I grew up with a few rules when it came to baseball, perhaps the most prominent was you don’t argue balls and strikes.
It seems simple enough — the ump’s word is final and you complain at your own peril.
That whole notion, however has been eschewed these last few years with instant replay finding its way more and more into the major sports.
Baseball was the last of the big four to take that leap in the second half of last season when it started reviewing home runs.
Now, I love the sport, but damn, it moves slow enough as it is without taking time to check six different camera angles to see if the ball actually left the park.
When it was introduced, however, the caretakers of the game said that would be it, just home runs, there would be no slippery slope. The problem is, once it is in, the argument has become ‘Well the technology is already there, let’s make sure every call is right.’
This has been the rallying cry among many surrounding the game, especially the last week when umpire error has come to the forefront during the playoffs — most notably in Game 4 of the ALCS when the umpiring crew made three blatant mistakes in about a 15-minute span.
This is the thing to remember about umpires, in an nine-inning game an umpire will make upwards of 400 calls. The law of averages says he is going to get some of them wrong. If he is unsure of a call, he should be referring to others in the crew, and with there being six pairs of eyes wearing blue on the field during the playoffs, someone should have the right read on it. And if they don’t, well bad breaks are a part of the game, and in my experience, over the course of a season they even out.
Officials are also up for review where they can be dismissed if they are consistently bad enough, or rewarded with big games like the playoffs or the World Series if they are deemed worthy enough.
Besides, there is no guarantee that having the ability to re-check a play will yield the correct result, and it doesn’t matter what the sport.
Every week in football — be it the NFL or CFL — officials duck under the monitor hood for what should be 90 seconds, but inevitably it drags on for several minutes, and they come out with a result that not even the commentators can make heads or tails of.
That’s even if the play is actually reviewable.
Last year, it was referee Ed Hochuli — in a game between Denver and San Diego — who botched a call on an incomplete pass that should have been a fumble, but the initial ruling didn’t allow for a replay. The Broncos incorrectly maintained possession and they scored the winning touchdown and Hochuli was vilified.
And let’s not forget the replay that launched a dynasty with the virtually unknown tuck rule in the 2001 AFC championship game between Oakland and New England.
Same goes in hockey; I’m often wondering what the replay officials are looking at.
Plus, you can ask any Buffalo Sabres fan and he/she still won’t agree with the NHL’s half-baked excuse for not checking Brett Hull’s cup-winner in 1999.
But instead of scaling back the use of instant replay people are always looking for more to use it, flow of the game be damned.
According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, there are a number of NHL general managers that want the use of video replay to include goals that had bounced off the end zone netting and back into play. Come on, there are already four officials who can make that call.
There is nothing more frustrating than to have a football game stopped every five minutes for a replay, and there are few things more anti-climatic than a post-replay goal celebration.
It comes down to trying too hard to be perfect.
Officials have become victim of the instant replay, and while at home we get 30 looks in super slo-mo, officials get one look at full speed.
I personally would rather the mistakes to be due to human error instead of because of an inconclusive view on replay.
I hope baseball remembers replays are a very slippery slope.
If they give in to more instant replay, that age-old rule about arguing balls and strikes may become a discussion over having those susceptible to replay too.