Lights! Cameras! Replay!

I started tending bar in the early 90s.  Little did I know back then, it would become my chosen profession, my passion, my calling.

After a few years of working at my very first gin joint, there was a buyout.  The new owner-to-be wanted to run a far more, streamlined business.  There was even talk about him putting cameras in the establishment to more closely monitor his investment.

Back then, this was a bold move.  Those of us dedicated to the workplace wondered why the man would do such a thing.  For us old school employees, it caused quite a stir.  My boss at the time reassured me that if I was doing nothing wrong, there was no need to worry.

Cameras were eventually installed to make sure each and every employee was on the up and up.

Thirty years later, I work in another successful establishment that also has cameras everywhere.  Once again, they are in place to protect the owners’ investment and to maintain the integrity of the establishment.  In a cash-rich environment, and one that often involves a hint of violence, cameras are in place to ensure things go as they should.

If any of this sounds familiar, that’s because in a parallel industry, cameras exist to make sure things go as planned.  They’re just being used inappropriately.

For example, things did not go as planned last January when a defensive back hit a defenseless receiver, allowing a potential game-winning touchdown to fall to the ground incomplete.  Blatant to everyone except the referee not making the call, illegal contact was let slide.  It cost one team a Super Bowl berth and allowed another to go in its stead.  It was a blemish on a league that has done everything in its power to make sure its officiating is error-free.

Just like in my saloon so many years ago, there was a turning point that prompted ownership to hold people accountable for their actions.

The NFL announced for the first time ever that next season, pass interference calls would be reviewable.  This might not sound like much to the average Joe but it’s actually a huge deal.  In no other major sport are referees’ judgement calls put into question.  This could be the start of something big.

In baseball, a manager can argue balls and strikes until he’s blue in the face to no avail.  The umpire will not be swayed.  In basketball, a coach can argue contact or lack thereof, with the referee only answering with an explanation of what he did or did not see.  Only in tennis has technology been successfully implemented to remove a line judge from making uber-close calls on balls that hit or miss the line… and those aren’t even judgement calls.

The NFL has generally been behind the trends for fear of upsetting its $10+ billion apple cart but it is now taking the lead by admitting that yes, officials are human and they do make mistakes.  The last thing the league wants moving forward is an entire town like New Orleans calling the league a crock of shit for keeping its team out of the world’s largest sporting event because a guy blinked.  It should come as no surprise that Saints head coach Sean Payton spearheaded the call for change.

It’s not all sunshine and roses just yet though.  As with any new rule and regulation, the implementation will assuredly bring growing pains.  One referee warns that the NFL is looking for perfection in an imperfect game and that reviewing P.I. calls will only open a whole new can of worms.  To him I reply, embrace the change because this is only the beginning.

Because it’s never been done before is no excuse to continuously get calls wrong, which is what the NFL has done for years often at the games’ biggest moments.  Heck, it took until last year for the league to determine what constitutes a catch.  If the NFL plays its cards right, it can blaze a trail in professional sports, by getting calls right through instant replay and by admitting that nobody, including themselves, is perfect.

Rest assured that all hell will break loose the first time a pass interference call is reviewed and not overturned but fans need to realize we are breaking new ground here.  Rome was not built in a day.  Calls will continue to be blown because humans make mistakes.  That’s why we have back-up in the form of a camera and now a challenge flag.  As long as this new rule, and its proper implementation can avoid errant, game-changing calls, that’s one giant step in the right direction.

I’m pretty sure the city of New Orleans agrees.

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13 Replies to “Lights! Cameras! Replay!”

  1. I’m still not certain what constitutes a catch, and what defines pass interference is even less clear to me. I hope that the standard will be to not change the call unless it is clearly a foul, like in the Rams-Saints playoff game. You have made an interesting point with this article. I agree that this is the first time that technology will be used to review a call that is subjective, and I guess we’ll see whether that’s a good thing or not.

    I’m a fan of the tennis technology that you mentioned. Soccer also uses goal line technology. I don’t know why the NFL hasn’t embraced the idea of putting a chip in the ball. With that you could clearly tell if the ball crossed the plane, or if the field goal was good. And really, is there anything in sports that is more imprecise than dragging out 2 posts connected by 10 yards of chain to decide if it’s a first down?

  2. Bill…

    All I could think about while writing this was the Immaculate Reception.

    Can you imagine if that happened in this day and age?

    The world might implode.

  3. Every time I watch that Bar Rescue show, putting in cameras is the first thing they do. Orwellian, but that’s the world we live in these days. And like your boss said all those years ago, if you’re not doing anything wrong, it shouldn’t matter.

    Crazy that the movie Enemy of the State with Will Smith and Gene Hackman was 21 years ago. Think it hasn’t gotten ten times worse since then?

    Big Brother is not only watching, he’s Zucking you.

  4. Pass interference could be called on nearly every play. Games are long enough as it is. Of course a longer game would give me an excuse to drink more beer. OK I’m in.

  5. First thing they do on Bar Rescue is bug the joint. Orwell certainly was a prophet, but like your boss said… If you aren’t doing anything wrong, no worries.

    Crazy that Enemy of the State was 21 years ago. Just think of the snooping capabilities those motherZuckers have now.

  6. Solid stuff as usual, my blog bro. One small bit of house-keeping, however…

    I know years of Rays fandom caused you to quit watching baseball, but the two things that will get a manager the express lane to the showers are:

    1) Telling the umpire his breath still smells of Bryce Harper’s cock. and
    2) Arguing balls and strikes

    It’s true managers can kick dirt, empty the bat rack onto the field, and rip second base right out the ground for absolutely anything EXCEPT arguing balls and strikes. That has always been “go directly to the showers, don not pass Go, do not collect $200.”

  7. Bleed…

    I love me some Enemy of the State. Call it a guilty pleasure.

    Also love me some Seige with Bruce Willis, Denzel and Annette Benning.

    These movies were ahead of their time.

  8. Yea, Deac, it’s not baseball so I don’t hear too many of us clamoring about football games going on too long. I just think we want first and foremost for them to get these calls right.

    But what defines contact?

    If the receiver and DB are going for the same ball, what constitutes a foul when they each are putting their hands on one another?

  9. Bobby Cox!!! It was hilarious to watch him waddle out to argue with umps. As far as PI, you might as well consider it UFC 0.1. Everybody’s pushing, holding on every play. Hell, let’s let the PGA golfers have 1 free foot wedge per round.

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