Thursday, May 21, 2009

This Is Not About Men's Lacrosse, Per Se

This isn't really about men's lacrosse, even if it seems like it is. It's more about a bigger issue in athletics, especially college athletics.

TigerBlog saw two full NCAA quarterfinal games last weekend and watched a third, Duke-Carolina, on TV. TB saw the Syracuse-Maryland game from the broadcast booth and had the sound turned on, so he could hear the TV feed.

On two occasions in games he watched and a third in the game that he broadcast (Princeton-Cornell obviously), TigerBlog saw plays that left the officials in position to have make bang-bang calls. One was on Mark Kovler's shot at the end of the third quarter and whether or not it went in before time expired. The other two were on whether or not a shot trickled in past a goalie and whether or not a shot had gone into the net before rocketing back out after catching the pipe. On all three occasions, the refs made a call.

On all three, the call was shown by replay to be correct. On none of these occasions did the officials have to stop the game, go find a monitor, stare at the monitor for five minutes, 10 minutes and finally stand locked in embrace away from everyone else to make a decision that may or may not have been right.

TigerBlog feels that there's a reason they got all of these calls right the first time. It's because they knew there was no replay, no video monitor to fall back on. When officials are in a situation where they have to make a call instantly and have the game move on one way or the other, they do so. And, almost all of the time, they get it right. And, if any of those calls had been wrong, oh well, the games would still have to have gone on.

The NCAA hockey tournament quarterfinals featured a game between Vermont and Air Force in which overtime ended not on the drama of a goal but instead with the officials' trying to determine if the puck had gone in or not by watching a TV screen for about 15 minutes before ruling it a goal. TigerBlog saw that game too, and it looked like it might have gone in, probably went in, but there as no way to know for sure.

Instant replay has had the opposite effect on officiating from what it was intended to have. It has not clarified "huge" officiating mistakes; it has created them by creating indecisive officials. As replay spreads more and more through sports (one wire story last week mentioned replay in high school basketball), expect officials to less and less able to make definitive rulings. And to take greater and greater opportunity to inject themselves into the heart of the game as they stand in front of monitors, rather than being unnoticed, which is the sign of good officiating.

The best officiating will always come when there is no possibility of replay and therefore nothing standing between refs and the need to make correct calls in a split second.

Like in the men's lacrosse games last weekend.

Which this entry isn't really about.


Anonymous said...

On the same token, the officiating was HORRIBLE during the Cornell-Princeton game...

thebookofolga said...

wow, finally someone talks about Lacrosee .. many a people dont know that Lacrosee is a national sport of Canada..

olga Shulman lednichenko