Ball Five: Coming to grips with instant replay

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By Jay Davis

I am basically an old school guy. I still don’t like the designated hitter. I believe that football teams should run the ball and stop the run. Home teams should wear white at home in baseball and basketball and on the road in football. I wonder what good it is to make three-pointers when you can’t make free throws. I believe that the team is a family and what goes on with the team should not be taken home to gripe to mom and dad about.
I have been coming to grips with using video replay to help make game decisions for a while now. Way back when the NFL starting using replay I was against the idea. I figured players make mistakes, coaches make mistakes and officials make mistakes. Human nature is part of the game. Besides, in the early days of replay the system was so screwed up that many of the missed calls were not being overturned anyway. It still happens.
Video replays have evolved over years and so have the systems for putting them to use. The NFL does a pretty good job with replays. College football does an even better job. The NBA? If you watched the finals this year then you saw that NBA replay officiating was a joke. The referees were making calls all game and there were no problems. Along came the waning minutes and seconds of games and suddenly the refs could not make a call without stopping the game and going to the replay official. They were stopping games with 3.7 seconds left (and giving the teams free time outs in the process) to double check a three-point shot when the shooter was two feet behind the line.
Now the talk is that replay needs to be expanded in Major League Baseball. If you saw the replay of Monday’s game between the Red Sox and Rays, you know why. The home plate ump blew a call that ended the game. The Red Sox should have tied the game, but lost 2-1. MLB umpires have been having a rough year. There have been too many blown calls. Not just missed calls, but mistakes on plays that decided the final outcome of the game. Heck, they’ve even been caught making mistakes about the rules of the game during the 2012 season.
So, of course, there is a faction out there that is screaming for extending the use of replay to get the calls right.
I am forcing myself to agree. And I mean forcing. Deep down I am quite sure that more replay is not needed, better umping is. The MLB umpire’s union is a strong one. There are a lot of officials out there who should be and should have already been put out to pasture. The real fix is in getting younger, better-trained umpires in the rotation.
But, technology is the way of the future. I heard this morning they even use replay officials in professional lacrosse. Actually I heard this morning that there IS professional lacrosse. The cameras are already in position. Baseball games use a lot of cameras. The least a game ever has is around six. They can get the calls right.
But, so can football and basketball. Maybe it’s not about getting the calls right. Maybe it’s about getting the calls right the right way. Nothing spoils the rhythm of game like a three-minute break while the officials try to decide what the right call is.
Maybe baseball will get it right. I doubt it though. Football and basketball have been struggling to figure out how to use their technology for a long time and neither league has figured out how to iron the wrinkles.
We’ll see, but I’m guessing it will be long time before you see a Ball Five headline and a column about how replay has made the games better.

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