The Publicly Grading Officials Debate VERDICT

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Bleacher Fan.

Today’s debate is not about whether leagues should grade officials, but whether those grades should be public knowledge.

This is an extremely important issue in sports because there is a great deal at stake. On the one hand, if publically grading officials encourages them to perform better then it would improve the overall quality of the sports we love so much, but if it does not have this effect than it could serve to seriously undercut the authority of officials.

Bleacher Fan based his argument off of the need for increased accountability through transparency in the way leagues evaluate officials. He believes that officials are afforded the ability to hide behind a wall of anonymity when it comes to corrective efforts meant to redress poor officiating. He finds this to be hypocritical considering the high profile nature of every other aspect of sports. He pointed out that the actions taken against players, coaches, and team management for poor performance is usually very public, yet the league’s efforts to correct problematic officiating remain highly secretive.

This point was definitely not lost on me. Sports fans are very aware of league actions taken against players and owners alike, but officials remain a different story. We all know about the not-so-private war between NBA commissioner David Stern and Dallas Maverick owner Mark Cuban. We all know about the leagues dealings with player with problematic players, such as Ben Roethlisberger and Michael Vick. But no one seems to know which officials, if any, are getting their butts handed to them behind closed doors. Bleacher Fan believes that this cloak in dagger approach cannot lead to anything good.

Bleacher Fan acknowledges the human aspect of the sports. He admits that no one is perfect, but that because we know that no one is perfect leagues should be more open about telling the public what officials grades are and what the leagues are doing to improve the lowest achievers.

Loyal Homer, however, states those grades should remain a secret. He challenges the logic behind releasing private evaluations to a public that is already highly critical of the job officials are doing in the first place. As Loyal Homer explains in his argument, public evaluations would only serve to further undermine the authority of officials.

He made a strong point for his argument when he aptly pointed out that evaluations are not intended for the purpose of establishing worst-to-first ranking of officials, but rather to specify the areas where each official needs to demonstrate professional growth. The goal behind assessing the job officials are doing is to encourage improvement, not to invalidate their authority, which very well could be the result of releasing performance evaluations. Loyal Homer stood firm in his belief that the mere fact that performance evaluations and the incorporation of assistive technologies (i.e. replay) exists to help officials is enough to ensure their validity and reliability as an arbitrator of the rules.

Loyal Homer’s argument raises concerns over the potential dangers of labeling officials due to their performance review grade. If publicized, referee and umpire ratings would be akin to restaurants sanitation grades. Can you imagine the grumbling and second guessing that would surround the calls of an umpire with a “C” rating (the equivalent of a sketchy IHOP)? Regardless of the accuracy, there would be those who would second-guess them solely on the basis of their performance grade. Similarly, in the mind of the public it would not matter whether the official met the minimum competencies established by the league because any official with a less than perfect score would be perceived to be doing a bad job.

Ultimately it was this comparison that made my decision. In the real world, not all workers deserve perfect performance reviews. If they did there would be a lot more Fortune 500 companies out there. The truth is that there are excellent, above average, average, below average, and poor employees in virtually every industry, including professional sports. Some officials are better than others, but publically acknowledging that fact and then highlighting the underachievers would only serve to create a distracting spectacle. Publically grading officials would do nothing to help them improve. Do you really think Jim Joyce would have tried harder to call Armando Galaragga’s near perfect game if he knew his evaluation would be in the media at the end of the year? I honestly think when an official screws up, the media usually covers it sufficiently. Ultimately it is because there is nothing gained but controversy and the undermining of authority by publically grading officials that I award this victory to Loyal Homer. Bleacher Fan can throw the red flag all he wants to, this is one call that is final.

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