5 pivotal officiating blunders that changed the outcome of games

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
Los Angeles Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints’ Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the 2019 NFC championship game in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

The 2019 NFL playoffs, NBA finals and NHL playoffs each had pivotal moments where effective implementation of instant replay could have changed the outcome of the game. Fouls that went called and uncalled on James Harden, shot clock violations that lead to points that shouldn’t have been scored and missed plays that lead to game-winning goals have all tainted the postseasons of major sports this year. This brings the question to mind: should sports better utilize the instant replay tools that they have to work with? Below are five major game-changing blunders made by officials over the last 10 years.

5. No foul: Florida vs. No. 22 Auburn on March 16, 2019

In a matchup that would send the winner to the SEC final, No. 22 Auburn defeated Florida 65-62. Down by three, Florida had possession with just seconds remaining. Needing to hit a three-pointer or get fouled while in shooting motion from behind the three-point line, Gators guard Andrew Nembhard dribbled up the floor and pulled up from deep. Nembhard was met by three Tigers defenders who committed the foul that would put Nembhard on the foul line with a chance to tie the game — or so it seemed. What seemed to be an obvious foul would go uncalled, crowning Auburn victorious. Auburn would go on to win the SEC tournament.

4. No-penalty: San Jose Sharks vs. Vegas Golden Knights on April 23, 2019

The San Jose Sharks were the recipients of a blown call against the Vegas Golden Knights game 7 of the first round of the 2019 NHL playoffs. The Knights owned a 3-0 lead in the deciding game when Joe Pavelski was gruesomely injured on a play that seemed worse than it really was. Pavelski was cross-checked by Cody Eakin, which sent Pavelski flying into another Golden Knight’s player. This pinball effect caused Pavelski’s body to corkscrew before landing head first on the ice. After a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct was given to Eakin for his cross-check, replay showed that his action did not warrant his consequence. Penalties cannot be overturned in the NHL, so the Sharks went on a five-minute long powerplay in which they scored three goals to tie the game. San Jose later won in overtime. After the game, the NHL issued an apology to the Golden Knights in addition to announcing that two referees from that game would not officiate any games in the next round.

3. Missed pass interference: Saints vs. Rams on Jan. 20, 2019

The Saints and Rams found themselves in the NFC championship, a game that would send the victor to the Super Bowl. With under two minutes remaining and the game tied, the Saints were threatening to score. With his team on the Rams 13-yard line, Drew Brees dropped back and threw a pass to his intended receiver, Tommylee Lewis. Lewis was met by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman. Robey-Coleman made contact long before Lewis had an opportunity to catch the ball, a penalty known as pass interference. None of the refs threw a penalty flag, and the Saints would have to settle for a field goal instead of a potential touchdown. The Rams would go on to tie the game before winning in overtime.

2. The (almost) perfect game: Armando Galarraga on June 2, 2010

At this point, only 20 pitchers had ever thrown a perfect game in the MLB. A perfect game means no batter on the opposing team reaches any of the bases, signifying a pitcher threw a flawless nine innings. On June 2, 2010, Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga had tallied 26 outs without a single member of the Cleveland Indians reaching any of the bases. Needing only one more out to record a perfect game, Indians batter Jason Donald hit a grounder to the Tigers’ second baseman, Miguel Cabrera. Carbera threw the ball to first base in what clearly was an out, but the umpire thought otherwise. The runner was called safe, ruining a historic pitching performance.

1. Handball: France vs. Ireland on Nov. 18, 2009

Ireland has only made the World Cup three times in the history of its soccer team, but in 2009 they almost received their fourth bid. With the winner of the double-matchup heading to the world cup, Ireland and France found themselves deadlocked in extra time. With 17 minutes remaining in the extra frame, France’s Thierry Henry used his hand to guide the ball to his foot, which resulted in a pass to his teammate William Gallas. Gallas redirected the ball into the net with a header, sending France to the World Cup while leaving Ireland and its World cup hopes behind.

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