When I was a kid, my coaches always taught me never to complain about blown calls. It was our job as a team to be so much better than the other team that it didn’t matter what the referees called. Now, that’s not to say that we always rose to that challenge, but it taught me an important lesson: don’t get upset by what you can’t control.
In the 2013 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Game, Michigan was on the receiving end of many blown calls. In addition to an early missed goaltending call and a clean block by Trey Burke that was called a shooting foul, lots of contact by Louisville was ignored. Now, I’m not foolish enough to say that the refs were biased in favor of Louisville. Refs are human and are prone to error. It was just unfortunate for me, as a Michigan fan, that the errors happened to hurt Michigan. Those earlier missed calls forced Michigan to foul at the end of the game to stay alive, and Louisville seized the opportunity by draining its free throws.
These missed calls will not make any major headlines. This was not the Fail Mary/Inaccurate Reception of the 2012 Seahawks-Packers game in which a blown call by the replacement officials on the final play of the game decided the outcome. Had Michigan gotten those fouls called, its players might have missed their free throws, and the missed calls on the goaltending and block by Burke would have only made up four of the six points that Michigan lost by. Had Louisville players fouled out, others could have risen to the occasion. However, the indeterminate effect that the calls in the Michigan-Louisville game had is only one of the reasons that they will not be discussed. The main reason is that it is unfair to Louisville’s players to insinuate that they only won because of blown calls. The members of the Louisville basketball team accomplished something that will be with them forever. To suggest that they only won because of the referees cheapens their accomplishment and adds nothing to Michigan. Louisville won the Championship, and they deserved it. Although it is easy for Michigan fans to gripe over a few missed calls, even if the NCAA made a statement that the calls were bad, Michigan would not be the National Champion. Instead of crying foul over the bad calls in this game, it is time for Michigan to look to next year. Michigan had the youngest team in the tournament, and even if a few players go pro, a solid group of experienced players will remain.
Ultimately, it was just as likely before the game started that the calls would have gone against Louisville. Teams agree to play in an imperfect system where either team could benefit from the effect of missed calls. Although it’s easy to argue that instant replay should be more widely available, frequent pauses in the game to double check calls would interrupt the flow of the game and take players out of their rhythm. In the end, even when your team loses a close game like the Championship Game here, you have to hold your head high. Michigan played with heart and surprised a lot of people in the tournament. Although they lost, they gave it their all, which was all that they could control. And in the end, that’s all that matters.