Tuesday, October 15, 2013

You have to hide your bias ...

Has everyone seen this by now? It is Torii Hunter going ass over tea kettle in front of Boston PD detail officer Ken Horgan in the ALCS game 2, where Big Papi hit the ball out of Fenway in the bottom of the 8th to tie Detroit 5 - 5, and allow the Sawks to go on for the win.

What's wrong with this picture though?

Photo courtesy Boston.com.
Take a look at the reaction of Officer Horgan as Hunter is in a dangerous free fall over the bull pen wall. There are two points here.

  1. As referees we are there to help both sides, and it would seem that Hunter was in the need for some help to make sure he did not get seriously hurt. Officer Horgan is more focused on celebrating than on helping. At the very least, helping to contain a possible injury.
  2. Based on the reaction alone, it is clear where the bias is. If I were a Detroit fan at Fenway that night, do you think I would get a "fair shake" if an incident occurred with a group of Boston fans given the bias on display here?

So let me pan back and say that I am fairly sure the Officer helped sort out the scene in the picture and without question would have helped of something went seriously wrong. Also, I would opine if a Detroit fan was smack in the middle of all of this, the Officer would do the "smart" thing and simply escort the Detroit fan out. I don't believe Officer Horgan would ever do anything in derogation of his duty.

After all, he was just reacting to a truly historic event as any human would.

Referees can't do this however.

Imagine, just imagine, even if youth soccer somewhere if a referee reacted to a home town goal in such a fashion even if an even as dramatic (on a youth soccer scale) as this one.

Can you see the fallout?

Can you hear the fan(atics)?

Do you think the referee will work that league again?

It's hard ... really hard sometimes to suppress any bias or personal feelings about matches we are refereeing. Most of us are fans too and have to deny ourselves that side of things when we are out there ... and if at the professional and international level ... suppress these feelings in public too.

It sounds sad, and a touch unhealthy honestly ... but the contrary result is shown above, where just a moment of well intentioned emotion can crumble a career for a referee.

It has long lasting effects too. Recently I was at a Revolution match and was asked who my favorite team was. I really had to struggle to think and could not come up with any. When asked why not, I answered that I had been a referee so long that I saw The Game through an (almost) purely neutral eye, and while appreciating the skill of particular players, it did not reach an emotional level for me.

Granted it is a little odd, and Jr. still "doesn't get it." That's OK too as I want him to love The Game in all its glory and feel those moments that just want to make you throw your hands up and scream.

Don't feel too bad for me though, I spend my days yelling at the TV when the Boston Bruins are on.


  1. Boy! Can I identify with the sentiment!
    As I progressed through my refereeing career, I noticed that my emotional responses to game stimuli has become subdued and suppressed.
    Even watching the world stars on TV, I find myself simply nodding my head and smiling at spectacular plays which bring people out of their seats with applause in appreciation.
    That suppression of emotions does not apply to American Football or Hockey. I still yell at the screen when watching those sports.
    Recently, while watching a Revolution game, I jumped out of my seat not because the home team scored but because the AR was in the proper position and used proper mechanics to signify a goal had been scored. My emotional outburst was in support of my fellow referee - even though I do not know him - with whom I felt a kinship.

    Which leads me to believe that our craft forces us to control our emotions vis-a vis The Game. Because we are supposed to be unemotional and better able to make decisions in the middle of very emotional players.
    Mind you, that does not mean I refrain from a proverbial pat on the back to players who score a spectacular goal with a sotto voce "nice shot 16" or "nice save keeper" or even the occasional "way to keep it clean boys". But perhaps that is simply creating good will with players and a part of player management.

    By the way, my favorite team is Ipswich Town FC (the Tractor Boys). And I still feel twinges of elation and exasperation at seeing the results of their matches.

    Good Luck on your race and thank you for sharing your thoughts daily with us.


    1. Thanks Elie!

      Really appreciate your comments as I have to believe there are more than a few of us thinking the same way out there.

      Thanks for reading every day!