Give all calls over to replay

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Before we get to the point of this column, allow me to say that I am a sports traditionalist.

I think the designated hitter is an abomination and that a playoff would ruin college football’s regular season, which is the only one in all of sports where every game matters—whether for national championship implications, bowl eligibility or just good old bragging rights.

One aspect of sports, however, needs to become as modern as possible: officiating. The perception of officials in every major sport seems to take a hit every day, whether it be an NBA official placing bets on games he worked and making calls to affect the outcomes of those games, baseball umpires missing crucial calls throughout the playoffs or the Southeastern Conference suspending one of its crews for blowing two high profile calls.

So many SEC coaches have complained about the league’s officials this season that commissioner Mike Slive decided to start skipping the reprimands coaches usually receive for public criticism of officiating in favor of fines and suspensions.

Officials in every sport are, without a doubt, better at their trade now than they ever have been. So, why does officiating seem to be such a problem? The answer is improved television technology.

Every close call in games are replayed several times so that viewers at home can make their own decision about whether that receiver’s hands were really between the football and the turf. There’s no telling broadcasters to stop showing replays, and there’s no telling fans not to get upset when a close call goes against their team.

The only solution is to take as much responsibility off the officials on the field and give it to the officials in the replay booth. Every play in college football is already reviewed by an official upstairs, and that policy should be adopted by the NFL, Major League Baseball and every other sports entity that wants its fans to continue to believe they can watch one its contests and see the best team win.

But don’t stop there. Replay officials should be given the right to overturn any call made on the field—from the personal foul call against Arkansas’ Malcolm Sheppard in a close loss to Florida to Nick Swisher being punched out for leaving third base too early in Game 4 of the Yankees-Angels American League Championship Series.

The standard argument against increased use of replay is that it will slow the pace of games. As mentioned before, every play is already reviewed in college football, and, really, can baseball get any slower?

It’s not fair to ask officials to rely on the naked eye when no one else has to.