Somewhere the late Eric Gregg was smiling when Texas Rangers reliever Joe Nathan notched his 300th career save, and the refs blew a giant call in the final minutes of the national title game between Louisville and Michigan.
Next to sports journalists, there is no group of frustrated jocks any bigger or more self important than sports refs and officials.
Refs are very much a part of the game, and that's the way they like it.
The difference is that the refs are the only participants in the spectator's view who is not allowed to be questioned by the ticket-paying customer. The sports journalist can receive nasty emails or Twitter messages or whatever else, and the players are subjected to all sorts of atrocities for their sins on the field of play.
The refs are beyond reproach.
Louisville led Michigan by 3 points with a little over five minutes remaining when guard Peyton Siva was going up for a layup. Michigan guard Trey Burke cleanly blocked the shot, but was called for the foul. Perhaps the ref blew the whistle because he could not believe that Burke, who is generously listed as 6-foot, could jump so high to cleanly block the ball without contact at the rim. But he did.
Siva made both foul shots, and the momentum was firmly on Louisville's side as was the score.
Maybe had the official let the play go nothing changes and Louisville wins. That probably happens. But we don't know because the ref blew the call.
Around the same time Burke was whistled for a foul, Nathan was finishing up the Rangers' 5-4 win against the Tampa Bay Rays at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Nathan earned the save by striking out Ben Zobrist with a pitch so far off the plate that home plate umpire Marty Foster had to admit after the game he blew the call.
It was such a bad call it brings to mind the 1997 NLCS when Gregg was behind the plate when Marlins pitcher Livan Hernandez struck out 15 Atlanta Brave batters. Gregg's strikeout zone was so wide, and bad, that he became a part of the game.
We celebrate and lament the human element of sports all the time from 3-point shots to timeouts when there are none. Why should officials be expected to be any different? They shouldn't.
If we are going to question the kid who just missed the 15-footer at the buzzer, the refs can't beyond reproach.
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