So, which of the four major sports has the best officiating?

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, I need to start with a disclaimer: this is not a scientific study. It started as conversations via e-mail and message boards about 18 months ago concerning the quality of sports officiating in the four major sports that eventually ended up with what we have here. It was not a short journey, and if I had put some thought into this before I started I may have gone about things a little differently to get more “scientific” results. But I was already well underway when it was mentioned that the results I was going to end up with using the methods I used would have too many variables to make it totally reliable. That is likely true, although the results I got do speak volumes. I suspect a correct scientific study is going to yield very close to the same results.

This originally started out as just a gathering of information from a handful of people about their perception of which of the four major sports leagues (the NBA, the NHL, MLB, and the NFL) had the best officiating. People were asked to list, from best to worst, what they felt of the accuracy and fairness of the officiating in the four major sports. They then assigned a score, from 1-10 with ten being “perfect”, how well that sport’s officiating was not in relation to the other sports but against what the voter perceived as the best the officiating could possibly be in that specific league. I quickly realized the sample size was way too small, and the people involved may not really be fans of all four major sports.

So I decided to step it up a little bit to get a larger sample size and to make sure the people answering actually watched all four sports leagues. I jotted down several of the cities I knew had teams in all four of the major leagues, and then on a whim checked Wikipedia to see if they had a complete list. They did, of course, only their listing used “metro area” and not just specific cities. Their list had 12 entries, so that was what I went with. The metro areas I used were: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Miami, Minneapolis–St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco Bay Area, and Washington, DC. What I wanted was to do was get ten people from each metro area that were fans of all four sports and tally the results by metro area and then combine them all into a final score.

That was way easier said than done.

After a couple of failed attempts I ended up setting up an email account and emailing friends that lived in some of the metro areas listed and asked them to forward my email to a bunch of their friends that lived in the area and ask them to send their replies to the address I set up. That worked pretty well for many of the places, but I didn’t have contracts in some of the areas so again went to my e-mail list and had friends of friends send e-mails out. The problem with this is one of those non-scientific things; the time frame for gathering info was several weeks, meaning that something that might have swayed the opinion of someone in week one was a distant memory by week eleven. To be honest, looking at the information I’m not sure how much that really mattered.

The first questions folks were asked was what metro area they lived in, and they were asked to add that to the subject line so the email could be sorted without me opening it. Any email that didn’t list a metro area in the subject line was discarded. They were then asked if they watched a minimum of 25% of each of team’s games in the current or previous season for each sport. When tabulating the data anyone that answered “no” had their email discarded. Again, one of those non-scientific things popped up. I should have asked if each person was a fan of every team in their metro area or was a fan of teams from different metro areas. But looking at the information I’m again not sure how much that really mattered.

The remaining questions were as mentioned above, so all that was remaining was getting the ten replies from each metro area. In cases where I got more than the number I needed my plan was to just take the first ten replies and discard the rest. Some of the areas got to ten with a few hours, but I had none for others. It took several weeks for every area to get covered, and in the case of the last area (Phoenix) it took four months.

I went in alphabetical order, and was surprised when I first tabulated the rankings of the sports by metro area. From highest ranked to lowest within each metro area I ended up with this:

Boston:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
Chicago:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
Dallas:
NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL
Denver:
NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA
Detroit:
NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA
Miami:
NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL
Minneapolis–St. Paul:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
New York City:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
Philadelphia:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
Phoenix:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
San Francisco Bay Area:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA
Washington, DC:
NFL, MLB, NHL, NBA

The NFL was the clear winner being listed as the best in all 12 metro areas. MLB is the clear number two, finishing second in nine of the 12 regions for an average finish of 2.25. The NHL finished third with a 3.00 average, with the NBA taking up the rear finishing last in ten of 12 regions with 3.75 average finish. With so many areas having the same order I went back to triple check, but came back with the same results. I then went on to tabulating the individual scores for each metro area, and this is where the information became a little eye opening. These are listed by total points,but to get the what the voter average in each area just divide by 10.

Boston:
NFL 87
MLB 42
NHL 38
NBA 20

Chicago:
NFL 86
MLB 47
NHL 37
NBA 24

Dallas:
NFL 88
MLB 45
NBA 37
NHL 36

Denver:
NFL 86
NHL 58
MLB 36
NBA 34

Detroit:
NFL 82
NHL 78
MLB 39
NBA 33

Miami:
NFL 85
NBA 39
MLB 37
NHL 36

Minneapolis–St. Paul:
NFL 79
MLB 51
NHL 49
NBA 32

New York City:
NFL 86
MLB 71
NHL 55
NBA 32

Philadelphia:
NFL 84
MLB 34
NHL 33
NBA 29

Phoenix:
NFL 81
MLB 46
NHL 41
NBA 29

San Francisco Bay Area:
NFL 76
MLB 51
NHL 44
NBA 31

Washington, DC:
NFL 80
MLB 39
NHL 37
NBA 30

I then added up all the scores and divided by 120 to get an average score per voter.

NFL: 8.33 (1000 total pts)
NHL: 4.52 (542)
MLB: 4.48 (538)
NBA: 3.08 (370)

Detroit’s rating for NHL officiating is an anomaly, being significantly higher than any other regional score for the NHL. It skews the NHL’s ranking a little, making it have a higher average vote despite the earlier total ranking that has the MLB finishing second. A quick review of 10 different votes from Detroit also shows the same anomaly. Out of curiosity I took a look at an additional 10 votes from six different areas to see how they compared to the ones I used, and in each case the totals were pretty close to what was shown in the votes I used.

The NFL folks should be reading this with some pride, excepting of course that since these numbers were collected the NFL has locked out their regular officials. Out of curiosity I sent an e-mail out to all 120 people who had their votes counted for this study and asked them to rate the replacement officials, and to indicate how much of the NFL preseason they had watched. I got 82 replies, and of that number 53 had watched two or more full games. Using those 53 votes the ranking of the NFL replacement referees was 3.11 (165), higher than the regular NBA referees. That might speak more on the NBA referees than it does the NFL replacement officials.

Now folks can make their own conclusions, but with the NFL being by far the runaway winner in the tally there’s one question comes to my mind: why are the other three major sports ranked so low? Could it be because the NFL uses replay much more extensively than the other three major sports? Or maybe the techniques used by the officials in the NHL, MLB, and NBA haven’t kept up with the speed of the game they’re officiating? Could it be the attitudes of the officials in the other sports?

The answers is it could be any or all of those things, but it’s an answer the NHL, NBA, and MLB need to figure out because their fans seem to think the officials in those sports are pretty bad.

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “So, which of the four major sports has the best officiating?

  1. I agree my beantown brother. I think the NFL’s worst sin is holding on every play. However in baseball the ump starts every play and influences everything with the way he calls balls and strikes. They should cyclops the plate.

  2. One other thing – I don’t follow Hockey nearly enough to comment either way but nothing can be worse than basketball.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s