Debunking the NFL Referee Conspiracy

Holding. Holding again. Pass interference. Illegal block in the back. Pass interference. Automatic first down.

NFL fans, no matter their team, hear at least a majority of these calls and more throughout the game. The reason, of course, is despite the best coaching in the world, teams are going to make mistakes come game-time; it’s simply part of NFL Sunday. Well, Monday and Thursday, too.

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However, as soon as the little yellow flags fly onto the field, it’s inevitable that they’re going to be met with fiery attitude from at least some members of the team that gets the short end of the stick on the team.

Therefore, while the result of the game typically depends on the losing team’s performance, there are always some fans that place the majority of the blame on the referees’ shoulders. Why?

Isn’t it a stupid argument? An uneducated, illogical justification for the result of a game that you refuse to believe. Perhaps that’s it? Probably. Maybe. I don’t know.

Whatever it is, it’s a perspective that, in a perfect world, would be lost in the aftermath of NFL games. Yes, there have been bad calls. Yes, there have been late apologies by the refs that haven’t meant a thing. And yes, there have been games that have come down to mistakes caused by those hated yellow flag.

By, like one game out of fifty. As Aaron Rodgers once famously said (not all too long ago), “R-E-L-A-X. It’s bound to happen. And honestly, as someone who’s umpired and refereed before, I can say that I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often. We take the good calls for granted and erupt in uproar over something that could potentially go either way.

It is because of this that the men in stripes are so often found in the dreaded gray area targeted by fans.

Outside of reviewing plays through instant replay, the actions of the referees on penalty calls represent a human element in the NFL, just like they always have. Unfortunately, in a game that is filled with so much happiness, some much bitterness, and so many emotions across the spectrum, fans automatically lock on to the only part of the game that is considered subjective – or in the moment – as cause for unnecessary and undeserved blame.

Then again, that’s just football for ya.

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