase in score to one side. It’s the equivalent of an NBA team (average points per team ~112) being gifted an additional FORTY (40) fucking points by bad calls, or an NFL team (average ~23) an extra TD + 2 Point Conversion. Bad calls in soccer are magnified because goals are worth so much more and margins are so much tighter than they are in other sports. A team can thoroughly dominate a contest and still only win 1-0 or 2-1 — so what the fuck exactly does “play better” mean here? It isn’t quite as simple as basketball, where you’re gonna have roughly 100 possessions to score and it’s on you (for the most part) if you lose a single-digit game.

This is all a long way of me making a plea to our fanbase — stop defending referees. They don’t deserve it. The role officiating plays in soccer is massive, especially in a salary-capped league designed for parity amongst the teams. When they fuck us, it’s OK to be upset. It’s OK to demand answers and demand that it be better. You know who agrees with this? Our coach, Pat Noonan. Our team captain, Lucho Acosta. Both of them have gone on record this year as saying the officiating quality we’re getting is piss poor and costing our team results. They’ve given you permission to be upset and to call these assholes out. I promise, it’ll be OK if you do — after all, we’d still be speaking British if no one in this country had ever questioned authority before.