Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Of Fake Coyotes And Instant Replay

TigerBlog likes to check out the baseball field and the practice fields that surround it and see the interaction between the fake coyotes and the geese.

After years of trying to keep the geese (and their by-product) off of those fields, the idea of the fake coyote emerged. The point is that the geese are petrified of the coyotes and will stay away from them, which they do. It's fascinating how none of the geese will get within a few hundred yards of the fake coyotes.

"For the first three weeks we had the fake coyotes, we didn't see one goose," says Tom O'Neill, Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities. "Then one brave goose came back, and the rest followed."

Now, if you go out to the fields, you'll see hundreds of geese huddled together hundreds of yards from the fake coyotes. Why the geese don't figure out that the coyote doesn't flinch when they come by and therefore must be either sleeping or made of cardboard is another story.

To keep the geese off all the fields would require many more additional fake coyotes (expensive) or constant moving of the few fake coyotes already on staff (labor intensive). In other words, it's an idea that works well but has it's limitations.

All of this brings us to the idea of instant replay in college basketball. Like the fake coyotes, replay is a well-intentioned idea. Unlike the fake coyotes, it's falling way short.

The Princeton-Penn game Tuesday night featured two prolonged stops for instant replay reviews.

The first came in the first half, when the officials huddled for more than three minutes to see if Tyler Bernardini's long shot was worth two or three and would thus make the score 8-2 or 9-2 Penn. This discussion came during the first media timeout, which meant that the delay didn't abnormally impact the flow of the game.

The same cannot be said for the second one, which came with 8:43 to play in the second half. At first it appeared the discussion was whether or not Patrick Saunder's long basket seconds earlier was a two or three as well. Instead, it became about a flagrant foul that would called against Penn's Conor Turley.

This delay lasted seven minutes and did have a huge impact on the flow of the game. It also served to heighten tensions among the players on the court, which led to a very frenetic restart in which both teams wasted possessions with emotional decisions.

There are all kinds of issues with video review, in all sports. For starters, it's intent is a good one - to overturn bad calls with visual evidence. The problems, though, far outweigh the good points.

Forget the NFL, where instant replay has caused officials to become tentative because they know the call they make on the field is going to stand if the video doesn't show the microscopic evidence needed and caused coaches to use challenges in moments of desperation.

In college basketball, here are some obvious problems:

* the reviews artificially stop the game
* the refs become too large a part of the game
* judging when the clock should have stopped and how much time should be on it doesn't take into account that 1) the clock stops not when the infraction/basket/violation occurs but when the whistle blows and the clock operator stops the clock and 2) dealing in 10ths of seconds is ridiculous
* the results are often insignificant ... For instance, if Bernardini's shot had been a two or three, it wouldn't have impacted the game, even a game like last night's, because it makes the supposition that nothing would have changed after that. Even if Saunders' shot had been called a two instead of a three, the game might very well have gone to overtime or Princeton might even have had to do things different down the stretch, resulting in a win in regulation.
* the calls that have the biggest impact on the game (whether a foul should have been called or not or should have been a charge or block) are not reviewable

TigerBlog's biggest complaint is that there are different rules from one game to the next. Princeton's game last night was on TV; its games this weekend are not. The rules for the Penn game, then, are not the same as the rules for Harvard/Dartmouth. If the same situations come up this weekend, the refs clearly would make decisions and abide by them and the game would go on without disruption.

Summing it all up, TigerBlog is pro-fake coyotes and anti-replay in college basketball. If there has to be replay, though, how about limiting it to the final two minutes of a game?

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