I have a good friend that has coined the term, “loser limp,” that we both enjoy throwing around when we watch or coach sports. That phrase it used every time we see someone suddenly act hurt or complain that something is wrong when things aren’t going their way in sports. It could be a pitcher claiming his arm hurts when he’s getting knocked around or can’t throw strikes, a player grabbing a part of their body after a strikeout or an error, throwing their hands in the air after a turnover or missed opportunity, or suddenly coming up limping after they get beat in football or basketball. It drives me crazy when a player makes a mistake or when things are going against them acts like they are hurt, and then minutes later when something good happens they suddenly forget about that mysterious injury a few moments ago. Winners compete and don’t make excuses, people that struggle to win in sports and in life tend to blame others or find excuses.
As fans or coaches, we aren’t the ones performing on the stage, but we have our own loser limp, blaming the officials. There is nothing more insufferable in sports than listening to fans complain about officiating or that all of the calls are going against them. In the day of replay in every sport, it is extremely rare that a truly game altering call is going to go against your team. Most calls in sports are judgement calls that happen in the blink of an eye, but as fans we have the benefit of slowing every moment down and analyzing it from multiple angles. Yes, calls go against our teams all of the time that we do not like or agree with. However, it really tends to balance out over the course of a game or a season.
Now I am not here to stand up and apologize for officials. They are paid extremely well to do their jobs. The reward is pretty thankless outside of the paycheck, but they are the ones that signed up and trained for it. Whether it is youth sports, high school, college, or professional, you can always guarantee that half of the people in attendance are going to disagree with your judgement. It’s very rare that after a game you’ll hear coaches or players talk about how well officiated a contest was, after all it’s their job. However, I will argue that it is the job of the players and fans to understand that you’re not getting screwed over by the officials. Officials are human, and they are aware of which way the judgement calls are going, and they make an effort to balance them out over the course of a contest. Yet, the way that coaches, players, and fans react to calls can certainly swing whether or not they want to even out that judgement or if they’re sick of hearing about it.
It’s what makes some fanbases so insufferable on social media. I know every team’s fans complain, and somehow tweeting them makes people feel better because the other lemmings will quickly agree with them. Yet, Illinois fans have to be some of the worst in terms of claiming officials are against them and that they never get calls. Earlier today they lost a game in double overtime against a top 5 Purdue team in which their best player fouled out and was severely limited due to foul trouble throughout. Illinois fans were quick to blame the officials. Meanwhile, Brad Underwood praised his team’s effort facing adversity and claimed they got better. The fans have loser limp, but their leader has toughness. It’s why Illinois and Purdue basketball will both be at the top of the Big Ten for years to come under their current leaders. While other fans and programs may not like them, opposing fans and players respect them.
On the flipside, I’m going to guess if there were a poll of Big Ten basketball fans regarding which coach and team they like the least, the Iowa Hawkeyes would be right at the top. Is it because people have something against the state of Iowa? No, it’s because you can almost guarantee that during every game you’ll see Fran McCaffery going ballistic on an official on the sidelines. What is the trickle down effect of that? Every time a whistle is blown, you can almost guarantee an Iowa player will throw their hands in the air and look at the bench. Loser limp! While the Iowa program has been very good and had a lot of skilled players the past decade, I don’t think many teams and analysts have used toughness to describe that program.
Blaming officials for outcomes of games is like an adult blaming their mom or wife for not waking them up on time for work. At some point, we all become accountable for our actions and have to fight through our actions and adversity. It’s why sports are the greatest teachers of life lessons. Not every call is going to go your way, so how do you respond? The best teams and programs have coaches and players that move on to the next play and the next man up. The best teams know that officials are going to make calls that you don’t like, or that may be wrong. Do you get tougher as a result or do you use them as the scapegoat?
As a passionate sports fan, I get upset at calls when I watch games. I don’t like it when the judgement calls go against my team, but I know when I’ve got an emotional investment I don’t see things objectively either. However, I cannot stand when I go on social media and see fans ranting about how their team never gets calls, officials are against them, or how their team would be winning/have won if it weren’t for the officials. It’s even worse when players and coaches use that as the convenient excuse.
When I heard the comments by the Dallas Cowboys players and coaches after yesterday’s playoff loss, I heard a team that doesn’t have championship leadership or accountability. Instead of talking about their poor play and constant penalties and lack of discipline throughout the game, they wanted to dwell on one moment where the players used poor clock management and didn’t allow the official the time and space to do his job. They even applauded fans for throwing debris at the officials. Loser limp!
When you’re watching sports, you can see which teams have leadership that preaches toughness and a no excuses mentality. You can see players picking each other up when a call doesn’t go their way or when someone makes a mistake. That is taught, that is practiced, and that is culture. It might take a while for an individual to understand that process, but when it is consistent every day it becomes a habit. I love seeing that from the teams I follow most closely. After a crippling incorrect call in the 2019 Conference Finals that lead directly to an overtime goal for San Jose, Blues coach Craig Berube addressed the media by saying the team had to move on, get tougher, and be ready to play the next game. After that, the Blues won the next three games and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. The same can be said for Brad Underwood and Matt Painter. They will work officials for calls and stand up for their guys, but at the end of the day they never blame officiating and demand more toughness out of their guys.
In the youth levels, you can usually see which kids have parents and coaches that likely routinely yell at officials and blame them for the outcomes of games. On the baseball field it is usually the player that looks at his coach or parent every time a close call goes against him. On the basketball court or football field it is the kid that throws their arms up in the air every time a whistle goes against them. Show me a player or coach that is constantly throwing their arms in the air, and I’ll show you a player or team that isn’t very tough. Quite honestly, those are the teams and fans you enjoy going against the most.
Twitter and social media have brought all of us into each other’s personal lives. For better or for worse, everyone’s opinion can be shared with anyone, including my own. Sports definitely brings out the passion in many people, and opinions and enthusiasm fuel the best fan bases. However, I cannot stand when people blame the officials. Get better, get tougher. Stop making excuses! Loser limp can be spotted from a mile away, and it’s a bad look. When fans complain about officiating, it’s usually when their team isn’t quite good enough. When coaches complain about the officiating, it’s usually because their team isn’t tough enough. Either way, I the teams I root for and coach play against a coach, players, and fanbase that embrace excuses and the loser limp any day.