Leslie Nielsen officiating theory proven


I am working on figuring out how to link to my source here – but it may be that there is no way to link to it online. The source is Sports Illustrated the magazine. (If I can figure out how to link to it, I’ll post it.) In the last issue, featuring Auburn’s victory, there is a great article that discusses the question of why home teams win such a disproportionate amount of games in all sports every year. The authors looked at win-loss records dating back many decades. The percentage of victories by the home team has remained alarmingly consistent. In the article, the authors mention several of the more popular reasons folks believe home teams win more, only to diminish them in favor of the ultimate reason: a Leslie Nielsen-like home-field bias by the officials.

Yes, lots of officiating decisions are difficult to evaluate because they tend to be subjective. One area the authors investigated was the less subjective role of soccer officials during injury time. Combing through piles of info, the authors discovered that soccer officials routinely shortened the stated injury time for home teams with the lead, while extending it if home teams were behind. Let me explain. A soccer game is generally 90 minutes, but often the game is extended for a few minutes because of injuries that took time out from the game. Most games are extended by 2-5 minutes or so. At the beginning of this “injury time”, a sign at half field clearly indicates exactly how much injury time will be played. But the officials are the only ones who keep the “official” time. What the authors discovered is that the officials blatantly shorten or lengthen the amount of time based on the circumstances facing the home team.

There is more evidence cited throughout for other sports too – but the bottom line is that the authors concluded that officiating is the number one factor when explaining why home teams have the advantage they do.

So Mike McCarthy should talk with the Packers before the game Sat and tell them to EXPECT some horrid calls and to expect a home field officiating bias and to expect having to play sometimes against 12, not 11. But if it gets out of control, McCarthy will also need to stand up for his team and let the refs hear it!


12 Responses to “Leslie Nielsen officiating theory proven”

  1. Dave in Tucson Says:

    OK, a couple things:

    1) Leslie Nielson? I know who he is; but what’s the connection to officiating favoring the home team?

    2) This (regular NFL) season, the home team was 144-112 (56%). Not exactly what I’d call “disproportionate”

    3) I think there are good and sufficient reasons to explain HFA without invoking a referee conspiracy (travel time, partisan crowd, unfamiliar environment)

    That said, I would certainly be interested to see if penalties called favored the home team (outside of stuff that could be influenced by the crowd, like false start and delay of game).


  2. Tom Freeman Says:

    Take a look at this clip from Naked Gun. The point is that the home-plate ump, played by Leslie Nielsen, is playing to the home crowd.

  3. Daybreak Doppler: That’s What She Said | PocketDoppler.com Says:

    […] Packer Geeks says the Leslie Nielsen officiating theory proven. […]

  4. Doug In Sandpoint Says:

    18 penalties called against the Packers in Chicago changing the outcome of the game, the divisional winner and home field advantage in the playoffs. While not all games are decided by such obvious BS I certaainly expect it in the Windy City where corruption is an art. Watch for it in Atlanta. Expect it in Chicago.

  5. Dave in Tucson Says:

    A quick scan of the play-by-play text for this year’s games (including the 4 wildcard games) suggests this is not true.

    For visiting teams, I count 2318 called penalties, 1984 enforced
    For home teams, I count 2347 called penalties, 2026 enforced

    Offsetting and declined penalties were both counted as unenforced.

  6. Phil in Atlanta Says:

    Interesting post, and it probably isn’t that far off. I’m more concerned about McCarthy being able to challenge calls correctly, and that involves the guys in the booth being able to see replays in time. If they notice that the replays in the booth are coming quite a bit slower than what is being shown to the TV audience, they need to get that fixed, or start relying on someone with access to a TV. Can’t wait for the game Sat.!

  7. awhayes Says:

    Dave – interesting – but you’re using info from just this year. While it may be more even this year (both with home team wins and penalties), the authors studied this over time to reach these conclusions. They found that the home team wins (I believe) 65% of the time and that the calls given to home teams routinely outnumber those given to away teams.

    Again, I’ll try to figure out a way to link to it as I’d like to read it again myself (I admittedly just skimmed through it). Just a very interesting article.

    With you Phil on that one – I forgot about the Gonzalez “catch”.

    • Dave in Tucson Says:

      I have the play-by-play text of all games going back to the 2000 season, so I can check at least that far (at some later point).

      Some more penalty stats:
      –By far the two most-called penalties were Offensive Holding (951) and False start (852)

      –Defensive Offside (349) and DPI (287) were a distant third and fourth

      –The most penalized teams were Raiders (208), Lions (196), Titans (183), and Eagles (179)


  8. Dave in Tucson Says:

    Some more penalty stats:

    –Yeah, when you look at the last 11 years (2000-2010), there is a bias: 18669 penalties enforced on visiting teams, 17557 enforced on the home team

    –That’s a total of 152,421 penalty yards on the visiting team, versus 144,502 penalty yards on the home team (51.3% vs 48.7%).

    –The bias doesn’t go away when you eliminate false start and delay of game penalties

    –But this seems like such a small bias–I still think there’s a reasonable explanation in that it’s just harder to execute well on the road in front of a hostile crowd.

    It should also be observed that there is a wide range of rates at which teams get penalized. The Raiders incurred the most penalty yards in this period (11,352). Not counting the Texans (who didn’t play in 2000 or 2001), the Jets had the fewest yards (7,328).

    The Packers were more-or-less in the middle, a bit toward the high end with 9,559 yards.


  9. mark Says:

    i’ll be honest- i didnt read the note completely- when you mentioned the Auburn win i immediately got pissed off because college fotball has turned into mini pro f-ball- all the best players are being bought – its worthless to think of it as a real thing.

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