Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's always the fault of the referee

Some things are universal, I guess. No matter what sport, or even line of business, it is always the fault of the referee.

I thought about this when reading about accounts of last night's big soccer match featuring Barcelona against Real Madrid in the first leg of a Champion's League match-up. For Americans this might be a yawn, but for the sport's fans worldwide (and especially in Spain, of course) this is a heavyweight match-up.
With the first of two matchs played in Madrid, one would presume that Real Madrid would have the advantage, with that advantage swinging to the other side in the next match in Barcelona. But early in the second half one of Madrid's players was sent off by the German referee – shown the red card, as they do it in soccer.

To hear the coach of Madrid, José Mourinho, tell it, it was all a plot by the referee to favor Barcelona. For others, it is all sour grapes.

The Guardian, which live blogs important matches, had this to say when it happened:

62 min: IT HAD TO HAPPEN. Pepe is sent off for a foot-up challenge on Alves. He didn't make contact, though there was enough intent, and you can't be bombing around the pitch showing your studs at shin height. On the touchline, Mourinho scrunches up his nose, then applauds Alves as he's carried off. He mouths "well done" to the fourth official, and gives him the thumbs up. And is sent to the stand for his trouble. Oh me, oh my.

65 min: Mourinho, never one to turn down a photo opportunity, or the chance to cast himself in the role of martyr, plonks himself down behind some metal bars.
Barcelona then went on to victory, 2-0.

Blaming the ones that enforce the rules is a universal reaction whenever things don't go well – and as a sports fan I know that many time the refs are, indeed, to blame. But the game goes on and the rules don't change. Like Billy Martin you can scream at the umpire all you want, even kick dirt onto home plate, but it won't change a thing, just make you feel better.

Today, many in media see the ref as being Apple or Google, and publishing executives certainly love to place the blame for their struggles elsewhere. It is a universal reaction to having events go awry. The game is fixed, the ref was blind, I've been cheated.