Sports and Women’s Sports

Sports are becoming more and more important to American society.  And, with this growing popularity, it is essential to recognize that not all sports are being considered “popular”.  The common theme between most of the sports that haven’t quite seen the limelight yet is gender.  Why is there such a difference between men’s and women’s sports even though we live in a society that is more or less considered to be equal?  And, is it solely the gender of the athlete, or is it more of a combination between the gender and the respected sport of the given athlete that leads to it’s popularity, or lack there of? Continue reading

Ref’s Role in Fortune

NFL referees incorrectly award game-winning touchdown to the Seahawks

Every sporting event, professional or amateur, is affected by fortune. Often times the outcome of a game is changed by a factor that the teams and players have no control over. Especially in professional sports, where the margin for error is extremely low, fortune can ultimately decide which team actually wins. Perhaps the most important outside factor in professional sports is officiating. Referees are intended to uphold the specific set of rules for their respective sport, but they often make mistakes. Because these mistakes are not made by the players of the game, they are actually an outside factor and can be defined as part of fortune. Refs can help a team win or lose. In his book The Prince, Italian historian Nicolo Machiavelli gives a brief definition of fortune and describes its importance in life. Many of his ideas about fortune can be applied to the randomness of officiating in sports.

Machiavelli argues that fortune only controls half of one’s actions, while the other half is completely controlled by the individual. He also suggests that a truly great leader cannot control fortune, but can overcome misfortune. In the world of professional sports, missteps in officiating can be the pinnacle of misfortune. When athletes and coaches compete at such a high level, each and every factor affects the outcome of the game.

There have been numerous occasions in which the athletes have performed well enough to beat their opponent while also playing within the realm of the rules, but fortune denied their efforts. A recent example of this was a regular-season NFL game in Seattle 2012. The visiting Packers were winning, and on the last play of the game the refs incorrectly awarded the Seahawks with a touchdown. By Machiavelli’s definition, this is simply lady fortune helping the Seahawks win. But for the Packers, this misfortune was devastating. In a league where each win or loss can determine who makes the playoffs and eventually wins the Superbowl, a blown call of this magnitude shows the power of fortune. The Packers should have won that game, but it was stolen by lady fortune.

Another brutal example of blown officiating was the famous blown perfect game by pitcher Armando Galarraga. In baseball, a perfect game is when the pitcher goes through all nine innings an retires every batter on the opposing team. In the history of Major League Baseball, which was founded in 1869, there have only been twenty three perfect games. With only one out remaining, the batter was thrown out at first base, but the umpire called him safe, effectively robbing Galarraga of his place in baseball history. Instant replay shows that the batter was clearly out, but it didn’t matter. Once again lady fortune showed her power and took a perfect game away from a completely deserving athlete.

Each of these two examples show that teams and players can win, but officiating can take that win away from them. Machiavelli would argue that fortune is simply part of life and that we cannot control everything in life. But how does that change anything for Galarraga? Or the Packers? Or any of the thousands of teams and players who have been wronged by officiating? The short answer is it doesn’t. They still lose, and nothing can change that. But they can take solace in the fact that this is actually a part of sports. The rules of sports can’t expel the power of lady fortune. In recent history, professional sports have attempted to minimize the “fortune factor” in officiating by adding more referees and using replay technology to decrease the number of incorrect calls. However, as we’ve seen, it’s never perfect. Machiavelli says that although we cannot control fortune, we can, in a way, tame fortune. Fortune, he says, favors the adventurous. Athletes cannot control their fortune, but they can do everything in their power to overcome their misfortune. The best athletes conquer their misfortunes and still find a way to succeed, even if they don’t always win.