Scoot: Were the officials biased against the Saints?

December 08, 2017 - 11:07 am

Bias is intrinsic to every human being.  Legendary CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite, a professional known for his objective delivery of the evening news, showed signs of being biased in some of his reporting.  After Cronkite returned from reporting firsthand on the Vietnam War, his words and subtle body language revealed that he was against the war.

We often deny our bias because it comes from our subconscious self that overrides are conscious self.  In many cases, we may not actually think we are biased.  Consider how you might relay the information that someone in your neighborhood is having an affair.  If you are closer to, or relate more closely to, the one that is cheating on a spouse, you would probably tell others from a perspective of sympathy for the person, suggesting that their spouse drove them to the affair through their actions.

If, on the other hand, you were closer to, or could relate more to, the person who was being cheated on, then you would relate the same facts of the affair differently.  We dismiss our bias by rationalizing that all we did was report that fact, but our subconscious self is actually guiding how we report the facts.

Establishing that bias is an innate aspect of human nature serves to explain how the officials of sporting events can be biased in the infractions they see and the infractions they don’t see.

Thursday night, the Saints lost to the Falcons in Atlanta.  The Saints suffered significant injuries, including a key injury to star rookie running back Alvin Kamara early in the game.  He suffered a concussion, and his absence removed a potent offensive threat and led to a change in strategy.  The Falcons star linebacker, Deion Jones #45, lead with his helmet in the hard hit to Kamara’s head.  Was that intentional, or was that just part of a tendency many players have for leading with their helmets?  Only Jones can answer that question.  But disheartening to Saints fans was the fact that no penalty was called; and the pattern of officiating leads me to believe that if a Saints linebacker put the same hit on a Falcons running back, then a penalty would have been called.

The Saints did not lose to the Falcons solely because of biased officiating.  There were enough injuries to impact the team and in the end, the usually precise Drew Brees threw an interception in the end zone, which ended a scoring drive that would have put the Saints ahead late in the game.  But biased officiating played a big part in the loss.

In any sport, the human factor in officiating is part of the game.  Instant replays and challenges still come down to human judgment and humans are not robots.

Here was the scenario last night.  The Falcons, the team that suffered an embarrassing loss in last year’s Super Bowl, were in front of their home crowd on a big Thursday night national broadcast.  The Falcons needed the win more than the Saints, and there is no doubt the Saints do not traditionally get the respect they deserve.  Sometimes they don’t deserve it; but even when they do it, seems the nation and the league are almost reluctant to lend credibility and respect to the Saints.

I am not one who defends the city just because I was born and raised here, and I’m not one to quickly whine that our city doesn’t get the respect it deserves.  However, there are times that our geographic position and our unique culture create an image that New Orleans is not ruled by a desire to be perfect. 

As I watched the game last night, I got a sense that the collective attitude of the officials toward the Saints was biased; and when the official was so quick to call a penalty on Sean Payton rushing onto the field in an attempt to call time-out, it seemed as if the officials were biased toward the Falcons.

Whether it is politics, sports or even telling the story of an affair in the neighborhood, as humans we are biased – even if ever so slightly. 

Don’t underestimate how powerful our deep subconscious is when it comes to dictating our conscious decisions.

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