Thursday, January 10, 2008

A Questionable Call?

The officiating in football has been driving me crazy for the last few years. I got so annoyed at one point that I decided not to watch any more games, but that resolution didn't take. (I love football.) I still have to fling myself out of the room sometimes, though; bad calls prompt fits of irritated anger that make it literally impossible for me to contain myself and stay seated.

I originally thought that instant replay was a very good thing for football. In real time, the game happens fast and there's a lot going on. It's not easy to get every call right. The opportunity for officials to review calls and reverse them when appropriate seemed like a good improvement. But now I'm wondering if instant replay is like "no child left behind" - that is, a noble and excellent idea in theory and a disaster in practice. It seems to have had an extremely detrimental impact on officials' ability (or maybe willingness) to make good calls in the first place.

I'd like to think that instant replay would do for officials what safety nets do for trapeze artists: give them a cushion of comfort that spurs ever-better performance. But officials seem to have responded to their safety net by doing their jobs with less expertise, less knowledge of the rules, less accuracy, less diligence and less heart. Maybe the cushion of instant replay is actually disempowering performance by introducing the specter of nonstop second-guessing. Would we all become inept and tentative if our every call were subject to instant review and potential reversal?

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