Should the Refs Own a Bad Call or Hedge and Make Up For It?

In the 3rd quarter of the Pats’ Monday Night win over the Bills, the refs inadvertently blew the whistle because they were trying to come up with more ways to screw up their already horrendous performance during the game.  (The video can be found in ESPN’s column about the game here.)

What’s clear to anyone with a pair of working ears (or a single working ear for that matter) is that the refs blew the whistle well before Amendola caught the ball.  In fact, they blew it before Brady released the pass.  Yet, after huddling up and pretending they knew what they were talking about, the refs claimed that Amendola had already caught the ball so that the pass wouldn’t be nullified.  They even tacked on a 15 yard penalty to REx Ryan to appease the masses.  Had the refs called the play “correctly” once the whistle was inadvertently blown, the play would have been a do-over.

Whether or not the refs should have called the play true or tried to correc their mistake is an interesting debate, and it probably sheds light on how you think about makeup calls in general.  Do the refs try to make up for some of the damage that their horrible whistle did and throw the Pats a cookie with the 12 yard completion and 15 yard penalty, or do they follow the rule book that they’re supposedly married to?

I’ll side with making up for the call simply because of how stupid and how rare that inadvertent whistle was.  Umpires shouldn’t practice makeup calls on balls and strikes by any means, because they’re gonna routinely miss calls on that kinda stuff, and over time they’re gonna even out.  Trying to self-regulate that in some fake way will only create more problems.

But this one?  Well, something like an inadvertent whistle won’t even itself out to hurt both teams even close to equally, because they happen once every… I don’t know, 10 games?  15? 20?  That whistle was so ridiculous and so clearly cost the Pats a long gain that I’m ok with the refs trying to make up for it.  I wouldn’t call myself an “Ends Justify the Means” kinda guy because I’ve always felt that such a phrase eliminates any care that someone should have for the collateral damage they caused.  But in this case, making sure that the Patriots get some of the yards they deserved is worth not following the rule book for one subset of a specific instance that may never pop up again in these refs’ careers.

Granted, I’m allowing for a ton of grey area and for a ton of calls to falls through the cracks.  At what point does the type of call go from “no makeup calls necessary here” to “yeah, maybe a makeup call for this one”?  I honestly don’t know for sure, but I know that it involves how often the type of call happens.  And I’d argue that, when a play is as dumb and as infrequent as the inadvertent whistle that happened tonight, why not make sure that the refs’ screwup makes the least amount of difference in the game as possible?

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