Five Most Controversial Officiating Decisions

We list those controversial officiating decisions that we all remember as if they happened yesterday
Oddschecker Staff
Mon, July 15, 9:34 AM EDT

In sports, officials are trusted to make the right decisions at all times. They are neutral arbiters who are there to make sure that the rules are followed and that the game is run properly. But there are times where the officials can make mistakes just like the players on the field can. These mistakes are usually put under a microscope, with vitriol from fans often to follow. That is what makes these controversial officiating decisions all the more memorable, as they not only impacted the games themselves, but the fans watching as well.

 

5. The All-Star tie

All-Star games are about showcasing the best players in a sport and putting players on dream teams with other great athletes. What they aren't about is calling the game a tie because there are no bench players left. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened in the 2002 MLB All-Star Game, when commissioner Bud Selig was forced to call the game a tie when there weren't enough bench players to go around.

That decision is still mocked to this day, as fans offered countless solutions that would have prevented that situation from taking place. There hasn't been a tie since, as the league added more roster spots, and teams didn't run through their benches quite as quickly after the draw. But for one night, instead of proclaiming there was no crying in baseball, fans cried out that there was no tying in baseball.

 

4. "Dez Caught It"

The Dallas Cowboys are known as America's Team, which has made them very polarizing. While some love their bold attitude in calling themselves that, others can't stand their reputation of being amazing both on and off the field. That helped make this controversial decision even more widely discussed, as the Cowboys were robbed of moving on in the NFL Playoffs thanks to a dubious incomplete pass call.

Taking on the Green Bay Packers in Lambeau Field, the Cowboys hung around all game against the Pack. Down by five with less than five minutes to go in the game, Dallas faced a fourth down in Packers territory. And they thought they had converted that fourth down when Dez Bryant hauled in a deep pass to put the team inside the one-yard line.

But the Packers challenged the play, and Bryant was ruled to have failed to secure the ball when going to the ground, shocking viewers across America. Years later, the league admitted Bryant should have been awarded a catch, but that didn't do much to console Cowboys fans.

 

3. Armando Galarraga's perfect game

Armando Galarraga is anything but a household name in the world of baseball. He didn't have a particularly memorable career, save for one moment that was marred by a controversial decision by an umpire. The moment came in the 2010 season, where an otherwise forgettable regular season game between the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians saw Galarraga throw a perfect game. Only, he wasn't credited with a perfect game after a bizarre decision on what should have been the game's final out.

With two outs in the top of the ninth inning, Galarraga got Jason Donald to hit a groundball to first base. First baseman Miguel Cabrera fielded the ball successfully and flipped the ball to Galarraga on first. Galarraga clearly beat Donald to the base, however, first base umpire Jim Joyce ruled that Donald was safe. The call ruined the perfect game, and was clearly seen as incorrect when replays were shown on television and throughout the stadium.

Joyce was in tears after the game due to his error costing Galarraga his moment in the sun. But if there was a bright side to be had, it was that the moment was used as a primary argument for the eventual implementation of instant replay in baseball.

 

2. Jeffrey Maier

The 1996 American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles helped the Yankees get to and win the World Series that launched a dynastic run atop Major League Baseball. But who knows how that series would have turned out if the Yankees didn't get a little help from a child to get themselves back into the game.

Down late in the first game of the series, the then-young Derek Jeter launched a flyball to the wall in right field. The ball was hit high enough to where a young fan named Jeffrey Maier was able to reach onto the field of play and pull the ball away from Orioles right fielder Tony Tarasco. And since the umpires didn't see the interference take place, and there was not yet instant replay, the play was deemed a home run despite furious protesting from Tarasco.

Eventually, the Yankees went onto win the first game of the ALCS thanks to a Bernie Williams home run in the bottom of the 11th inning. That home run was far less controversial, but the beginning of the Yankee dynasty in the 1990s was built on plenty of controversy.

 

1. The "Fail Mary"

The Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks were two of the best teams in the NFL in the 2012 season. Both squads were able to make big plays on both sides of the ball, and were able to lean on one facet of their game if the other wasn't performing well. In a game between the two teams in September of 2012, both teams leaned on their defenses to create a game that the Packers led by five points heading into the game's final play.

Green Bay, a three-point favorite heading into the game, just had to prevent the Seahawks from scoring a touchdown on that final play. And they thought they did get that stop when a Russell Wilson Hail Mary pass appeared to be intercepted by Packers defensive back M.D. Jennings. But Seahawks receiver Golden Tate began wrestling Jennings for the ball, and one official signaled for a touchdown while the other signaled for an interception.

After some deliberation between the officials, the play was ruled a touchdown for Seattle, which won them the game. The play was so controversial that the NFL worked harder to bring back its regular officials, who had been on strike at the time of this now-infamous moment in league history.

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