Consider the major rules changes in the past few years to NCAA, MLL, and NLL – specifically the shot clock, the 2-point line, and the 8-second clear rule, respectively. None of these were implemented for player safety; they were all specifically added to make games faster and more visually appealing to spectators, and at least in a couple of cases were specifically stated by the leagues as the reason for such. Changes like these assuredly add to a strong implication that referees need to make sure the game is fun and exciting to watch. I can only assume this has at the very least an unconscious effect on some referees, and in some cases a conscious effect.
Immediate solution? The simplest answer is to have an ombudsman act in the interests of the players. But it’s not clear, and not obvious – I remember the “outrage” from players and fans when the dive shot was banned. Cries and shrieks of ruining the game were written constantly. The game has only grown exponentially since. Not because of that rule, sure, but I have to think that removing flamboyance has helped prove lacrosse to be a team sport, not a sport of collective individuals. Sometimes you have to ignore the desires of the fans – or at least NOT act in their interests – to create the best game.
I think some kind of review process of Rules Committees would alleviate the problem you present – I can’t imagine it ever being truly eliminated. But the specific solution of “how would a review process of the Rules Committee work?” is an answer that’s beyond me.]]>
Can you honestly say that this pressure has not increased the number of calls going one way, when, in other years, they would have perhaps gone the other? I think that is a fair and reasonable statement, especially with crosschecks (which is interesting, because now we are talking about a rule that specifically states that you cannot do something, but was let go for so long, especially for short stick d-mids, that it seems like a big jump in those calls, as they are actually enforcing it). Nonetheless, I am less speaking about specific cowing from lacrosse fans, but, rather, almost the reverse of that – that there is a pressure to make a call, legal or not, that looks dangerous, rather than is, to appease a society calling for greater safety.
What hasn’t been mentioned is our overarching cultural penchant for breeding athletes. Native Americans, those that started the game, are not known for their size, rather their speed and toughness; this is a recipe for some pain from a few hard cross or slap checks, but not concussions that can affect your brain for the rest of your life, if you’re not careful. Conversely, you can clearly see how many Division 1 athletes are getting bigger, faster, stronger, especially on the defensive end of the field, (barring a decent amount of exceptions – which is something I really love about lacrosse) which leads to greater chances of concussions happening, overall. It doesn’t matter how big your muscles are when it’s your brain that’s jiggling to become concussed.
I agree that their needs to be training, and this includes teaching kids to play the game the right way, and not go out to specifically blow someone up – you make a hit for a reason: to gain an advantage in the game, so your team can win, but nothing more. I think this is essential, rather than relying on a punishment based system, which is what throwing a flag is. Throwing a flag, in that moment, does not protect anyone, as the act was already committed, but it is thrown in hopes that other players and the fouling player don’t do something like it again.
I do agree that there are rules, like a slash, that could be the same check (in their motion) and called two ways, based on safety. There is a sense that good referees have that can determine between an innocent attempt at dislodging the ball and a purposely vicious or emotionally spurred check. I totally respect refs for their intuition on this.
To be clear, I am not trying to blame referees or lacrosse fans or anyone, I am just trying to see how our perceptions (and actions based on perceptions) and the truth, of what occurs, mixes. Thanks for the well thought out response!]]>
I am not grasping this pressure. In both cases this pressure would come after the fact, at best hours after the fact but more likely days to weeks after the call or non-call. Men’s Collegiate Lacrosse is still at a level of viewership much lower than (for example) hockey; men’s lacrosse viewers, unlike hockey viewers, are very familiar with the difference in how a play looks as you are in it on the field versus how it looks on the TeeVee screen. So I can only consider that the complaints regarding imbalance in calls (or errors in calls) can come from a level of scrutiny via commentators and fans that refs on the field simply do not have. To blame any cowing of referees on lacrosse fans is unfair to lacrosse referees; the same argument is more prevalent in more widely-watched sports (with seemingly more dangerous fans). Yet this cowing of referees in other sports is either declared 1) systemic, and of the nature of the sport (e.g. home-field advantage in calls) or 2) related to gambling, which is not only not the focus of the post made here but also not legitimately a concern in lacrosse at any level. I don’t see systemic “bad” or “biased” refereeing in the televised games I’ve watched.
The overriding rule of calls is player safety and fairness. Neither of these are explicit rules in the rulebook; it could be said that the purpose of the rulebook is to enforce these meta-laws of the sport itself. To make a call in terms of safety is, in my view, not only in the nature of the rules but required to make the other rules valid. The question regarding offensive players being allowed to do something that defensive players are not through interpretation of the rules (or exploitation of loopholes)
Some sports, clearly, are harder on the individual bodies than the others. Being able to make split-second decisions with possible severe medical implications is a portion of the necessity of refereeing. Further, it’s a necessary part of the respect owed to referees and their position.
A solution to possible problems of one-way calls, such as the non-offensive fouls that are defensive fouls, is to have all referees wear cameras. Not for viewership, but for the Rules committee to review with respect to player safety, and further consider (and thus train) what portions of the rules are out-of-balance with respect to safety and fairness. Not to mention improving training on future referees on what to look for.]]>