NEW YORK, NY –This past weekend the Mets finally ended over 50 years of misery when Johan Santana pitched the first no-hitter in franchise history. It is no secret that he was the beneficiary of a blown call on a ball hit by Carlos Beltran which clearly hit the chalk on the third base foul line. Hey stuff happens in sports because we have humans officiating all of our major sports. Being an official really is a tough job. I feel bad for those bastards who umpire adult sandlot baseball games here in NY for $50 only to have some bald headed never-was yelling at them like they blew a call in the 7th game of the World Series. Besides having to take abuse, some officials have to be in pretty good shape to handle the rigors of calling a sport. Based on a 5 stripe ranking system I give you Grote’s Rankings of Sports Officials.
Hockey – There are two hockey referees and two linesmen who have to skate up and down the ice for 60 minutes. Linesmen also have to break up at least a couple of skirmishes a night and sometimes get punched while trying to separate fighters. Linesmen are basically college bar bouncers on skates. Ranking: 4 Stripes (bonus stripe for knowing how to skate).
Soccer – Must be in terrific shape because one guy has to cover over 75,000 sq. feet of playing surface and have the self control not to kick a guy who is lying on the ground faking an injury. The referee also has the additional task of scribbling down names on occasion and knowing the difference between yellow and red so colorblind people need not apply. The referee does get help from two linesmen whose only qualification is to be able to raise a flag over their head from time to time. Ranking: 3 Stripes (lose a stripe for needing a book).
Football – There are seven referees in each crew who work NFL and college games. It can get a bit dangerous and these guys aren’t even full time officials but rather insurance salesmen or something of the like that moonlight as referees. Most of the time these guys do a good job of steering clear of 280 lb. linebackers, but on the rare occasion they don’t the results are not pretty. Main requirement is be able to drop a yellow handkerchief when they spot an infraction. Ranking: 2 Stripes (lose 2 stripes for using a handkerchief).
Baseball – Umpiring crews only are tested every fourth game when they call balls and strikes at home plate. On really hot days the protective equipment can take it’s toll and umps often get hit by foul tips. When not behind the plate it is a cake job. Kinda like having a college semester filled with three blow off classes and one course in astrophysics. Ranking: 2 Stripes (bonus stripe for occasionally taking a baseball to the groin or face or both).
Golf –They tout their sport as a gentleman’s game so they allow players to submit their own scorecard and only disqualify someone if they find the scorecard was incorrect. Must be both incredibly lazy and incredibly pompous to work as a golf official. Thurston Howell III was considered too athletic and not pompous enough for the position. Ranking: Zero Stripes (lose 3 stripes for making players sign their cards).
Tennis – Must have the physical ability to climb a ladder for your all important seat at center court. Also must be able to move your head from side to side rather quickly and be able to withstand cursing in dozens of eastern European languages. Kinda like being a lifeguard at a Brighton Beach pool in Brooklyn but without the whistle. Ranking: Zero Stripes (lose 2 stripes for using terms like love and let).
Basketball – In the NBA there are three officials on a relatively small court with not much to do since their calls are usually dictated by who is playing at home and who the biggest stars are on each team. Fouls for some guys are not fouls for others. These officials rate just above WWF refs in my book. Ranking: Zero Stripes (lose 5 stripes for working under David Stern).
Boxing – The biggest prerequisite for any boxing official is to be able to launder all of the money they receive fixing fights for Bob Arum or Don King. It seems the worse you perform by any ranking system the more fights you get. Ranking: One Stripe (bonus stripe for risking your life if you cross the wrong promoter/bookie/mobster).
Stay tuned tomorrow for Angry Ward, a man who will be devastated to read that Doughtry has replaced Cheap Trick on the Mets concert schedule this July 20th.