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Integrity Of The Game, Going, Going, Gone!

By       Message Dennie Williams     Permalink
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With all the instant replays and videos of mistaken calls made by referees or umpires I have seen this summer, I am finally getting the point. It seems those most responsible for the integrity of sports either don't care about integrity, or think the lack of it, is part of the game.

The evidence is right there repeatedly on years and years of sports videotape.

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After seeing crucial referee mistake after mistake on instant replays of World Cup matches, my outrages flourished among friends. One long time soccer fan even told me he believes FIFA, the international governing body for professional soccer, likes these controversies because they bring more fan attention to the sport. I don't agree with that cynical thought. However, I do believe overwhelming evidence proves neither the leaders of FIFA or Major League Baseball truly care whether a referee or an umpire makes a mistake that directly impacts on who wins or loses a game. Of course, official errors causing wins and losses are not the only dramatic official miscalls of sporting events easily available by instant replays seconds after they occur.

So, where's the evidence for my opinion?! Take a look at The New York Times photo today(July 19) on Sports Page D5 of a San Francisco Giant sliding home underneath the catcher's tag with the game ending run in the ninth inning that beat the Mets yesterday. Beat the Mets!? {IMG1} No, the umpire called the runner out. As a result, it wasthe Mets who went on to allegedly win the game 4 to 3 in ten innings. Seconds after the slide home, the Mets TV announcers showed the instant replay and themselves conceded it showed the runner was safe,winning the game for theGiants4 to 3. Look at that dramatic photo! The catcher's glove isn't even close to tagging the runner whose foot is sliding across home plate.

After seeing three similar instant replays during the World Cup proving goals were legitimately scored when the goal was either ignored or reversed, or a forth showing an offensiveplayer offside during a goal not negated, I became furious. One replay showed a ball inside the goal before spinning back outside it. Another showed the replay of a successful penalty kick negated by a referee without any reason given. I played that game as a defense manmost of my life and never beforehad seen such overwhelming evidence of referee error. Of course, those games were not televised so there were no instant replays.

Now that there are instant replays shown to millions of fans, including children and adults, and proving crucial referee and umpire errors, FIFA and Major League Baseball need to catch up to modern times and use photographic replays to correct those errors. Baseball allows video replays so umpires can see if questionable home runs are actually home runs. Why then can't they allow video replays for questionable calls potentially game ending?

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It was sad for the game, but integrity wise for the umpire, Jim Joyce,to admit he cost a Detroit Tigers pitcher a perfect game June 2 when he called a Cleveland Indianrunner safe for potentially the last out of the game. A day later, baseball commissioner Bud Selig refused to correct that gross error by deeming it a perfect game.

All four times I saw the World Cup referees make mistaken calls, afterward I never saw a news story highlighting a referee apology, like Joyce's. But apologies won't do it! Professional baseball and soccer leaders need to catch up with modern times and simultaneously show their administrative leaders care about the integrity of the games. Otherwise, the next generation of fans and the ones after that will take it for granted that no one cares about the truth in sport.

Meanwhile, the potential of corruption in sports when millions of dollars are regularly bet on games could begin to flourish, if it's not already been doing that for years and years. But to put this in perspective, I'm talking about rarecasesinvolving intentional bad calls. However, just one instance like that involving a paid off official, can make illegal gamblers millionsin corrupt income.

Someone in the baseball or soccer hierarchy needs to take a stand for integrity! If that doesn't happen, players and fans need to demand it! As John 8:32 in the Bible says: "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."Close photographic scrutiny of questionable callswould make sports and umpires and referees freer from critical attacks on their integrity. It would give sports more freedom from public lack of confidence. And it would give the younger generations the freedom to dreamthat integrity is significant not only to sports, but to life.

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Thomas D. Williams, a freelance writer, worked at The Hartford Courant for almost 40 years before retiring in November 2005 to become an investigative freelancer on Internet news sites. He has written a unique nature book, The Spirits of Birds, (more...)

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