End-of-season Airing of Grievances, I

With the final loss of the season still haunting me, it’s time to get some stuff off my chest. It’s the only way to move on, they tell me. First up: fans whining about officiating.

I hate blaming the referees. Everyone does it. Every fanbase in the history of organized athletic competition blames officiating for losses. They weren’t fair. They were biased. They stole the game from us. Everyone does this, and that ought to give you pause. Because unless every other human being but you misunderstands the rules, you’re not being picked on.

I hate this because it ignores the fact that your team played badly enough that they put their fate in the hands of the refs. I hate it because there’s not a damn thing any of us can do about it anyway, so it’s just whining. I hate it because people take it personally and start ascribing motives to the refs that, in the NHL, there’s just no rational basis for. I hate it because there’s no sense of proportion.

Your team–my team–the Lightning get away with penalties all the time, and no one says “the refs must be on our side.” Last night, Steven Stamkos turned back to find Alexei Emelin and punch him in the face and got a hooking call, which was the original call that upset him. He went looking for a guy to punch him in the face and the refs allowed that. But they’re biased against the Lightning. The boy should have been in there for both the hooking and at least a roughing, but got off easy. But the refs are biased against the Lightning.

And when people bitch about every single fucking call–well if everything’s bad, nothing is. Save your ire for the ones that are actually bad and stop crying wolf.

But mostly, stop being victims. The Lightning can do nothing about the refs. They need to control what they can and fans ought to be more concerned about the failures in the things the Lightning can control than in the things they can’t. The majority of NHL games are played 5 on 5. About 45 minutes of every 60 minute game. That’s where games are won or lost. The refs don’t affect zone entries or how many shots players take. The refs don’t give the puck away just inside the blue line over and over and over again. These are the things that lose hockey games.

Every semester, I get students who come up to me a day before the final exam asking me how they can bring their grade up to B. They’re on academic probation, you see, and if they don’t get at least a B in this class, they’ll get kicked out of school. These are students who knew they were on academic probation going into the semester, who often don’t come to class, whose work doesn’t show any attempt to study or digest the material, and who have never come to talk to me before about their performance in the class. I’m supposed to rescue them.

Every single time I wonder “What about all the other classes that you failed to get you into this situation? What about all the assignments you didn’t complete or did poorly? How can it all come down to me giving you a break when it’s your mistakes that got you here?” And my answer is always the same: How have you prepared for this exam? Have you been studying? Have you done the reading? Are you ready to make an A on this exam? Do the work and I’ll give you an A. I want reasons to give you an A. But “I didn’t take my situation seriously” is not a reason to give you an A.

And “we pissed away the opportunities we had to take control of our fate, so save me, ref” is not a reason to win a hockey game.

Crying wolf about officiating deflects attention from the actual problems and places the blame on outside forces. The Lightning weren’t victims of refereeing. They were victims of themselves. It’s time to own up to that.

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