As an on-again-off-again sportswriter and constant sports fan, I've had my share of frustration with referees over the years.
I can't stand refs who are either condescending to players and coaches (not to mention media members) or who seem to think they are the source of entertainment at an event. I've seen some of both, and I don't care to see it again.
With that said, I believe the overwhelming majority of sports officials -- particularly those involved in youth sports -- are there for the right reasons and are doing the job to the best of their abilities.
I've had the fortune of standing on a lot of sidelines and baselines in my career and perhaps standing near these officials and even chatting them up at timeouts has given me a different perspective than the average fan.
With that said, I found myself perplexed by referees more than once while watching football this past weekend.
Watching Notre Dame take on Florida State on Saturday, it seemed that every big call went agains the Irish. Perhaps it's my northern bias, but I was sick of seeing the head ref make his calls because I always knew which was he was going to be pointing.
I was especially angry when they called the Irish for a "pick play" on what would have been the game-winning touchdown. Who ever makes that call? And who makes it in that situation?
And again on Sunday while following the Packers drub the Panthers, I was perplexed by Luke Kuechly getting thrown out in the second half for elbowing a referee. Sure, he should have gotten a penalty, but for all he knew, a Packer was grabbing him from behind. Seems that throwing him out was a bit excessive. (And I'm a Packers fan, mind you.)
Ultimately, though, if you don't want penalties called on you, then don't toe the line.
What Notre Dame ran was an illegal play, plain and simple. If you don't want it called back, then don't use your wideouts to block defensive backs before the ball is thrown. And if you do want to do that, at least teach them to be better actors.
The sad part is, it appears to have been a well enough designed play that it would have been a touchdown anyway.
And if Kuechly doesn't want to get thrown out of the game, then he shouldn't throw a tantrum. If it had been a Packer he had elbowed (or at least tried to elbow), we could just as easily be saying, what if it had been a referee?
It's a lesson that our high school athletes can take to heart as well. My weekend of frustration with officials actually started on Friday at the South Putnam-Cascade game when the Eagles were flagged 14 times for 157 yards -- both astronomical totals.
I work hard not to put my opinions into sports stories, particularly my opinions of refs, but I wanted to say something about the number of flags. So I went with: "Between some poor decisions by the Eagles and a quick trigger by the officials, a lot of laundry was on the field Friday."
I think that's something athletes and fans should always keep in mind. Refs are human and they are going to blow some calls, but if a player can avoid questionable decisions on the field, he gives the refs fewer chances to make bad calls.