Video Review – Technology to Ruin Sport

OK, my first blog was a whimsical look at sports in my life.  My second blog was a more technical article, breaking down my predictions for round 1 of the NHL playoffs.  This, my third blog piece, will be pure rant.

I can’t take it anymore.

Technology is ruining ALL of the sports I love.  And what has sent me over the edge is not some “my team lost, refs you suck moment”.  It is simply an  “enough is enough” this is getting ridiculous as a fan of the game.  What has sent me over the edge is the Blues – Blackhawks game tonight.  What was a wildly entertaining example of playoff hockey became a farce of sport in the final 10 minutes.  And I think it is the perfect illustration of why video review is ruining not just hockey, but all sport.

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For those of you not watching the game tonight, this was the subject of a coaches challenge on an offside call.  The goal by Tarasenko was taken back based on Lehtera lifting his back foot a fraction of an inch off the ice as puck crossed the blueline.  Full disclosure, to the LETTER of the law, the call was correct.  He was offside.  His skate is not on the ice.  But no player on the ice knew that.  Play continued, both teams competed, and a fair amount of time (i.e. not immediately after) a goal was scored.  The Blues would have been up 2-1.  As it was, they go back to 1-1, and Tarasenko later gets a penalty, and the Blackhawks score a controversial powerplay goal to take the lead.

Sorry folks, I was always told you don’t argue offside calls.  How this ever was included in “Coach’s Challenge” by the NHL is ridiculous.  Not to mention the “Goaltender Interference” reviews, which represents the worst in sports. A poorly written, too much grey area rule then exposed to slow motion, HD review?  The NHL’s Goalie Interference rule makes the NFL catch rule look like gospel in comparison.

Again in fairness, the Shaw go ahead goal for the Blackhawks was a good goal.  Contact with Elliott was not made until puck was in the crease, which per the rule as it stands today is allowed.  But nobody was sure.  Even after several looks.

So, riddle me this? Where has video review improved sport?

  • The NHL, as indicated above, is awful. It is a coin flip, even among experts, what the call will be once it goes to review.  And offsides, this is such a bad application it is laughable.  This is the equivalent of football allowing false starts to be reviewable.
  • The NFL seems to have taken it on the chin repeatedly, with the catch rule, which has left NFL players, coaches and officials proclaiming “I don’t know what a catch is anymore!”  It seems to be a weekly issue now.
  • And don’t get me started on the CFL, which have taken it to the absolute worst common denominator, by allowing pass interference to be subject to review.  PI simply can’t stand up to video review.  There will always be some contact.
  • MLB, long thought to be the bastion of tradition, have resisted allowing balls and strikes to be reviewed, but will look at base plays, foul/ fair rulings, and now slides and interference.  Not to go on a homer rant, but I think the early season ruling in the Blue Jays/ Rays game where Bautista was ruled to have interfered with the second basemen, ending the game.

Bottom line, the beauty of sports is the human element.  It is putting people in high pressure situations, and watching them rise to the challenge.  Mistakes and errors make the games great, as the perfect game in almost all sports would mean nobody scores.  I think that this human element applies to the officials as well.

Have I been guilty of yelling at my TV at the officials over a missed call?  Hell ya.  If these wall could talk!  I will say this though, more often than not, in my mind those guys get it right.  Or at least they used to, before technology came in.  Slowing it down frame by frame, enlarging it 2000x, to see what happened in a split second, has exposed the stripes to a microscopic level of scrutiny that sport simply doesn’t need.  Remember, these officials are generally making these calls, in split seconds, in motion, within the field of play.

So, what has video review brought us?

  • Delays to the game, sometimes to games that are already too long.  But in all cases, delays that suck the energy, momentum and flow from the game.
  • Exposed rules, where the definitions (hello catch rule, I see you Bettman, and I don’t know what goalie interference is either) simply don’t hold up to the spirit of which they were intended under frame-by-frame review.
  • Referee’s who defer making calls (or feel obliged to call what they suspect instead of what they know they saw) because they know that video is there to get it right.  Now to clarify, I am not sure that this is truly the case YET with NHL officials, but it is ABSOLUTELY the case in the NFL.

Agree or disagree, would love to hear your thoughts?

I dont call that progress.  I call it another reason to drink as a sports fan.  Bottom up St. Louis, make it a double.  Win or lose, hit the booze, and dont laugh at your shoes.

 

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