Just An Observation: Video didn’t just kill the radio star

Review is making things worse than ever in some sports

As the headline suggests, maybe that 1979 song — ironically one of the first ever music videos — predicted exactly what video review is doing to the sports that rely on it as well as the officiating.

For those that have been catching the National Hockey League playoffs this season, there have been several examples of video reviews on goals being completely off base or showing a negligible infraction to the point where it shouldn’t even matter. However, the review usually winds up giving or taking away a goal (after several boring minutes) that, sometimes should have gone the other direction.

Now, not only are these reviews a waste of time, they take away from the flow of the game and kill any momentum or atmosphere in the arena.

In addition, the reviews have gone a step further and given the officials on the ice an excuse to not worry about being in the proper place to make the ‘right’ call.

How often do we see the referees hanging out in areas where they can’t see what’s going on at the net or in front of it? Why are linesmen sometimes looking like they’re guessing at offside calls from 20 feet either side of the blueline?

As a long-time hockey official, I understand there are times and situations when either a referee or linesmen need to stay out of the way or need to be a different spot. However, with the way the four-man officiating system is supposed to work, those situations are meant to be one-offs instead of a nearly constant occurrence.

It’s almost to the point where it seems to many of us that officiate hockey that the crews might believe that a video review or a coaches challenge will get them off the hook, one way or the other, if something takes place that they may miss.

That said, one wonders why, if the NHL situation room gets so many of these wrong, that video review is still a growing concern for the top hockey league in the world?

Sure, the game at that level is much faster and more physical, but that’s why the four-official system was put in place — to ensure that the officials could be in the right place at the right time to ‘get the call right.’

Unfortunately, with the NHL now a big part of the betting scene in the U.S., there is a lot more money on the line so this video review is likely to become a larger part of the game rather than less.

All of this will mean longer delays in games for Toronto to look at some play from umpteen different angles, in slo-mo and zoomed in freeze frame, often times coming back with something that was barely there and overturning the judgment of the officials they are paying.

It’s sad that the human element of the game is being taken out in favour of a version where it may or may not be the right call in the end.

Doing it ‘mostly’ right

On the other end of the scale is a league that has, for the vast majority of video reviews, gets the call right — Major League Baseball.

Granted, it’s a sport that accepts that there will be ‘errors’ on the field and disputing a call one doesn’t agree with is not really discouraged, while many of those officiating the game are in less than perfect shape and have to react to both sight and sound to sometimes ‘guess’ at what the call may be.

With all of that though, the umpires make the correct call nearly every time.

And when they do get challenged or request a review, the video ensures the call is made right, instead of forcing someone in a room far away to use their judgment.

One reason is the way baseball has determined what calls it can be used to confirm, ones that can easily be witnessed as black or white by a camera, and the other is who is conducting the reviews.

In the NHL, the review in Toronto is done by a combination of hockey executives, former players and technical people with a couple of former officials used as advisors on occasion.

Meanwhile, MLB review decisions come courtesy one individual — a current MLB umpire.

This is probably why baseball reviews come back rather quickly, usually following a brief conversation with the crew on the field and a look at a couple camera angles.

Whereas in hockey, a review can take upwards of five minutes to make a determination on a goal, an offside or the controversial ‘goaltender interference.’

So, maybe it’s time the NHL assign one or two referees to a week long stint to decide all game reviews, instead of executives who don’t have that knowledge.

But that is…just an observation.

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