The Scope Of Instant Replay Must Be Broadened

By: 05.27.10  •  8 Comments

After about eight years of various sports leagues adopting instant replay, the success has been undeniable. Of course, there have still been errors made across the board, but this is one instance where technology both aids and trumps human judgment. The NBA first instituted instant replay at the start of the 2002-03 season after what happened in the 2002 Western Conference Finals. Samaki Walker of the Lakers hit a half court shot as time expired going into halftime and the refs said that it counted. But replays showed that the ball was still in his hands as the backboard light went on. The Kings lost the game by one, and the Lakers went on to win the NBA Championship.

Later, the NBA allowed referees to review replays to determine whether a player’s foot was on the line while attempting a three-pointer. Again, this has only enhanced the quality of the game. As Sam Smith notes in The Jordan Rules, an NBA referee must make more judgment calls over the course of a game than referees in any other sport. There is contact on every possession that could technically constitute a foul, but contact is part of the game and, necessarily, so is a referee’s discretion.

This is why the Celtics’ loss last night is so troubling. Kendrick Perkins was whistled for a technical foul with 36 seconds left in the second quarter that players, fans and analysts alike knew was going to be overturned today. It was that egregious. So ridiculous that even Jeff Van Gundy was irate.

This is why referees must be able to review questionable foul calls, both personal and technical, after the play. Not after the game.

Not every call is questionable, but there have been countless times that referees have conferred after a foul has been called or a ball has gone out of bounds and reversed a decision. While allowing referees to review foul calls would lengthen the game (a complaint that the MLB has dealt with), the integrity of the game and, more, the implications that one call may have on the outcome, trumps such minor considerations.

Last night, the referees also would have been able to upgrade Paul Pierce‘s fourth quarter flagrant foul to a Flagrant 1 during the course of the game, and not after. Although this would have had less effect on the Celtics’ strategy during the remainder of the game, even for the NBA’s sake, downgraded and upgraded foul calls should not happen after the game is over.

Bill Simmons has been both one of the biggest critics of NBA officiating and amongst the most loyal NBA fans, tweeting last night, “FYI: that was Perkins’ 7th tech and he’s suspended for Game 6. We just potentially saw a ref swing a playoff series. Congrats, NBA,” and “Donaghy just signed another book deal.” Undoubtedly, Simmons was not the only one who had these thoughts, so why should the NBA allow this to continue? I can only imagine that whatever the Magic fan said to referee Joe DeRosa last week that resulted in DeRosa throwing a ball at him involved being called Donaghy.

Even if Perkins played the remainder of the game last night, it looked like the Magic were determined to win the game. But now, heading into Game 6, we’ll never know.

What do you think? Did Perkins’ ejection effect the outcome of the game? Should the scope of instant replay be broadened?

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