Photo Credit: Dale Garvey

One-sided games are no fun for anyone, except for the team that wins, of course. Generally speaking, the losing team and the officials just want to get it over with and move on to the next game.

A game may turn out to be an immediate blowout. When one team scores touchdowns on its first three possessions and the other doesn’t have as much as a first down, the officials should consider the game will be different than most. Just what does that mean? Is it appropriate to change the way the game is officiated? How should a game that is decided early be officiated?

When the outcome of a game has been determined, officials must fight complacency. Psychologists will tell you attentional focus is primarily dependent on motivation and the intensity or importance of different stimuli. That means it’s naturally difficult to pay attention to something when you believe you are not needed to add value to what is happening. You won’t find those games very satisfying, but it’s a big mistake to quit officiating in those games.

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Perhaps your first expectation in a blowout is an encounter with a sore loser. The losing coach may choose to direct his frustration at the officials. His players may resort to cheap shots to exact a pound of flesh for their failures. Dead-ball officiating becomes a premium.

On the other hand, winning big doesn’t necessarily mean the coach will embellish his credentials for sainthood. Some coaches get bored and avail themselves of the opportunity to air gripes they’ve harbored all season. After all, a penalty won’t hurt them. Their players may be sufficiently undisciplined to taunt the opponents. Be particularly cognizant of arch-rivals in such games.

There are aspects of officiating that should never be compromised

There are several other aspects of officiating that should never be compromised. Taunting may escalate to rough play and an all-out brawl. Fouls that endanger player safety must never be ignored. While the vast majority of those fouls occur unwittingly, the thought that a player will be immediately penalized for any such transgression must be foremost in everyone’s mind. Similarly, obvious and blatant acts cannot be ignored.

What can be done differently? Technical infractions (e.g. wide receivers lining up in the neutral zone, a less-than-complete stop by a baseball pitcher in the stretch) should be ignored.

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In sports that don’t have a clock, or don’t have a rule allowing for a running clock, there are ways of keeping things moving. Many umpires expand their strike zones, which encourages batters to swing and put the ball in play.

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On the other hand, don’t discount the possibility of a miraculous comeback. In March, the University of Nevada men’s basketball team twice rallied from seemingly insurmountable deficits to advance in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. In the first round, Nevada trailed by nine at halftime and fell behind by 14 early in the second half but rallied to defeat Texas.

Two days later, the plucky Wolf Pack was down 22 points and given up for dead with a little more than 11 minutes left. But they came all the way back to beat Cincinnati, the second seed in the bracket and the sixth-ranked team in the nation.

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There are some who advocate officiating the same way beginning to end despite the score. They’ll use Nevada as Exhibit One, and it’s difficult to argue with them. There’s no way to predict if an early blowout is going to finish that way.

Regardless of the score, don’t forego your need to concentrate, practice great dead-ball officiating and hustle. That never changes.

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Note: This article is archival in nature. Rules, interpretations, mechanics, philosophies and other information may or may not be correct for the current year.

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