It&8217;s Official: Lucky for ref call insignificant

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 2, 2006

I do not know the gentleman who was the referee on the officiating crew for last week&8217;s AFC playoff game between the Colts and Steelers. I am not really aware that I know any of the officials on that crew or any of the other crews officiating the NFL playoff games.

Fans know the referee in the Colts-Steelers game for some reason overruled an on-field call by another official and also overruled the replay of that call. It seems that a late-in-the game pass by the Colts&8217; Peyton Manning was intercepted by a Steeler.

He fell down &8212; not by opponent&8217;s contact &8212; and when he got back up to run with the ball, he lost control of the ball. He recovered the ball himself.

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The covering official ruled interception, and replay showed that the intercepting player had control when he first went down. The referee, for whatever reason, overruled that official and called the pass incomplete. The Colts went on to kick a field goal and ended the game missing a game-tying field goal.

As the Steelers won the game, the gaff by the referee was not as crucial as it would have been had the Colts won. Had the Colts won, every sportswriter in the country and every TV commentator would have been crying for the NFL or somebody to invent robot officials who could never make mistakes.

You never hear that type of suggestion when coaches and players make mistakes, do you?

The NFL does not like negative publicity, and it is hard to blame them. The poor referee in that game won&8217;t see action in the Super Bowl (those officials had already been chosen) and will have to really fight hard to keep his NFL job.

All officials miss calls, and all referees make mistakes in enforcement of violations, but it does not matter at which level of competition an official works. If too many of those misses add up, the official must find another avocation.

I watched some high school soccer games the other night, including two of the better girls&8217; teams and two very good boys&8217; teams. Soccer is not a very easy game to officiate.

There was one situation in the boys&8217; game that none of those I talked to had ever seen before. Most the parents and other fans had been watching soccer since their child was 5 or 6 years old. The play happened when none of the officials could determine the last player to touch a ball before it went out of bounds.

The head referee called a drop ball, which he handled much like a face-off in hockey. The players faced each other about six feet apart, and the referee dropped the ball between them. In the scramble for control of the ball, it was lucky neither player was hurt.

Soccer is a lot faster paced game than I remember from about 1948 or so. With the clock continuously running, there is little time for players to complain about officiating. The same cannot be said about fans, though.

And that&8217;s official.

Al Graning is a former SEC official and former Natchez resident. Reach him at