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The only justification for the intrusion of technology into sports officiating is summed up in the motto heard from players, fans and executives since before replays and reviews were even thought of: Get the call right. If the object of having someone upstairs study the instant replay of a controversial decision isn't to reverse mistakes and confirm good calls, the whole exercise is pointless.

There was a time when I resisted all uses of technology to help game officials, especially in baseball. Tennis has used technology for line calls for some time, with a lot of success (but still a lot of grumbling, because you know, tennis players). Then it started slowly creeping into other professional sports, and it was gradually refined to the point where it works fairly well in basketball, hockey and the NFL. It isn't perfect, but with good referees on the field, it doesn't slow the game down much, and it does help make the officiating more accurate.

And then, before the start of the current season, the NFL referees were locked out by the league. Since then we've been saddled with the incompetence of their replacements. I'm sure most of these people love the game and don't want to do a poor job, but in their custody the games have become a joke. A sad, sad joke, in which the punch line is that some games have been decided by the wrong call.

Take this week's Monday Night Football game, for example. Please. The Packers led the Seahawks by five points late in the game. On the last play, the Seahawks' quarterback threw the ball up for grabs in the end zone. The pass was intercepted by the Packers, and that should have sealed the win for them. By the time the replacement refs had arrived on the scene a few seconds later, a Seahawks receiver had his hand on the football. The refs decided he had caught it. They called it a touchdown and a win for the Seahawks.

Their decision was contrary to league rules. It was automatically reviewed by replay officials, as all scoring plays are. If there is ever a time to "get the call right," this was it, but they upheld the incorrect call and declared the game over. Today the NFL said that a wrong call was indeed made, but the replay officials were correct not to overturn it, because of an obscure codicil in the replay rules. They got the call wrong, and in spite of technology designed to make it right, they were prevented from doing so.

So I repeat: What's the point? The integrity of the game has been compromised over and over by the replacement refs, and in last night's nationally televised showcase for the sport, the full import of the consequences of locking out the league's experienced arbiters played out for all to see. If you don't think that made the NFL into a laughingstock, you should have seen Twitter last night and this morning.

The NFL doesn't believe the fans care enough to stay away from games, or tune them out, just because they aren't being played in a fair manner. If a coach or player expresses an opinion, he is fined by the league. One player was so outraged he invited the league to fine him, and asked them to use the money to pay the real refs. As for me, I'm done with the NFL for now. I've had a lot of fun over the years picking winners in the family football pool, and I'm pretty good at it. This year, it's no fun (and I'm not any good, obviously).


As for baseball, I'm still of the opinion that younger and better trained umpires would solve most problems with blown calls. I think the human element is more important in baseball, because it's a different kind of game, and personality plays a big part in its appeal to fans. But I'm also resigned to the fact that major league owners are determined to expand replay every year. That's fine, as long as they don't get rid of the umps. Sometimes I hate them (don't we all?), but I love the role they play in the game.

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