Not so famous anymore?
By Davie Wong, Sports Editor
It seems like every year, in any sporting event, there is always that one infamous missed call. Whether it’s hockey and the offside call, or the football no catch call, or even the LeBron flop, there’s always something going on. If I didn’t know any better, I would think sports are more associated with telephone companies with the number of times calls are talked about or debated.
Today, I want to talk about not so much the calls that are missed, but the ones that are and then aren’t. I’m talking about the more and more common, after the whistle, behind closed doors call. It’s becoming more and more common to see athletes in all sports being punished for actions taken in game, outside of the game, whether those punishments be through suspensions or the infamous NFL fines. More and more, athletes are finding themselves subjected to the behind the scenes referees, the Leagues.
Five years ago, a dirty hit in the NHL was punished by a gruesome beating and a five minute major, which could signify a larger suspension. The best example of this was former Canucks’ player Raffi Torres. The guy laid out another guy from the other team, in whatever manner he wanted, got beat up, beat a couple of people up, and then did his time on the bench or riding the wood. What determined that was the referee. If the ref saw a clean but hard hit, it was a couple of minutes in the sin bin and a beating for Torres. If the ref saw something he didn’t like, it was a beating and an early shower for Torres, along with five minutes. If it got there, he could be suspended by the League for an extended period of time.
My point is, the referee made the call first. Recently (as in a couple years ago), Torres got away with a hard hit that winded up being a roughing call. Standard beating and two minutes in the sin bin. Nothing big. But it wasn’t until after he got out of the game that his world came apart. Using brand new technology, the League was reviewing Torres’ hit from several angles, and deemed it dirty. The referee made a mistake, and Torres would be suspended 80 games (an entire season) by an after game review panel. That was what really set the precedent for the events that would follow.
Now, players are always under review. The referee may make any call he likes, but if the after review panel finds you guilty of something they accuse you of, then you’re at their mercy. But the after review panel is only human. Surely, they make mistakes as well? Well, yeah, they do. They make them quite often and quite outrageously, punishing players without precedent on little taps that could have easily been overturned on a night two years ago.
And it isn’t just the NHL. The NFL is notorious for their “small” fines. Oh, you touched the other guy on the wrong shoulder at the wrong time? $40,000 fine. Oh that was a big hit? I smell money! It’s practically turned into Oprah, but instead of giving away money, they’re taking it away. You get a fine, and you get a fine, and you get an extra-large fine! Are these players ever fined in game? Of course not—that would look ridiculous. They’re fined after the game, when no one can remember what play it was on or what they did because it was so small. Where does the money go? Some charity that the NFL picks, otherwise known as their pockets. It’s so dumb. Players can’t even play anymore. Might as well just not pay them, if you’re going to fine them for playing the game.
But what frustrates me beyond end is the MLS. Soccer is supposed to be a beautiful game. It is a beautiful game. But if people keep wondering why USA or Canada can’t beat any European teams, I can guarantee that it isn’t just because Europe is just better than America. It’s because refs in Europe let the teams play. Sure, some refs can be card heavy. Every ref has that problem from time to time. What doesn’t happen is European teams getting suspended over a missed call by the ref, which is what happens in the MLS. If the ref can’t see it, it’s fair game!
For so many years, playing dirty has been a skill. What can you do to put your opponent on edge that the referee can’t see? Step on some toes, pull jerseys, talk so much shit, and trip them up when they try to walk by you without the ball. It’s a skill that is very prevalent in the higher levels of play. Even being a baby and getting the referee’s sympathy is a skill. Flopping to fool a ref isn’t easy, and not everyone can do it. None of these things should be punishable offences if the ref didn’t see it or call it. Leave it be. There’s no need to call a player after a game and suspend them for something the ref didn’t catch. What difference does it make? You’re suspending him over a game that’s over—no one cares anymore.
Not to mention the favouritism. Believe me, you’ll never see one of the MLS’ moneymaking teams get hit with a suspension over something the ref didn’t see. Oh no, that doesn’t happen. Meanwhile, in England, it doesn’t matter if you’re playing for Manchester United or Newcastle United, if you fuck up and the ref sees, you better believe that that yellow is for you. That’s it, end of story. That’s how it should be. It’s for these reasons that MLS will never ever be near a European league in terms of entertainment or skill.
For a country that practically invented the art form of flopping (looking at you, LeBron), they seem to be so content with hiring shitty referees, because they know they’ll just watch the replay later and do the ref’s job for him. News flash, leagues: Hire some decent refs, let them do their job, and stop trying to steal the money the fans are using to support their teams. The day when video referees are a thing is the day where sport and competition dies.