When I went online Monday morning, I was expecting a certain amount of…oh, what’s the word…irrational hand wringing over the actions of MMA referee Kim Winslow.
Full disclosure: I didn’t actually see the Strikeforce card this past weekend for a number of reasons, chief among them the fact that I’m in Mexico, where a Showtime subscription is rarer than an honest police officer (trust me on that one). But, like the true fan that I am (my eyes are rolling too, don’t worry) I’ve since watched the night’s fights online. I’m fully caught up on the awful officiating atrocities that went down Saturday night.
And let’s get this out the door now: there is cause for complaint in the refereeing of Kim Winslow. No doubt about it. The argument can be made both that she made improper stand-ups, and stopped the fight too late in the Muhammed Lawal vs. Lorenz Larkin fight. I’m not going to insult your intelligence by pretending her actions were entirely beyond reproach. There’s room for argument there, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Fun fact: not an MMA event goes by without SOMEONE in my group of watchers complaining about the actions of the referee AT LEAST once. Once per fight, that is.
You know the scene: you’re watching the fights with your friends, beer in hand, smile on face, nacho cheese stain on Xtreme Couture sweater-vest (I wish). The fight is fun, the action rollicking. Best part – the guy you and your friends kinda sorta want to win because he’s from your country, or has a funny nickname, or is Clay Guida, is winning.
Then all of a sudden, just when your boy is on top and whaling away, the referee stands the the token Brazilian guy/Jesse “The Water” Bongfeldt/Clay Guida up.
“That’s bullshit!” your friend, who’s had a couple Pabst’s and is feeling froggy, shouts at the screen. “That’s BS! F*ckin ref! Mario Yamasaki/Dan Miragliotta/Yves Lavigne/whoever is the worst ref in MMA!”
And so it goes. Fan b*tching about refereeing is nothing new in sports. You need only attend any Yankees game, any Montreal Canadiens game, any Manchester United game, or any gathering of people in the city of Philadelphia to see folks spewing absolutely outrageous hatred towards referees. It’s an institution in sports, one I wouldn’t want to see go away no matter how much eye rolling it inspires. Referees aren’t kings, and questioning their calls – especially when they’re dead wrong – is part of what keeps them honest.
Remember the night referee Yves Lavignes completely bungled the Phillipe Nover – Kyle Bradley stoppage? Remember how fans in the arena booed Yves with a passion every time his face was shown on screen for the rest of the night? Remember how fans were calling Yves “the worst referee in MMA” on MMA blogs and forums? Remember how Yves had to publicly apologize for his actions to fans?
Yeah, me neither. That’s because, like the rest of the MMA world, it was out of my mind by the time I was having my Monday morning coffee. I also don’t remember how Yves once got in seriously hot water for calling Josh Koscheck a p*ssy (in so many words) for not standing and trading with Paul Daley.
In a similar vein, I’m having trouble recalling the night Dan Miragliotta basically gave Kimbo Slice the fight against James Thompson in the closest thing to a worked fight I’ve ever seen in MMA. I’m also a little foggy on the night Steve Mazzagatti stopped Brock Lesnar from jerking off Frank Mir’s nose in his UFC debut, and no less an MMA authority than Dana White called Steve “the worst referee in MMA”.
In every one of those cases, the story was almost a non-story. Sure, us fans stomped our feet and hollered to the high heavens – for a few minutes, at least. Then we got over it. Far as I know, Yves, Steve, and Dan are all still MMA officials, and no one is calling for their resignations.
Yet we’re still talking about Kim Winslow on Wednesday, practically an eternity for referee b*tching. And what’s more, we have fighters coming out of the woodwork, using the Winslow-shaped straw man (straw woman?) as an excuse for their own loss. Trevor Smith seems to feel Winslow’s actions in the Lawal fight were a reaction to her early stoppage in his own fight. Yeah, that sure sounds nice…
I’m going to go ahead an throw the gauntlet down right here: the reason we’re even still talking about Kim Winslow is because she’s a woman. Plain and simple. When a man screws up in a high-testosterone “man’s” sport (and it is, just ask “Cyborg” Santos) it’s a story for five minutes. We b*tch, we feel better, we move on to the next thing.
But when it’s a woman who screws up, the criticism and complaints take on a whole new energy – not to mention a decidedly sexist tone.
Not to get too basic on you, but sh*t happens. Mistakes are made. Just because “Big” John McCarthy ignored Jake Shield’s repeated grabbing of the trunks against Martin Kampmann doesn’t make him any less the best referee ever. Just because Steve Mazzagatti deducted a point for strikes to the back of Mir’s head without first warning Brock doesn’t mean he secretly hates guys from North Dakota. Just because Yves and Dan and all the rest made mistakes – big ones – doesn’t mean they have “no business being in MMA” like many have said of Kim Winslow.
Everyone makes mistakes, to err is human, and all that. Kim Winslow made a mistake officiating Saturday night, meaning she now joins the proud ranks of every MMA official ever, in the history of always.
Time to move on, folks.
By Elton Hobson