When psychologists discuss the science of memory they will sometimes speak of the “illusion-of-truth effect” which states that the more we hear a particular opinion the more likely we are to believe it.
Strangely, even if we are told that a certain fact is false that still won’t prevent us from giving it credence if it keeps cropping up in our everyday life.
That is why politicians will keep repeating the same slogan over and over again, and why those commercials during the Fox Soccer Report are gradually convincing you that “Tylenol” can save your weekends and that “always infinity” is the pad for you.
So where does Major League Soccer fit into the “illusion-of-truth” theory?
Tune into almost any game, or read any match report and more often than not there will be mention of the low quality of the officiating; a red card that shouldn’t have been awarded, a penalty kick that should have been given. The list will be extensive and probably taking up as much air time and space as the analysis of the action itself.
There’s nothing wrong with discussing controversial decisions, in many ways they are the life blood of the game, but the conversation is steering away from the criticism of individual calls towards a general argument that every bad decision is somehow representative of all MLS officials.
Even decisions that take one or two replays to debunk are starting to elicit howls of outrage from armchair pundits and the twitterati, as the pitchforks are gathered and the torches lit in preparation for running each individual referee out-of-town.
Players and coaches love it of course. They can argue that they didn’t lose the game because of that missed open goal or that decision to play a defensive midfielder wide on the left, it was all because of that goal kick that should have been a corner, or that harsh sending off for a two footed tackle.
Are there bad officials in MLS? Yes. Are there bad officials in all leagues? Yes. Yet for some reason Major League Soccer and it’s supporters have become obsessed with the quality of officiating to a degree that has become unhealthy to the progress of the sport.
Wrong decisions happen; we need to deal with them, discuss them, and move on, and most of all we need to stop treating individual incidents as being indicative of some kind of universal law.
Perhaps the cruellest irony of all is that even a piece like this which sets out to defend MLS officials will, according to the aforementioned “illusion-of-truth effect”, merely strengthen the idea in your mind that they are inept.
The more we hear it discussed the more we believe it.
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