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You Be the Judge

This article is more than 10 years old.

People who argue that figure skating, ice dancing, gymnastics, and various other competitions in which the opinions of judges decide who wins shouldn’t be called “sports” for that reason should perhaps consider the role opinion sometimes plays in deciding winners elsewhere.

The opinion of an umpire can alter – even pervert - the outcome of a World Series. Ask anybody who was rooting for the Cardinals in 1985. Or ask US skier Julia Mancuso, who was stopped mid-run during the giant slalom Wednesday because teammate Lindsey Vonn crashed well off to the side of the course. (Mancuso had to go through the course again. She'd been in 6th place at the time of the yellow flag and her re-do put her 18th heading into today's final runs.)

Even some people who love pro football will acknowledge that any NFL official could call a holding penalty on almost any play. That’s the nature of the game. In the interest of keeping the game on track, the officials don’t do that. Their judgment has a significant impact on how the game is played.

Basketball? Ask any established player whether the officials afford him more leeway than they did when he was a rookie. Ask lots of men who played against teams that included Michael Jordan whether the officials used one set of rules to determine whether Jordan traveled and another set for everybody else.

It can probably be legitimately argued that the results of the games we regard as relatively free from the opinions of judges aren’t, which is kind of fun to consider in the context of the Olympics.

Do Olympic judges and officials have too much power over outcomes? Tell us what you think.

This program aired on February 25, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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