Houston, We Have a Problem!

Sam Sez

Sam Wolfson
Contributing Editor

July 3, 1997

TAMPA, Fla. - And it's the officials!

This year, there has been one outstanding factor in the Storm's games. There has been bad officiating. Going against the Storm, or going in the Storm's favor, it hasn't changed. Since I have been watching this league, I cannot remember ever thinking that the officials have been as consistanly bad as they have this season.

One problem with the officials this season is inconsistancy. In the NFL, you basically know what to expect. If there is a hold, and the officials see it, they're going to call it. It is not like baseball where every umpire has their own strike zone. It is not like hockey where some refs call games tighter than others. This is the way that it should ideally be in the Arena Footabll League. Unfortunately, this year, it does not seem to be the case. It seems that with different rules such the illegal defense rule, it is not interpreted the same way by every officiating crew.

Another problem, that is almost too incredible to believe is that the officials do not seem to know how to march off penalties. Sometimes an 8 yard penalty is marched off only about 7 yards. Some 3-yard penalties look more like 3 and a half yards. In fact, at times, it has looked like if a defense jumps offsides 3 times in a row, the three 3-yard penalties would give the offense a first down. This is truly puzzling.

The biggest problem is also the most troubling. THE REFS DO NOT KNOW THE RULES. I am not kidding here. This is not a joke. This is probably the reason why games have not been consistant this season. Take, for instance, the Tampa Bay-Milwaukee game earlier this season. With the Storm leading, the Mustangs had a 4th and 4 from the 5. They attempted a field goal and missed. The rebound was recovered by Milwaukee, without having been touched by the Storm, and returned to the Tampa Bay 2 yard line. Since, the first down line was not achieved, the Storm should have received the ball, 1st and 10 at the 2. Instead, Milwaukee was awarded the ball 1st and goal. They scored the go-ahead touchdown and won the game. After the game, the rulebook was consulted and backed up the Storm's claim. Unfortuantely, this was too late to change the outcome of the game.

This was not an isolated incident. The officials seem to be having trouble all over the league. Sometimes, an NFL rule is applied where there is an AFL rule that should be in its place. Sometimes, the refs just seem to be making things up as they go along. In a game televised nationally earlier this season, the refs were corrected by the coach. They had called two penalties on the same team. One was a hold, and the other was a dead-ball personal foul after the play. The refs were only going to enforce one. This outraged the coach, and after a 5 minute debate, he was able to convince the refs to rightly enforce both penalties.

One possible explanation for the sudden nosedive taken by the officials this season is the expansion of the league to 14 teams. This means additional officiating crews. This could have the effect of thinning the talent pool. Whatever the cause, the league must realize that this is a serious problem that must be dealt with. The league does not need the publicity of having the refs blow the ArenaBowl on a bad call. The officials are a reflection of the league, and if the officials are a joke, than what can be said about the league?

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