It’s been a rough couple weeks for sports officials. Wait, let me rephrase that.
It’s a been a rough couple weeks for players and fans who have put up with awful interpretations of the rules. There, that’s better.
First the maligned NFL replacement referees incorrectly ruled an interception as a Hail Mary touchdown on national TV. Then last Saturday officials at the Texas-Oklahoma State game missed a goal-line fumble that would have clinched a Cowboys victory. And earlier this week the NBA announced an anti-flopping policy that seems to protect refs rather than deter players from taking a dive.
During last night’s one-game NL Wild Card playoff between the St. Louis Cardinals and Atlanta Braves umpire Sam Holbrook decided to get in on the foolishness, declaring an egregious infield fly rule on a ball that required Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma to sprint thirty feet beyond the dirt. Visuals and audio!
The infield fly was not “immediately declared” by Holbrook nor was the attempted play by the infielder an “ordinary effort.” So by at least two standards the definition of an infield fly were not adhered to. Had the play been (rightfully) called a single the Braves would have had the bases loaded with one out trailing 6-3. Instead after all the arguing, confusion and trash cleaning Atlanta was left with runners on 2nd and 3rd with two outs. It was a huge shift in momentum and an unfortunate end to the Braves’ season and Chipper Jones’ marvelous career.
Holbrook, who earlier this season ejected Zack Greinke for being upset at himself, remained indignant after watching a replay of the incident, declaring it was “absolutely” the right call.
It’s one thing to blow an important call, it’s another to perpetuate a bad ruling by defending it. After Jim Joyce cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game he owned up to his mistake and apologized. Officials like Lance Easley and Sam Holbrook could learn from his humility.
Sports officials are humans and make mistakes; players and fans understand that. But they also have a responsibility to admit their mistakes.