Weekly Why: Premier League, Technology and the Idiocy of 'Accepting' Human Error

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistJanuary 19, 2016

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Welcome to Bleacher Report's Weekly Why, a place where we discuss world football's biggest questions that may go neglected and/or avoided. Ranging from the jovial to the melancholic, no subject matter is deemed off-limits.


Why Do We Tolerate Correctable Mistakes? 

The Internet connection at my place is becoming increasingly more dodgy. I won't use the name of this chosen conglomerate, because they don't warrant free publicity, but—as a person whose humble livelihood comes from supplied bandwidth—their shortcomings are the annoying pebble that gets stuck in your shoe.

My first experiences with the Internet came with a mandate: "You aren't allowed to pick up the house phone; if you do, the connection is lost." The days of taped/draped wires around my parents' home were commonplace with dial-up modems, then a magical box arrived in my early teens. "You mean we don't need wires hooked into the computer? And when someone calls, the phone will ring and we can answer?"

The concept of wireless Internet was a game-changer. I've taken it for granted (probably to my current frustration). With every bandwidth increase and/or technology upgrade, I grow accustomed. What once fascinated me peters into realms of the ordinary.

Foreign concepts are now accepted as mundane, and possibly our attention spans have decreased to the point of comprehending things only communicated in 140 characters. I could be describing a disturbing development, but I'm fairly optimistic about what technology can provide. 

This is a football article, not The Life and Times of Daniel Tiluk, I get that, but it shows how technological advancement can shape interpretation. Once something is understood and seemingly works, it fades to the background. Your first interactions mightn't be idyllic, but, with time, norms are established.

Celebrating the mistakes of others—sports compels madness sometimes.
Celebrating the mistakes of others—sports compels madness sometimes.JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

If only this concept were understood by those in charge of football leagues.

Running concurrent with my weekend Internet troubles was one of the more impressive spectacles the Premier League has produced this season. After Newcastle United and Manchester United went 3-3, then Liverpool and Arsenal shared the same result, it was Chelsea and Everton's turn to split six goals.

In an action-packed game, with both teams straining themselves for much-needed points, Roberto Martinez's men went up two goals in the second half, then conceded two goals. Just after 90 minutes, Gerard Deulofeu crossed into Thibaut Courtois' 18-yard box. At the far post stood two Everton players, Ramiro Funes Mori and Romelu Lukaku, the former beat the Chelsea goalkeeper and the Toffees, up 3-2, looked destined for three points.

Then human error struck.

Entering the 98th minute of seven additional minutes, a ball was lumped into Tim Howard's penalty area that met Oscar's head. Blues captain John Terry was in an offside position, but he flicked the Brazilian's header past the American goalkeeper; the 3-3 Stamford Bridge thriller concluded—but under controversial circumstances.

Obviously one yard offside, Terry's goal should have been disallowed, and Everton should have returned to Goodison Park with a victory, instead all they could do was complain and take their point.

Chelsea 3, Everton 3 was a fantastic game (or second half anyway) but the wrong result.
Chelsea 3, Everton 3 was a fantastic game (or second half anyway) but the wrong result.ADRIAN DENNIS/Getty Images

We scored an offside, 98th-min equaliser at home v Everton. I'm happy we didn't lose, but our issues haven't disappeared. Don't be fooled.

— ChelseaTalk (@ChelseaTaIk) January 16, 2016

Roberto Martinez was wrong about stoppage time but within his right to complain about the goal.
Roberto Martinez was wrong about stoppage time but within his right to complain about the goal.JUSTIN TALLIS/Getty Images

Honestly, Martinez's fury with the added injury minute was laughable. After his XI leaped into Chelsea's ground after their would-be winner, any referee with brain cells would've added one plus seven and summed eight. As a long-standing manager and former professional, the Spaniard should know stoppage time is a minimum, not a limit.

I can, however, bemoan Terry's offside goal.

Chelsea Football Club, their board, staff, players and supporters shouldn't give a damn if the goal was offside. In the record books, they rescued a point and are entitled to celebrate the unlikeliest of goals, finishes and scorer. Outside of west London, though—specifically in front of my television—this ludicrous spectacle created the question: "Are we sure this is the best representation of Premier League football? And if not, why not change it?"

The world over saw within a matter of seconds Chelsea's 35-year-old skipper was offside. Yet, because the linesman didn't interpret the game correctly, points were incorrectly attributed. It feels obtuse in a tech-obsessed society—where goal-line technology already exists—we must accept clear moments of human error.

Being a linesman is a thankless job. If you make 1,000 correct decisions: "You're a paid professional." If you make one mistake: "You're paid to get them right." Doing the split-second calculus of when the ball was played, where defenders were and where the attacker might have been seems terrifyingly difficult when there's a high-definiton camera above ready to broadcast your test score to the planet.

I'm not signing up for that pressure/responsibility, and I wholeheartedly commend those who do.

Expecting perfection from imperfect people is illogical. We should assist decision-makers, not blame them.
Expecting perfection from imperfect people is illogical. We should assist decision-makers, not blame them.IAN KINGTON/Getty Images

In An Essay on Criticism, English poet Alexander Pope wrote: "To err is human, to forgive divine." I'm not too concerned with forgiveness, but the component of human error is inescapable. All I want, as a football lover, is the correct decision. I don't expect perfection from anyone, but I do expect a concerted effort to discover the truth.

As it stands, we (the viewing public) have more access to video replays and instant analysis than match officials. Sky Sports, BT Sport, NBC or whoever broadcasts the Premier League, have seven different angles of slow-motion, HD replays for any piece of action. Why should I have more relevant information to form my opinion than referees?

There's a fourth official on the sideline holding light-up boards and moderating debates between benches—why doesn't he have access to the video feed Earth does? I can only assume the Premier League has enough money to set up a fourth-official viewing station—complete with monitors and relevant angles—allowing pertinent information to be relayed within a matter of seconds. 

If means to discover the truth are available and affordable (both of which we have in this particular case), there should be no excuses. Adding additional resources might seem scary at first, but time would make them ordinary—much like everything else.

Technology is so prevalent that the thought of losing Internet is almost as stressful as not having toilet paper. For a multi-billion pound industry to basically tell us "my bad," and keep moving, without addressing an easily-remedied technical issue, doesn't compute in my brain.

If I'm going to spend money and/or two hours watching a match, the least I want (even at the expense of two hours and two more minutes) is the right call.


Last WeeklyFIFA's Ballon d'Or and the Absurdity of Glorifying Individual Awards | Why Shouldn't Individualism Equal Greatness?


*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.


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