Friday, October 21, 2005

Best arbitrators = baseball umps?

An AP-AOL poll result showed 80% of respondents think that baseball umps do a good or excellent job. And the majority is right.

Ever since the umps tried and failed to force MLB to cave in to their salary and oversight demands in 1999, the umpiring at the major league level has been very good. Even before then, most umps were decent although some horrific ones could not be dismissed.

Compared to other sports, however, baseball umpires are outstanding. Consider:

NFL referee crews are a mixed bag; the best can be very good but the worst are horrific. Instant replay, the tuck rule and an unwillingness to rule fumbles instead of "down by contact" are the major culprits.

MBA refereeing is uniformly poor. It is disgraceful that the league has allowed its referees to be so bad.

NHL refereeing is a mixed bag, but better now that the league has two refs and two linesmen.

NCAA football refereeing is usually spotty and depends upon the conference; in the Big Ten it is uniformly terrible, in the ACC it tends to be good.

NCAA basketball officiating is actually decent, much better than that of the NBA. Again, conferences are in charge of their officials and quality varies. Big East, ACC, Big 12 are good; Big Ten is weak.

But the worst of all officiating is in soccer, especially international soccer. One referee, 9375 square yards of playing surface, 11 players per side and tons of pushing and shoving on set plays lead to plenty of blown calls. It is a major reason why soccer is still a third-class sport in American eyes.

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