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It's Time for the Technology Revolution in Sports Officiating, if the Fans Will Allow It

Even though fans would benefit greatly from an unbiased view of the games they love, ultimately they are resistant to technology that would maintain the integrity of the sports they follow.

Troy Taormina-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Watching the Monday Night Football game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers might have invoked a certain amount of empathy from fans of teams in the Pac-12 Conference. While I can certainly understand why people are upset about the call on the field, the answer doesn't lie with bringing back the regular officials. In fact, people don't want to hear the true answer to solving the problem because they've been fighting against it for years.

Umpires, referees and other officials that manage games used to be the unbiased guardians of all that was sacred about the games we followed. Players and fans would look to them, hold up their rulings as law (even if they didn't agree with them), and respected them as those stewards of the rulebook.

Technology has changed all that

With the advent of YouTube, DVR's, high definition television, and replays from all angles, the world has moved beyond the "human element" of having humans overseeing the game. We live in a world where millions of people not only are watching every angle of every play, but may even understand the rulebook more than the officials do themselves. Every play is scrutinized, every play is reviewed, and every play is discussed to the finest detail all because the same technology that is used to increase the reach of professional sports is used by millions to critique the work of humans looking to oversee the action.

The time is long past due to replace human officials with technology to officiate the sport but the chances of it happening are slim to none. Why? Officials have become the third team competing in the sporting event. The money, the power, the human error, all present in the teams competing and all present in those that are overseeing the contest. The fans love to hate them when they make calls against their team and cheer them when they do "the right thing" by punishing the evildoers across the field.

Even though fans would benefit greatly from an unbiased view of the games they love, ultimately they are resistant to this type of change. Look at the upheaval in Major League Baseball when QuestTec was unveiled. A common complaint concerns the "tradition of the game" and how technology was taking away from umpires being able to call balls and strikes. We continue to give officials access to video reviews, including every scoring play in the NFL. Yet, we see it time and time again. Mistakes are made and fans have become increasingly incensed because access to this information is more available than it ever has been.

Technology is the true answer to solving officiating gaffes in games but until fans are willing to give up the tradition of human error and the money and competition it brings, technology's only role will be to continue to degrade the fans' confidence in the institutions of fair play.