Sports: Officiating, Part II

In the last blog, I wrote about the way officials are paid, trained and reviewed. This whole system needs to be improved if officiating is ever going to get better. Instant replay, which was supposed to correct bad calls has been nothing short of a disaster and needs to be revamped and re-defined. All the leagues need to do something, and then each league needs to do something more specific. All professional leagues need to do more performance reviews. The purpose of performance reviews is to improve the employee’s performance. Every corporation does this. A performance review is meant to give constructive criticism and praise to each employee, which should help each employee to do a better job. With all the video technology today, this should be a snap for professional sports to do. Apparently, the NBA is starting such a program and the other sport leagues should quickly follow. This should lead to weeding out the bad officials. If an official is not making any progress, then he should be demoted to a lower league if possible or dismissed from his job. No one should have the job security of professional officials. All officials should continue some kind of training for their craft a least a couple times of month. They need to be schooled on some of the tougher and more judgmental calls in their respective leagues. There is plenty of time to do this during the season in all the sports. Now let’s look at each individual sport.

Hockey needs to get rid of the philosophy of the so called make up call. The idea that penalties need to be pretty much equal during a game is just ridiculous. That mentality makes the game seem so weird. I know it has been going on forever but if the game ever wants to be taken seriously, it needs to end that, along with fighting. Pro football needs to get full time officials. If this means paying them even more, so be it. During the week the officials can review film, see where they made mistakes, and do practice scrimmages or attend other team’s practices to see plays and call penalties. There are more officials on the field in football, because it is difficult to see what is going on when there are 22 players running around trying to do mayhem on each other. They just need to be involved in the game full time. Baseball needs to set up a better review process, much like the NBA is starting to do. I think one of the excuses for Major League Umpires, about reviewing them, is that they have the longer schedule and season. They do get a day off, just like players. The review process can take place during the afternoon of a night game. These processes do not take lot of time if they are done frequently, around 2 times per month. I was going to mention the same thing concerning the NBA but that seems to be taking place as I am typing.

Then there is instant replay. An entire blog could be devoted to instant replay the way this has been botched by professional sports. It seemed like such a simple concept. Make sure we got the calls right. This should not have been a big deal. The first problem is the basic concept of replay got lost in the shuffle. It was meant to reverse obvious botched calls. It was not meant to change things that could not be seen with the naked eye. It was not meant to call a runner out at second because for .1 of a sec. he was 1 inch off the bag. It was not meant to re-spot a ball 3 inches one way or the other. It was not meant to change a fumble call when a runner lost the ball while is knee was 1 inch from the ground. You get the picture. There are a lot of ego trips going on here. We need to get back to the simple reason replay was introduced to the game. There would be two things that can help this. One, end the process that coaches and managers can challenge a call. First of all, in football the coaches are wrong about 60% of the time and on the baseball side about 50% of the time. That means the game is stopped unnecessarily over 50% of the time. All replay calls should be initiated by the replay official. If a call is wrong, it is wrong. Here is a big tip for all replay officials about what makes a call wrong. If you have to look at the replay more than twice, then the call is not wrong. The NFL is already doing this for a lot of plays. All turnovers, touchdowns, and plays with less than 2 minutes to go in the half or game can only be reviewed and initiated by the replay official. Baseball is particularly bad when it comes to managers initiating plays to review. It takes forever and slows down an already slow game. Secondly you need to have better communication between the replay official and the on field official. One solution for football, would be to have the replay official in a booth, right on the field. If he thought a play should be reviewed, then a light could go on that would be seen on top of the roof. Between electronic communication and the light, the ref should know right away if the play needs a review. The other thing in football is why does the on-field official have to look at the replay. Just another thing that slows down the game. Let the replay official make the call, tell the ref and let the game continue. One final thing about replay. The practice of the putting the replay up on the video screen at the stadium or arena should stop. Those screens are not that clear. All it does is to incite the fans and add an unneeded stressor on the replay official’s call. Replay should be part of the game, but it needs to get back to basics and be run much more smoothly, so the monster it has become can be vanquished.

Now see, that wasn’t hard was it. If these changes are made to way officials are handled and the way instant replay is done, then there will be less bad calls and the game will move along at the pace that it should. What sports needs to do, is to make sure that the official’s incompetence does not determine who wins a big game and a championship. It would be nice to see that just luck and team incompetence are the true keys to winning a championship. I do not expect to see this in my lifetime.

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