I was one of the many watching when the New Orleans Saints fell to the Los Angeles Rams in overtime after a rather controversial no-call, ending the Saints’ chance at a second Super Bowl. Now, before I get into the nitty gritty of all this, I’ll first admit that I had a bias in this game. I’m originally from Louisiana, and my family has cheered on the Saints even when they were at the bottom of the league.
Putting this bias aside, however, it was during this matchup that I really began to question why we are so proud of the ability to review pieces of a game if we’re going to put such strict limitations on it.
Hear me out. I am fully aware that taking time to review a play is time consuming. I watch a good amount of sports — basketball, football, baseball, even soccer. Like many others, my attention span is short, and I don’t particularly want to wait time and time again for a play to be reviewed. But, quite frankly, if we’re going to stop play anyway, we might as well be getting things right.
I applaud the NFL for going back and revising the rules after the missed pass interference call. For those who haven’t heard, after meeting to discuss the updated rules, the NFL made the decision to allow reviews for pass interference whether officials make the call or not.
And it’s not just the NFL. I applaud all sports, professional and collegiate, for being concerned with players’ safety and for getting it right. Additionally, I applaud those organizations who have had to sit in a room to debate what constitutes something as “reviewable.”
But, perhaps we’ve all taken the ability to review beyond what we can handle.
We introduced the ability to review plays, but we have never made a decision on exactly what we want the system to look like or the power we will let it have in the game. This isn’t an isolated issue, but something we see across all sports that allow reviews.
Committees have sat around a table, discussed in depth what we’ll review, and then taken flack repeatedly for missing this or that. The truth is there’s a continuous spiral — we continue to restrict yet allow more, and I fear the day we have to review every play, stalling games indefinitely. This obviously creates a problem when we have sports like baseball creating rules to “speed up the game” while also implementing new review regulations.
Ultimately, this all leads me to question whether we’d be better off just letting officials judge. The advancements in technology are nice … until they’re not. Frankly, once it’s interfering with play and forcing people to throw fits, it’s less than ideal.
Honestly, I’m still bitter about the missed call. (What Saints fan isn’t?) But, after some time away, I’m not mad. The officials made a mistake, and that’s part of the job. That’s key to playing sports. But in an era when we’ve decided to allow technology in, when we have willfully decided that playback is an option, I was disappointed there wasn’t more we could do.
I guess in short, if we’re going to use this review system, then we should commit to using it within bounds. Sometimes, this might mean we’re using it for obvious things rather than trivial matters, such as, the Saints game. I appreciate the time people have put toward developing all these different systems, but the reality is we’re only a few steps away from reviewing it all