A makeup call happens when a referee calls a penalty they regret, then later calls a penalty on the opposing team to make up for it. Makeup calls have unofficially existed in sports for decades. At the highest levels, the assumption is they’re less frequently used.
Are these calls just a figment of the disgusted viewer’s imagination? They certainly have a bad reputation, and there will always be skeptics. Mutterings about a makeup call affecting last year’s Super Bowl led to articles being written about it. There have been officials who tried to sue reporters ultimately because of makeup calls. There are backlogs and testimonials about them from current and ex-officials since the early days of the internet. The fact is, these calls happen in many sports, and officials from every level have attested to it.
Makeup Calls and Flares
Believe it or not, refs are humans too, and it’s a tough job. They occasionally make bad calls and feel remorse about it. The reason a ref may still use the calls at a professional level is because within the rulebook there is often no other way to replace what one team lost from the bad call. Makeup calls can cause feelings of joy to stir within one fanbase, while everything from sadness to rage can resonate within the other. And the ire of the fans can have consequences. Sometimes the refs are just trying to avoid having things launched at them.
Fans want integrity in their sports, but then somehow get bamboozled into exchanging their integrity for a lowly makeup call. It’s kind of like getting the knock-off version of the expensive thing you wanted. It’s better than nothing. Sometimes though, it’s even worse than nothing.
Since a bad call often goes unchecked, either by the lack of a rule or because a challenge flag didn’t get tossed, the refs wear the weight of the fans. Their subsequent makeup call may have just ruined the other team’s possession, when nothing should have been meddled with from the start. This often results in an uneven trade and can leave fans feeling lousy about the game’s outcome.
How much thought has the corporate side of professional sports invested in this topic? Do the suit and tie wearers from the front offices unofficially support these makeup calls? Because a solution is so simple it’s almost annoying: give the coaches the ability to challenge every aspect of the game. Do the powers that be resist implementing simple solutions because an actual resolution takes away their ability to control an outcome? Nobody wants to admit it, but a single whistle blown at the right time could make or break the fortunes of those invested.
Let’s get one thing straight, every major sport is a business. Everything that makes up any one game is part of that business. Players are businessmen in uniform, as are the refs, and even the mascots. They are conducting business like we common folk buy coffee, or ride the subway, only in an entirely different context. So, when you pump your fist rooting for your favorite team, it is essentially the same as rooting for the grocery store clerk swiping bar codes. Peyton Manning flashback, anyone?
Generally speaking, the pro players understand and accept their roles as public figures/businessmen. Some embrace it, some push it away, but they all know it’s there. Their substantial paychecks constantly remind them. It’s business before pleasure. It’s money before fun. And for the occasional player, it’s all business and no fun at all.
The question of whether or not makeup calls ruin the game is an easy one to answer. It can easily ruin games. When you walk away feeling your team got cheated in the exchange of them, it does. When you know the corporate side of professional sports can easily amend the problem and instead chooses to look the other way, it becomes a question of integrity.