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Question of the day: Which of the major team sports have the best and worst officials? [Updated]

May 28, 2010 |  9:39 am


Reporters from around the Tribune family tackle the question of the day, then you get a chance to chime in and tell them why they're wrong.

Bill Kline, The Morning Call

One time LeBron James was fouled in January, dribbled once and took three strides and a hop-step in February, jumped in March and finally shot the ball in April. The refs, of course, sent LeBron to the free-throw line. But NBA referees are not the worst, despite allowing players to travel more than Arthur Frommer and to palm the ball worse than a finicky grocery shopper manhandles fruit.

The worst officials are showboating MLB umpires. They allow phantom force-outs at second base, automatically punch out runners on tag plays just because the “ball is there” and have distorted the strike zone from what should be a vertical rectangle into a horizontal one so wide that it stretches to the on-deck circles.

The NFL easily has the best officials. They never become part of the game, and replays show they are correct the vast majority of the time. Of course, with so much money riding on every NFL game, its referees had better get it right.

Updated at 10:50 a.m.

Dom Amore, Hartford Courant

Modern technology has not been kind to officials in any sport. The ability to get close in on virtually any play and put it out in HD has made the word "inconclusive" all but extinct. Even balls and strikes in baseball are subject to electronics that make life miserable for the home plate umps.

And the information age? Imagine the Don Denkinger play in the 1985 World Series happening today.

Still, one would  have to say baseball is the best officiated sport, even if technology has exposed the weaker umps, various labor issues have weakened the group and Joe West and his big mouth are still in the equation. Replays still show umpires to get the tough calls right the  majority of the time, especially on the bases.

As for the worst, I'd have to say pro basketball. These refs are the ones from which the most embarrassing scandal has emerged, and since there is no sport where the officiating has more opportunity to control a game, this will take years to get past.

And in what other sport would a technical foul be "rescinded" so a suspended player could play in the next game, as in the Celtics-Magic series? Isn't that an indictment that a 'T,' the most subjective of calls, was wrong? It's not saying much, perhaps, but baseball still comes out ahead here.

Updated at 12:46 p.m.

Steve Rosenbloom, Chicago Tribune

What’s a charge? What’s a block? What’s over-the-back? What’s competing for a rebound? And let’s not even get into the separate rules based on gym shoe endorsements.

The NBA has the worst officiating unless you know which way Tim Donaghy bet. Baseball’s umpires get it right more often than anyone expects. Forget all the arguing and ejections for using naughty words. Replay repeatedly proves that baseball has sports’ best arbiters, even if they have two of the worst in Joe West.

Photo: Cleveland's LeBron James drives in front of Boston's Paul Pierce on May 13. Credit: David Butler / US Presswire.