Officiating Today's Game: Humans and Hi-Def

Brad HannonContributor INovember 22, 2009

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 14:  Head coach Kirk Ferentz of the Iowa Hawkeyes talks with the referee during a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium on November 14, 2009 in Columbus, Ohio.  (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)
Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

A lot has been said about the officiating this year.  Especially regarding SEC crews.  It is my opinion that these guys are some of the best in the business. They call it like they see it.  Always have.  Always will.  With very few exceptions, namely Tim Donaghy, officials do their best to uphold the integrity of the game.  My opinion.  The question is... Why does this year seem different from previous years?  What's the problem?

Here is the problem:  HDTV and satellites.  That's right.  Technology.  Gone are the days of watching games through an analog signal on a television with a "bunny rabbit ears" antenna.  Further, gone are the days of catching four or five of your favorite team's games per year at best.  Now, the best refs sit in their living rooms across America watching unimpeded replays while enjoying hot wings and cold beer and do so with a heart rate somewhere within resting levels. 

The refs call it like they see it.  Sometimes they get it wrong.  Most of the time they get it right.  99% of the time they get it right with no "attaboys".  The instant replay rule helps to ensure they get it right.  Referees are today as good or bad as they ever were.  Humans get better through evolution (calm down religious folks) which is quite a slow process.  Technology gets better on a daily basis, thus exposing how mortal we as humans really are.

Think about your own job for just a few minutes.  What is your profession? Would you like for a camera to record you at work and the questionable things you did or didn't to be subject to replay by roughly 1 million people the day of and every day thereafter?  I can see it now, "Hannon, we replayed the tape from March 15th of 2005.  It appears that your decision to...(fill in the blank)...was incorrect and well, your services are no longer needed".  Think about that for a minute.

Seriously, read no further and think about that for a few minutes.  OK.  Let's move on.

It used to be that a ref could screw up a call and the game would go on and the call would die on the vine.  NOT ANYMORE.  Today, we have cameras that give us a better look than the closest ref. We have DVR, which allows us to rewind a play, pause it, play and rewind and pause the angle that suits us best.  "There!  Look at it from that angle!  You can clearly see his foot was inbounds!"

Times have changed no doubt.  I agree that the goal is to have flawlessly called games 100% of the time.  Is this unrealistic?  It is under the current officiating structure and the set of rules by which the game is played.  In order to make the correct call 100% of the time would increase the time of the game by at least an hour I would guess.  Should we replace the refs with cameras? We already have to some degree. But the answer is NO.  With all of the current technology out there that make us fans feel like we are qualified to be refs there is ONE thing technology cannot and will never do:

PUT THE FANS ON THE FIELD.  Unless you are on the field, you have no authority to pass judgement on the calls that are made.

Do me a favor, next time you feel like criticizing a referee over a questionable call, imagine having to make that call with no chicken wings or cold beer, while sprinting down the field chasing 20 year old NCAA athletes trying your best to see around a 6'4" 260 lbs. linebacker.  You don't get to look at the replay.  You don't even get a second to replay in your head what you just witnessed.  Just immediately make the call.  And unless technology provides irrefutable evidence, YOUR CALL stands.