Isn’t it time for all of professional sports to embrace available technology
If you are watching the Super Bowl on your couch today you are in a better position to referee the action than the officials on the field in Indianapolis. Just consider the technology you have at your disposal: 40 cameras to track every angle of every play. Some cameras are equipped with super zoom lenses while others offer super slow motion capabilities. The Skycam maneuvers directly over the players’ heads to provide a God’s eye view of the action while the 1st & Ten graphics system generates a fluorescent yellow line to tell you precisely where the first down marker is. Whoops, you blinked. No worries, four different cameras recorded the play at 1,000 frames per second. Play the footage back and you’ll make the right call.
While this technological tour de force was created to maximize the entertainment value of America’s greatest sporting event, technology has disrupted the game itself. Digital enhancements have created an augmented reality in which the experience on TV is richer than the referee’s view. Technology has therefore increased our expectation for the way the game is officiated and exposed the utter fallibility of those mortals in zebra stripes. Sorry refs, it’s not necessarily best to be the closest to the action. Better to have 40 different camera angles to scrutinize.
Granted, it’s not easy to be a referee. We only remember their names when they make bad calls. Football officials are only able to review video footage on a limited number of plays during the game. To make matters worse, the decision to challenge a call is left to those with the least objectivity on the field — the opposing coaches. And this is how the rules incentivize them to act: “Don’t use up your challenges now, coach, because while you might think that call was bad, just wait until we really screw up the next one!”
Isn’t it time for all of professional sports to embrace available technology and give referees the tools to use at their discretion in order to make the right call? They could sure use the help. According to an ESPN analysis, when it comes to close calls in baseball, umpires are only 80 percent accurate. If you understand the limitations of the human eye, that statistic shouldn’t be all that surprising.
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