Just So We're Clear





sports tournament in the world and an organization that refuses to admit that anything untoward occurred.


dixarone's picture

Canadian semi-soccer-fan here. By that, I mean I watch when it's compelling...generally once every four years. I'm a huge sports fan though, so I tend to look for reasons to watch.
Now, as I said, I'm Canadian. What that means is that I have an inherent, built in dislike for any and all things American (even though there's no doubt that the USA is our biggest cultural and political influence...maybe because of that...it's the whole 'elephant in the room' theory), notwithstanding the fact I cheer for a US baseball team, and enjoy my vacations down there, etc, etc,. In any case, let's just say that if the USA is playing some other country in pretty much any sport you care to name, I'm generally cheering for the other side.
So, Slovenia 2 - USA 0? Woo-hoo. Down in flames, yanks!
Then Donovan scores to make it 2-1. Something about that goal tweaks something deep inside my psyche. Against my rational brain, my gut starts to root for an American comeback. Weird. 2-2...go go go U-S-A!!
Then this. A bag-job extraordinaire, as Doc so aptly puts it. And the more you look at pictures and videos (as in the stills above), the more obvious it becomes that something was just not right.
Today, against Algeria, I'm solidly rooting for the USA. And to my amazement, there's yet another botched call?! Is there anti-American bias? As one who in the past may have been happy to see it, I can only assume so.
In hockey, in basketball, and to a lesser extent in football, and possibly to a lesser extent still in baseball, with the possible exception of the strike zone, we see referees, umpires, officials...make "make-up" calls. Nothing so horribly blatant, but if there's a borderline call that goes one way, you'll often soon after see a borderline call go the other way if there's an opportunity. You can feel it coming oftentimes, especially if it's clear that there's been an actual error that can't be fixed properly at the time the call is made. It's human nature. "Sorry 'bout that lads, we'll get the next one"...
Is there an anti-American bias? How can an official (even though it's another official, another day, a different match...in this case the call that came before it was so egregarious that it shouldn't matter) call that offside against the USA, negating yet another goal?? It was close - it could have gone either way - this is true. In most situations, if that call is made, you shrug your shoulders, disagree, and move on resolutely. But, knowing that there was a call that completely messed with their World Cup tournament the game before, how does the USA not get the benefit of the doubt on that offsides call?
Is there anti-American bias at the World Cup? My eyes tell me, yep. My heart tells me, yep. And that bias, and the American team's reaction to that bias (little complaining, mostly resolute, overall just a terrific "us against the world" type response), has just earned the American soccer team a most unlikely fan. Because the one thing I'm NOT a fan of, is injustice.

glmuskie's picture

The Jim Joyce call was just as clear in freeze-frame as these images are.  And Jim Joyce thought he made the right call.  He was sure of it.  Until he saw the video.  Then he realized he made a mistake, felt horrible, and apologized profusely. 
A famous experiment was conducted, where viewers were shown a short video of people passing a ball around in a room.  Some of the people are wearing white shirts.  The task of the viewer is to count the number of passees between people with white shirts.  You can see the video here:
Selective Attention Test
The results are pretty astonishing.  IIRC, about half the people who watch this video the first time - including myself - never see the other thing that happens in the video.  You're blind to it, because you're paying attention to something else.
So the Jim Joyce case is completely relevent, and illustrates a real-world case where this can happen.  Joyce a) had motivation to get the call right, b) was as experienced and respected an official as you can find, and c) had a very simple and straightforward call to make.  And he blew it.  The soccer ref didn't have b) and c).  At this point, we can only speculate about a).

glmuskie's picture

One thing I never understand with cries of biased officiating, in any sport.  And that is, if it was biased, why was that call in particular the one that was bent?
Versus Slovenia, why didn't the referee blow the whistle on the other two goals, to keep the Americans from tying it up?  Was it because the ref just couldn't stand the thought of the Americans winning?  Because he apparently could stomach a draw.  Or why didn't he make some random call to give the Slovenians a penalty kick or free kick, give them another crack at scoring? 
Of course, maybe the Slovenian mob got to him and told him, whatever you do, the Americans can't win.  Sure, that's a possibility.  But if I'm a ref, and my daughter loses a finger if I let the American's win, I'd make some extra blown calls to make sure it wasn't too close.
Side note:  If this particular ref was biased, where are the other horribly Anti-American calls?  Did he make some horribly anti-Slovenian calls too?  Because if he did, then more likely he's just a bad ref.
The timing of this particular call is the one thing that I think conspiracty theorists have going for them.  That towards the end of the game, the guy made sure the Americans didn't win it.
But that's hardly proof of any conspiracy.  Circumstantial evidence at best.


Deciding whether a baserunner beats a force play is a decision that has to be made in a fraction of a second, and in that split second the ump is trying to watch two different things (the runners foot hitting the bag and the ball reaching the fielders glove). That is a very challenging thing and still images don't do justice to how tough a task it is.
That's not the type of call that was made in the US/Slovenia match. In that game, the call wasn't one requiring hair fine precision. Instead, the ref called a foul. A foul call requires the umpire to see something bad, and if he doesn't see anything then he simply lets play continue.That's where the problem is, the fact that he DID call a foul when the US players didn't do anything. How is that anything like a play at a base where an umpire MUST make a call even if he doesn't have a good view or it's something a human really isn't capable of determing?
Furthermore, the particular situation was very easy on the ref: 1) it was a free kick so the players started out from a stand still 2) the ref could just stand casually instead of running around and 3) he could give himself the optimum position, which meant he could get everyone in his field of view. This was an easy, easy situation for the ref. It wasn't too "chaotic" or whatever for him.
And what does Selective Attention have to do with this? If our only complaint was that he didn't call a foul on the Slovenians, that would make some sense. Okay, maybe somehow he missed the six guys in white wrestling with their opponent, although it still would have been atrocious. But he did more than that, he claimed that an American did something wrong, and that is flat out BS.

Jpax's picture

Part of me thinks he might have seen something that happened before the play even started.  Or in his mind this was a 'make-up' call for something that happened earlier in the match.
In any case, justice was served by Slovenia not being able to advance.This has to be heartbreaking to Slovenia, especially after leading the group (by 2 points!, even if illegally gotten) to not be able to advance.  True Karma.

glmuskie's picture

Well we don't know what the ref was thinking, because no one knows what he called.  Which is just idiotic, as many have already pointed out.
Good points about the differences between the Joyce call and the Slovenian call.  You're right, they are not the same.
Let me be clear:  I am not saying there wasn't bias, or that there wasn't malicious intent and forethought.  There may very well have been.
What I take issue with is the assertion that it is 'obvious' that the ref acted with malice and forethought.  That it is a 'given' that the ref was trying to exert influence on the game.  That human error could not have been a factor.
The Joyce call, and the selective attention studies, show the inherent fallibility in human perception.  Those are but 2 examples of something for which there is a mountain of evidence.  People blow red lights because they don't see them.  They remember things that didn't happen.  They see something out of the corner of their eye that's nothing more than a neuron firing or a shadow moving.
Even if this ref is proven to have tried to change the outcome of the game...  It doensn't change the fact that a mistake such as this is well, well within the boundaries of human error.
To be frank I'm surprised that egregiously bad calls like this don't happen more often.


Much more effective argument than mine was.  :- )
It seems that most people work to avoid believing that there could E-V-E-R be wilful bias on a ref's part.
Is that logical?  To pattern a belief that no ref, anywhere, ever cares who wins?  (Because if you were ever going to spot a ref on the take, the US-Slovenia call was the most blatant I have seen in 35 years of watching sports.)
Just a couple of years ago, Tim Donaghy pled guilty to betting NBA games.  How do you maintain a belief system that corrupt refs NEVER exist at high levels?  You've got any number of historical examples.

glmuskie's picture

Undoubtedly refs can be biased. 
Helping to counteract the incentive to exert influence on the game, are the repercussions for doing so.  The public shame and humiliation of Donaghy, along with the loss of his livlihood, strongly encourages others to NOT do what he did.
Which is what's so problematic with the Slovenian call.  No accountability.


The fact that FIFA, and the ref, can do whatever they want with impunity ... that is a diseased, ugly situaton that can do nothing but harm to the sport.
The "makeup call" argument is the only one I've seen that has any traction with me whatsoEVER.
Looks like CPB found the perfect spot on his TIVO, took a picture of his TV, and processed the image so that we all could get the full sense of what was going on during that play.
I wonder if anywhere on the internet, anybody grabbed as good an image as CPB did.


Is Edu #9 the goal-scorer, the one guy that Slovenia forgot to tackle, and the guy who was listed as the American committing the foul?  :- )
CPB's second picture shows the ref staring directly at the area as Edu runs by the defense without even touching anybody (much less grappling people as the ref obviously tolerates).
If CPB's pictures aren't good enough, what would we consider good enough to catch a ref red-handed...

glmuskie's picture

Well like I said, the fallibility of human perception is proven.  It's not even a debatable point, IMO, that a call like this can be blown wihout any malicious intent.  A wealth of research and precedent shows this.
To point at a freeze frame and say, 'See!  See!' misses the whole point.  The argument that's being made is that we know the ref's mind.  And we don't.
If we ever have quotes from the ref, if we ever have an inkling of money exchanging hands, if we ever have any reason to suspect foul play besides an egregiously bad call, then the conversation changes.  And those things should be sought out.  The real crime here is that doesn't seem to be happening.


Did most of this pioneering work back in the early '80's when we were at the U.W.... study after study, book after book trying to prove that no witness could ever be trusted...
Her agenda was a bit less benign than yours GL... she was consciously trying to get as many criminals off the hook as she could ;- )
You da man GL :- )

glmuskie's picture

Tommy Smyth called the English goal that wasn't, 'The worst call in Futball I've ever seen'. 
The play-by-play commentator said it was 'Far, far worse a call' than the American goal waved off against Slovenia.
So.  If you think the the American call was a conspiracy to alter the game, just because it was an obvious call, then the England non-goal has to be a conspiracy for the same reason, yes?  Any call that is that obvious must therefore be due to bias or malice.
I'm not a huge soccer fan.  And these blatant bad calls certainly reduce my interest in the game, as Doc indicated they do for him. 
We want the game to be fair, and we want the call to be correct.  That is why it boggles why baseball and other sports don't implement replay more.  We want to know what really happened.
The other thing that has me scratching my head.  Why only 1 on-field official in soccer?
The field is huge.  There are 22 players on the pitch.  How can ONE official be relied upon to call the game?  This boggles me too.  Ya, I know there are 2 linesman.  But for crying out loud, basketball has 3 refs on the court, and it's a tiny fraction the size of a soccer field, and there are 1/2 the number of players.
Seems to me like Soccer could do with a refereeing make-over.

glmuskie's picture

Here about the officiating at the World Cup.
Here's a list of the countries that got jobbed by the refs, going by that article:
Argentina - Brazil - US - Switzerland - Ivory Coast - France - Italy - Australia - England
Don't really see a pattern there.  If there was a systematic effort to exert influence on the cup, it doesn't seem to be showing up.
It's possible that in all of these instances, bias or malice was the culprit.  It's possible that it was the cuprit in some but not all of the instances.  If bias or malice is the source in some, the most likely would be the most egregious calls, of which the England call is probably the worst, followed by the US, followed by the others - some of which were pretty awful.
More likely, IMO, is this is further evidence that refs are human, that they don't see everything that happens on the pitch, and that the system of refereeing in this sport needs to change.


The diversity of the terrible calls is an argument in favor of your original position.  Point cheerfully conceded.
One possibility of course is that if there is sinister influence occurring, it's not from FIFA.  Gamblers will influence any particular game in any direction, depending on where the money is.  Other explanations occur as well.
But ya, that's one solid argument against anti-Americanism as such.  Not a decisive one IMHO, but an important one.

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