Friday, July 24, 2009

Again with the Instant Replay Stupidity

In life, there is no pause button, no rewind, and definitely no replay. ~ An anonymous but wise person

I have something to say.


Thank you, I feel better now.

The idiots are at it again, demanding more instant replay, this time in baseball. The current focus for this misguided attempt to screw up a great sport came about because of a blown call in a recent game between Minnesota and Oakland. Minnesota lost the game 14-13 because the umpire missed the runner's foot hitting the plate before the tag was applied.

Well, that's a shame, but it's not the end of the world, and the screams for replay overlook a couple of things. First of all, it's a 162 game season. If the Twinkies miss the playoffs because of this loss, you'll probably be able to point at 75 or so more losses that didn't involve blown calls and ask, "Why didn't you just win one of those?"

Second, Minnesota had a 10 run lead and flat blew it. With any sort of decent play, they shouldn't have been trying to tie the score. Don't blame the umpire, blame a miserable job by the pitchers.

I have ranted and raved about using instant replay to second guess officials. I ranted when baseball sold it's soul. I got upset when the subject came up during the Chicago-LA-Angels-of-Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga playoff series. I railed on and on about replay officials blowing calls. What set me off this time was Mike Greenberg of Mike and Mike in the Morning reprising his stupid logic about the wonders of replay.

Basically, his argument comes down to "We've got the technology, so why not use it?" As I explained, using that brilliant reasoning we should be embracing performance enhancing drugs. After all, what better use of technology than to manufacture our athletes? Better yet, why don't we just do away with them altogether and just let computers play the games? I mean, given the state of modern computer-generated graphics, the game would look as good, and we wouldn't have to listen to all that whining about contracts.

Mr. Greenberg says not to tell him about the "human element." The players are the human element; the judgment of the officials should be totally mechanical and utterly correctable, even though replay has been proven to be as fallible as the guys on the field (see the "blowing calls" link above).

So, I'm going to try to explain why replay detracts from sports in a way that even Mike Greenberg can understand it.

  • The umpires and referees are part of the human element. They're in the rule book, and their judgment is as much a part of these games as the judgements made by coaches and players.
  • Replay is performed by human beings, too, and those guys are fallible just like the guys on the field. It just takes them longer to make their mistakes. Which is utterly inexcusable. You can understand blowing a bang-bang play, but missing whether a football went 10 yards after watching endless replays? That's criminal.
  • Officials come to depend on replay. In college football, where every stinking play is reviewed, we've all seen times when officials on the field deliberately held up play waiting to help from above.
  • Thinking that replay will always save their butts, officials in football and basketball have gotten miserably sloppy. Worse, it's extending to things that aren't even reviewable, like penalty calls. Has anyone else noticed that their is no referee in college who knows what pass interference is?
  • Replay reviews destroy the flow of the game. When a great basketball game gets delayed for 10 minutes while the refs review replay after replay trying to decide if there are 10.5 or 10.6 seconds left (and having them decide there are 14 seconds left), the entire complexion of the game can be altered. When a football team is driving down the field late in the game, it is pitiful to watch the replay official let the air out of the stadium by taking forever to confirm a ruling on the field.
  • Which brings us to what the original point of replay was supposed to be: To correct obvious, egregiously bad calls. Instead, games are interrupted at key moments so we can be told, after a totally unsuitable delay to detect whether or not a player was out of bounds by a millimeter, that "The ruling on the field stands."
Sooner or later, the morons who think replay is the be-all-and-end-all will have penalties being reviewed. Worse, penalties will be called from the replay booth, ensuring that no football game can be played in under six hours. Advertisers love replay; it gives them that many more opportunities to put commercials into a game. As the games get longer and longer, rules makers will find imaginative ways to screw up the game (whichever game it is) by "speeding it up" because play has become too slow.

The NCAA tried this a couple of years ago, and succeeded in sucking the very air out of games by essentially doing nothing but reducing the number of plays, while the games stayed as long as ever.

All sports have evolved over the years, sometimes getting better, sometimes not. But when you screw up the game with technology, you're destroying the very spirit of sport.

Y'know, Congress seems to be very interested in avoiding addressing the important issues, what their kvetching about steroids and the BCS. If they really wanted to do something for the world of sport, they would ban the use of replay in officiating.

Now that's change I can believe in.

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