Wednesday, January 25, 2017

What means Consistency?

Consistency is probably the most sought-after characteristic for a referee.  With everyone we encounter, from our first classroom instructor to the highest level coaches and players, we are enjoined to be consistent.  Consistency is king, writes my colleague PK in this very blog.  (See Kicking Back, August 25, 2015.)

Again in a more recent post, he comments about the encroaching influences to referees from outside forces:  "There is a larger issue at play here and it has to deal with the consistency regarding the officiating. There may be times that a 3rd party dispassionate view of things may be warranted. Goals are a good example. Either it crossed the line and was between the posts and under the crossbar - or it wasn't. There is no gray here - only black and white.  Beyond that, sorry folks, is gray..."

Without meaning to disagree with my colleague, whose opinion I respect greatly, I do want to ask one question:  Why?  Why allow some outside influences and not others?  Specifically with regard to his example, what makes the decision about the goal being scored any more important than the one to give the penalty kick, or to send off the central defender for DOGSO?

Do pro referees consider cumulative points before issuing a caution to a star player?  Of course they do.  Is this not an outside influence, even if the message is delivered before the game starts in the form of a stat sheet?

Do referees consider the time of the game, or location of the field, or even the score of the match when determining whether to give a simple foul, or escalate to misconduct?  Haven't we all kept a card in the pocket because we knew we had other ways to manage the moment?  What does that say about our consistency?

So what does it mean to be consistent?  What is the elusive target here?  If a foul is a foul is a foul, then why do the players and spectators get so upset with us for calling them as we see them?  I can understand that we may miss one here or there, due to poor positioning or just the nature of dynamic play, but surely we are getting the vast majority of the calls correct.  Yet if you ask most observers, they will rail about the referees' inconsistencies.  It seems like being inconsistent is about the only thing we can do consistently.

For insight, look no further than the rest of my esteemed colleague's comment when he goes on to say that, "[Referees] are the only ones who can truly feel what is going on at any time and need the freedom to manage that emotion how they see fit."  Now we are getting someplace!

So, if a referee calls a foul at one end of the field, or in the first half, that he does not also call in the second, does that mean he is being inconsistent?  Maybe.  But it could also mean that he is serving the higher purpose of managing the game, and ultimately that in itself is being consistent - consistent to the mission of the game!   

Something to think about.  And as PK says in closing, "For any referee who thinks it's all about "the rules" ... think again."

1 comment:

  1. While I understand and appreciate your comments, there is another important factor in why players, coaches & fans seem to think that referees have got calls wrong and or are inconsistent .... and that comes from all of the research done over many years concerning eye witness testimony/reliability. The bottom line from that research is that we ALL see the world from our own perspective, through our own "tinted" glasses if you will. Folks see what they want or expect to see and there's nothing "wrong" with that, it's human nature. Back to witness research .... many years ago some researchers put together a study wherein they flashed pictures on a screen and asked study participants to report what they had seen. The results predicted the prejudices of the subjects. If, for example, the study subject disliked a certain group of people then they invariably reported that that person was the assailant in the picture, even if in reality the exact opposite was shown in the picture. So, when a coach (for example) is yelling about a call against his/her team, that coach may truly believe that they saw a foul against their team, even when the referee has seen the exact opposite. Their reality is influenced by their belief or bias for their team ... and if you're a fan for a team perhaps you can understand that. So, we are the neutral observer and we need to call the game from that neutral position, but maybe it shouldn't surprise us too much if other folks see our decisions differently, and maybe that helps us have a little more patience with those folks.