Perhaps the most inexplicable missed call in sports came at a Rams-Bears game a few years ago when a member of the sideline crew flipped the down marker inadvertently. The error was not noted by the other officials, by the coaches or players, by the press or any of the 80,000 fans. It was caught after the game when someone was going over the play-byplay. The crew was suspended for one game and barred from working playoffs.
In a typical pro basketball game, a referee doing a good job will move about five miles, much of it on the dead run.
American League Umpire Ron Luciano is the most talkative of the species. When Carl Yastrzemski came to the plate in an important pennant-race game in 1975, he didn't want to be distracted by Luciano's usual idle chatter. So, as he stepped in, he said, "I'm fine. My wife's fine. The kids are all fine. It's a nice day. Let me hit in peace."
Criticism of officials appears to be deeper and more widespread than at any time in recent years. In fact, the quality of officiating has probably fallen off, because so many new teams, even new leagues, have been added without adequate programs to develop referees and umpires. Even the best officials seem to stumble upon the profession, rather than point for it.
It seems, however, that the recent violent criticism of officials is far out of proportion to any possible decline in their ability. Dr. Arnold Mandell of the department of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego suggests there are cultural reasons to account for this phenomenon. "Athletics is a conservative culture and lags behind the style of the day," he says, "and it's my theory that what you've got is the back end of the youth movement of the '60s. Now, finally, athletes are getting activist, talking about officials, their rights, contracts—you name it. It's like the college kids a few years ago, when you could take a class in overthrowing the government. Call it a transient wave, an utter disregard for the structure of authority. Athletes were just a little slow coming around."
Adds Dr. Marc Shatz, a clinical psychologist, who has counseled athletes in his Los Angeles office, "Officials obviously represent the law, and when you have the kind of breakdown in respect for those who make and enforce the law as we've had in the last few years, what follows isn't exactly rational. Combine that irrationality with the fact that the athlete needs to act out his aggressive feelings and impulses, and the official has become nothing more than a sacrificial lamb."
Former National League Umpire Chris Pelekoudas made these remarks anent women umpires to Jerome Holtzman of the Chicago Sun-Times:
"A woman's mind isn't trained like ours. She couldn't take those decisions. No way.