Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Replay the Replay?

Advocates of video replay in sports consistently argue that the cumbersome, often-ponderous process is worth it because, above all, replays help officials "get things right".

Except when they don't.

Case in point: the Syracuse-Toledo college football game last weekend. Syracuse emerged with an overtime victory, but it turns out a missed call on an extra point late in the game probably gave The Orange a win it shouldn't have had.

Here's the replay the officials should have viewed. Apparently, the replay official focused on a sideline-camera view rather than the opposite-endzone camera view you'll see in the clip. Mid-American Conference officials are acknowledging the mistake and saying they share the frustration of Toledo's players, coaches and fans. You can imagine how good that feels in Toledo.

But what are the options here? Really, none. The PAT in question was kicked with 2:07 left in the 4th quarter. As you'll see in the clip, it was an unusual kick--the kicker pulled the pull hard to the left. Unlike a long field goal attempt, an extra point doesn't give the endzone officials time to track the flight of the ball and gauge its path. It's bam-bam.

Bad call on the field? Well, sure, but not an easy call--and both endzone officials called the kick "good". Blown call by the replay official? Certainly.

So what do you do about it? Nothing. You learn from it and move on. MAC referees will certainly be more careful from now on in asking for camera angles on replays. But the bottom line is this: stuff happens. There are bad bounces and bad calls in sports. Period.

I have trouble with fans who contend that a bad call "cost us the game". Every single call in a game makes a difference; we just tend to focus on the ones we think make a difference. Could the refs have called holding on that thrilling first-quarter TD pass? What about that defensive-holding call right after halftime? It goes on and on.

In the case of Syracuse-Toledo, the missed call gave Syracuse a 3-point lead with 2:07 to go. Toledo wound up tying the game on a field goal as regulation time ran out and then Syracuse prevailed in overtime. Plenty of other places the game might have swung toward Toledo after the call, not to mention what happened before the call.

I'm not a fan of replay in general because I believe it slows the game down and provides only an illusion of fairness, focusing on a few moments in a game and ignoring myriad other decisions. But even those who think video replay is a good thing will have to concede that at some point, even the replay can be "wrong". And then what?

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