Mama, the Good Book and every marriage counselor on the planet have offered the advice since the beginning of time: Don’t go to bed angry.

Sorry, but if you have committed any piece of your heart and soul to the Boston Red Sox, that was impossible Saturday night.

Most of us haven’t felt this way at the witching hour on an October weekend in about 27 years. And, c’mon, maybe time heals, but that debacle was infinitely easier to accept. It was the perfect storm of two unreliable closers and a guy incapable of outrunning anyone’s grandmother or bending over to tie his own shoelaces.

“And it gets through Buckner!” was settled on the field. “They’re gonna say he’s safe!” was determined by subjectivity, a subsection in a rulebook, and a situation so obscure that it hadn’t ended a game in a century-plus-decade of playoff baseball.

Naturally, we’re all going to see this through our own prescription goggles. Sox fans embrace the we-was-bleeping-robbed philosophy. St. Louis Cardinals (and New York Yankees) fans can’t shake their joy or schadenfreude long enough to think coherently on the issue.

The umpires in question — and credit them on some level for passing a microphone and giving at least an illusion of transparency — engaged in typical Officialspeak. A) “We made the right call.” B) “This is why.” C) The correct call is the correct call, regardless of the situation.”

It’s the level of self-assurance displayed in the final proclamation that is so bothersome.

Of course there’s an institutional arrogance, in the nicest sense that word can be conveyed, among officials in any sport at any level. That is what gives them the conviction and courage to make every tough, snap decision in games that move more quickly and powerfully with each generation.

As a personality trait, it is necessary. It is also maddening. So is the assertion that every rule is ironclad and applied the same way in any situation or place on the time continuum.

Those of us who have watched sports for five minutes in life know that isn’t true. Ask the San Francisco 49ers if the concepts of defensive holding and/or pass interference are interpreted the same way at midfield in the first quarter of a September game as they are on fourth-on-goal in the final play of a Super Bowl.

Referees routinely “swallow their whistles” in the fourth quarter of a clash in the NBA Finals or in overtime when the Stanley Cup is on the line. They take license by surrendering their license and allowing the players on the court, or ice, to settle the issue.

History will show that the players weren’t allowed to settle the issue in Game 3 of the 2013 World Series. The only player who played even a peripheral role in deciding the outcome was Jarrod Saltalamacchia with his sickeningly ill-advised throw to third base.

Allen Craig and Will Middlebrooks didn’t decide the outcome. They had nothing to do with the laws of kinetics leaving them sprawled out on the dirt surrounding third base for the blink of an eye.

The umpiring crew admitted as much when they acknowledged that Middlebrooks’ perceived intent didn’t matter. Any contact between his feet and Craig’s gimpy legs, however incidental it may have been, was seen in the letter of the law as impeding the runner. That rule, and moreso Jim Joyce and Dana DeMuth’s interpretation of it, put the Red Sox in the no-win situation to end all no-win situations.

In addition to being a rarely-invoked rule, obstruction leaves a mile of wiggle room for the umpire. And doesn’t everything in baseball? From the strike zone to the balk call to fan interference, so much is in the eye of the beholder. There’s enough stuff that happens during a game that defies black-and-white comparisons. It was supremely frustrating to hear the men in charge assess the aftermath of a play so subjective with such surety in a spot that meant so much.

Worse yet, there seems no mechanism for examining this excessive use of authority when it happens. Evaluations and corrections in baseball are random. There was a protracted discussion after DeMuth’s obviously botched call of the attempted force play on Dustin Pedroia in the first inning of Game 1. Saturday night? At the end of an insanely great game? Nothing.

Had the Cardinals jacked one anywhere near the foul pole or against that razor-thin yellow stripe atop the wall to tentatively win it, the umps would have scuttled into the tunnel to watch the video and uphold or overrule accordingly. In the case of Restlessleggate, there was no review process in place to examine the dreaded “judgment call,” which, by the way, was garbage.

Baseball purists whisper with reverential and romantic glee about the sport’s human element. Well, on Saturday night, that human element screwed up what had been up to that point a World Series game for eternity.

And messed up many a good night’s sleep from sea to shining sea.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.


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