Is Technology Like VAR Ruining Sports?

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As athletes get bigger, stronger and faster, the pace of play continues to increase. The burden of making sure the games are played according to the rules and that the officiating is accurate is now being taken out of human hands and falling more and more into the lap of technology. It’s called video replay.

But is it helping or hurting?

I say the more technology, the better.

No matter how you feel on the subject, you better get used to it because it’s not going anywhere. In fact, it is only going to get more prevalent.

The NFL is expanding its replay system this upcoming season to include pass interference. MLB now relies on it for safe-or-out and home run calls. And if you’ve been watching soccer and the Women’s World Cup, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) has played a prominent role in most every game.

Look at the U.S. vs. Spain game in the knockout round on Monday. The U.S. won the game 2-1 and both their goals came via the VAR. The referee made what looked like questionable penalty kick calls, but upon further review, both calls were ruled correct, leading to goals for the U.S. team.

Don’t you want to see the proper application of the rules throughout the games? I know I do. Yes, it can slow the game down, but I feel it is worth it. If technological advancements allow fans watching from home to spot mistakes instantly, those same views need to be available to the officiating crews.

Another example is the most recent NFC Championship game, when a blatant pass interference no-call against Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman with 1:49 to play halted a likely game-winning New Orleans Saints touchdown drive. LA won instead. The outcry was tremendous. On that play, with video replay, there is no controversy. It just makes sense.

Many purists, especially in soccer, argue it’s not the way the game was invented, and it’s bastardizing the sport.

I’ve played soccer my whole life and know the crushing feeling of a bad referee decision. When it costs you a result, you wish there was some recourse. Of course, VAR is not possible at lower levels, but I want my sport played properly and without all the controversy at the highest levels.

Every minute of every game could be dissected a million ways to find mistakes, which, I agree, would ruin the game. But the trend is to have these replays viewed at the most crucial points. What those points should be is an argument in itself, but I think most leagues and sports have done a decent job of recognizing the instances that matter.

The Kentucky Derby this year was in the news. For the first time in the history of the race a horse was disqualified for bumping another horse and it changed the outcome. No one knew why until a video replay validated the call and controversy was avoided. 

There are no easy answers regarding replay technology and whether it is a blessing or a curse. No matter the sport, there is a human, on-field element that cannot be denied. None of the sports using video replay have perfected the process and the Women’s World Cup is a prime example.

But for me, keeping the officiating honest and on task is the right step to limit controversy. 

It may hinder Joe Six-Pack from arguing close calls at the local watering hole, but it’s a risk I can get behind.

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About Author

John D. Hunter is Montana native but grew up in the Tacoma/Seattle area and proudly attended Washington State University. He is a former morning show producer on KJR SportsRadio in Seattle. For 7 years he produced ‘Knight in the Morning’ with Michael Knight and New York Vinnie. From there he moved to ESPN.com where he spent another 7 years as an Interactive Editor and Soccer reporter/writer. He has covered 3 Super Bowls, the NBA Finals, 1998 World Cup in France and many more sporting events.

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