By Left Field
(ISN) – If this year’s NFL playoffs accomplished anything, it’s been to move the referees from under the microscope to dead centre inside the cross hairs of a sniper’s scope. If that sounds a tad harsh, run that by fans with twitchy trigger fingers in Detroit and Dallas still choking on the bones of contention served up in a buffet of questionable calls that saw their Super Bowl dreams snuffed out either on the field or from the cozy confines of the replay booth.
When phrases such as indisputable evidence and irrefutable proof become key elements of the commentary, perhaps it’s time we took a second or third look at key calls that can impact the outcome of a game, short of whether a 320 pound lineman flinched, or was induced to flinch. When the former head of officiating on one channel tells us during the game that the refs got that that one wrong following a video review and a recently retired referee tells us on another network the next day during a different game that the call was blown after another review, it’s time to put the process under further review. Criticism of that level from those who should know taints the integrity of the game and calls into question the possibility of decisions being affected by unsavoury outside influences. Not that the mob or an owner named Jones, for example, would ever consider jerry-rigging a game for the sake of a few measly million dollars, another home game, or a trip to the Super Bowl.
Before replays, players lived or lost with the calls on the field and that was the end of it. Allowing a couple of flags a game to be reviewed by video was supposed to level the playing field, but based on this year’s debacles, it would appear that too often the games are stuck on tilt while the poor saps in the broadcast booth thumb through the rule book in a futile effort to explain what happened this time.
It’s time to expand the number of times replay can be invoked, specifically at the very least to include pass interference calls. Before you purists scream that the games are too long as it is, ask yourself if you’re going to pull the plug over another four minutes and an extra set of commercials if it means the referees have the opportunity to get it dead right. I’m sure the majority of fans can handle another bathroom break or ode to Budweiser if the call on the field is upheld or reversed with an explanation that includes maximum clarity.
Maybe the solution lies in designing a system that utilizes robot referees that can overturn the decisions of their human counterparts when required. Before you dismiss the notion completely, think about how replays already determine the outcome in football, hockey, baseball and tennis. It’s not that much of a stretch to say we’re already well on the way, whether we like it or not.
The National Football League led the initial charge to replay review in the first place, so why not take the next logical leap with an error free, bribe proof piece of precision machinery that gets it right every time? We have the technology in place, and the owners would buy in big time to any changes that could lead to major savings through a massive reduction in the costs associated with training and hiring referees. And an added bonus would be that fans would no longer have to have their screens filled with those asinine sideline shots of refs with their heads under the hood while the play by play and colour commentators trot out the same old worn out banter. (see indisputable evidence and irrefutable proof above)